TOP TIPS: Coping with competition

People often say the media industry is a very competitive industry to work in. But these days whether you are freelance, employed or run your own business, every industry is competitive … here’s my top tips for coping with it whatever business you are in.

* Accept the world is competitive

Business has always been competitive. Everyone wants to make a good living, and everyone wants to get on. This is the first rule of any work place (as well as virtually every other aspect of life… competitive people pop up everywhere.) So you must accept that and then find ways to make your own path to success.

* Avoid competition

It might sound unusual advice but if possible try to avoid competitive situations. I am always amazed how many people in business simply follow the crowd. The point is if you follow the crowd, that is where you will remain (one of the crowd!) If you are a company competing for new business consider whether it is worth your time going after a job that so many others are after. If you are a freelance journalist there might not be much point in sending your idea for a feature if you know hundreds of other writers are being invited to also pitch the same thing. Consider your chance of winning the commission. If it might take too much of your time you might be better off chasing after a story that is exclusive to you only.

* Be aware of your competitors but don’t become obsessed

Whatever business you are in, it is essential to know who your competitors are and what they are up to. But rather than focus on them, your time is best spent making your own business better. Resist the urge to compare yourself with someone else. Instead recognise you each have different strengths. There will also be times when they will get the client and you don’t, times when they seem busy and you are not – this is just how business goes. One tip: be clear on your own goals. For example it is tempting to lower prices to beat the competition and win customers. But there’s no point in winning the customer from your rival if it leaves you out of pocket.

* Mix with people outside your industry

In the business world I believe few competitors can also be colleagues! Of course I don’t mean never speak to rivals and certainly never talk badly of your competitors (even if it’s true, clients don’t like that at all…) but cosy chats are a no. In a more relaxed atmosphere it can be easy to give away some of your business secrets. It is also better to make your own mind up than listen to gossip within your industry. For example just because one person found a boss difficult doesn’t mean you will too. And a boastful rival can also make you feel deflated. Instead socialise with people not within your business field and people you are therefore not in direct competition with.

* Play your cards close

It might sound obvious but telling someone at a drinks party how you stumbled on that exclusive might just give them ideas. Similarly remember rivals as well as friends see what you say on Twitter. And never confide money to anyone – always keep earnings, costs and payments absolutely private.

* Do your own thing

Create your own niche, your own brand. It’s a massive mistake to copy someone who is already successful in your field – you risk being an inferior copy. Don’t assume for example because their style of website or way of working appears to have worked for them, it will work for you. For all you know it might not even be working for them any more (your competitors are hardly likely to blog how work’s dried up lately.) Instead of trying to be better by doing the same, concentrate on developing your own style, unique identity and personality.

And finally …never grow complacent. Whatever industry you work in, you won’t ever know everything, the unexpected will happen, and your competitors will surprise you. You cannot always be the best, be first or always win. All you can do is know you did your best – and it’s a new day tomorrow.

Written by journalist and media agent Alison Smith-Squire.

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