How to work with, not against, your competition

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Competition can suck.

But really, only if you want it to.

If you work it right, competition can actually be a huge advantage.

And I’m not talking about those smarmy marketing schemes where you research your competition to find out what’s wrong with them so you can position yourself as the end-all, be-all best of EVERYTHING.

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I mean actively making connections with and working with your competition to boost your business (and theirs) and make the world of work as a freelancer a better and easier place for everyone.

And I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s totally possible, and it’s really not that hard. (I’ve had as much as half of my income coming in from referrals from my “competitors,” so believe me, it’s possible.)

First Things First: Send a Kind & Short Introduction

You’re not going to be able to work with your competition if you haven’t actually met each other yet. And even if you assume they know about you because you know about them, that may not be the case.

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But since it’s always lovely to be the recipient of a kind note and nothing more, you can be the one who sends that kind note to other people working in your niche.

A nice, short, introductory email could run along the lines of:

“Hi [name],

I just wanted to introduce myself to say a quick “hi!”

I’ve noticed that we’ve both been featured on [podcast] and that we’ve also both written for [website].

Really liked you work on [website], by the way. Very cool how you [thing they did that was cool.]

Anyway, nice to “meet” you!

Cheers,

Notice how you’re not asking them for anything yet?

Most people will respond to this message because they will have noticed you too, and since you’re being nice (it’s amazing what basic manners can do!), they will be excited to talk to you.

Before anything else, you need to set this friendly foundation.

Send Each Other Referrals

One of the best ways to win brownie points with your “competition” is to send them referrals.

Sometimes, you just get clients that you do not want to work with. If these people are jerks, don’t refer them to anyone… that’s just mean. But if it’s work that you’d rather not do, you can ask some of your “competition” that you’ve previously introduced yourself to and ask if they’d like an introduction.

This goes a LLLOOOONNNG way.

And even if you’re in the place of taking every last bit of work you can get your hands on no matter what it is, you can send an email (after they respond to your nice intro) to ask what particular type of work they specialize in. (Or ask if they specialize in ________, since that’s not your zone of genius, and you’d like to have a quality person to refer people to.)

This immediately lets them know that they can trust you.

Just make sure you actually mean what you say—people can sniff insincerity a mile away. But especially right after I started my business, this was a great way to build up my network and I got a fair amount of work from mutual referral partnerships like this.

Collaborate on Projects Together

You work with the same kind of clients, you specialize in the same kind of things, you even charge similar rates. So you’re definitely not going to be referring any work to each other. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad people, and it doesn’t mean you have to treat them like the enemy.

It all starts, again, with that polite introduction and maybe staying in touch lightly for a few months. But once you know you can trust each other, you can work together to build each other up and help each other grow your respective audiences. Beyond doing things like sharing each other’s content, you can collaborate on projects together as an offer to your audiences combined.

Recently, I worked with two other copywriters who are my direct competitors, but we all three had different types of courses teaching different copywriting-based skills.

We bundled these three courses together at a discounted price, and held a 48-hour flash sale to all of our subscribers. We all made some money, and we expanded each of our audiences by getting more subscribers by introducing each other to our respective email lists. It was a win-win-win scenario for me, my competitors, and our subscribers who bought the bundle.

For Writers: Feature Them in Your Stories

And if you’re a writer in any capacity in your business… whether writing is how you make your money or you occasionally write guest blog posts as a business-building strategy, mentioning your competitors in your post is a great way to get them to like you.

First, you get a cool story to use as an example in what you’re writing, immediately making it a more interesting piece. But also, you’re giving them free exposure, which they’ll really appreciate. (And since we’re reciprocal beings, they’ll look for similar ways to repay you, too.)

In Conclusion: Focus on Positivity

A lot of business advice, especially when it comes to “beating” the competition, comes from the assumption that there’s only so much to go around, and if someone else has, then you will have not.

If you have a strictly location-based business, there may be a little truth to this, but most of us are able to work online and take clients from all over the world. Since the internet makes us so unlimited in who we can work with, it makes doing business a lot easier and a lot more fun (not to mention more profitable), if you adopt a mindset of working with your competitors instead of against them.

That said, I know this is a HUGE topic, and I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Have you ever worked with your competition? What was it like? Or are you scared to establish this kind of relationship? How come?

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About Chelsea Baldwin

Chelsea Baldwin runs Copy Power, where she teaches how to reverse-engineer copywriting based on psychology to get your readers hooked on you forever. She wrote a free ebook that’ll help you keep your traffic from bouncing and get more leads and conversions on your site.

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Comments

  1. Hey Chelsea, thanks so much for writing this article! I’ve read many times over about how to make contacts within your niche and maybe exchange guest posts for SEO juice, but this is the first one that has taken the perspective of making genuine connections and nurturing a business relationship that could too easily be negative or even just neutral. I’ll definitely be tucking this one away in my toolkit.