It’s true: You’re not inventing the wheel. There are others out there, both well-established and just starting out, that do a very similar job as you. As you push forward to grow your company, refine your brand and polish your offerings, you’ll encounter competitors.
Embrace them. With a slight shift in mindset, begin to view competitors as peers traversing a similar journey. Learn from their trials and triumphs as you progress and rise above the competition in business.
Do you feel held back? It’s not uncommon. As a small business owner, you must identify, accept and then kick your insecurities to the curb. When I was in the early stages of my writing business, my husband offered some sage advice that I quietly repeat to myself often: “Own it.” Whatever you’re doing, believe in it 100 percent and devote every bit of strength to this journey each day.
Learning From Others
Early on, I consciously decided to change my view of “them.” There will always be other entrepreneurs, writers and small business owners who are more successful, getting better gigs and winning prestigious awards. So, instead of letting feelings of envy sprinkled with self-doubt consume my energy, I put myself front and center so I could learn as much as possible.
You must rule out the comparisons and the “us vs. them” mentality. Competitors are now your fellows, working toward similar goals. If you need a quick, heavy dose of unexpected camaraderie, attend an industry-focused conference. Spark a conversation with someone sitting alone in one of the sessions. They may be further along or even behind you in their business progress, but you can always learn something. Listen to their challenges, their successes and their concerns. Likely, you’ve experienced some of these too and can empathize.
Often, the feelings of isolation or self-doubt that creep up among new entrepreneurs because of competition in business are instantly squashed. You’ll begin to realize that we’re all running the same race and pushing toward the same finish line. Sure, some competitors will step on your toes to try to quicken their pace, but many others will join you for the warm-up, moving at a similar gait and congratulating you when you reach your personal finish line. We’re all in this start-up game together.
Curbing Those Insecurities
If you’re thinking, “That all sounds fabulous, but I just can’t put myself out there,” then you’re not alone. As much as we’re an ambitious and creative segment of the population, many of us have a hard time being forward and public about our businesses. The attention can be stifling. We just want to do our thing, watch our business grow and enjoy success.
As a writer, I can easily get consumed with assignments. I craft headlines in the shower, and wake up at night with that perfect conclusion. Or, I stare at the computer screen unapologetically for 20 minutes as my brain’s internal thesaurus sifts through my favorite words. That’s a long-winded way of saying I’m a bit of an introvert. Sometimes I have to force myself to get out there so I can feel the robust support of my audience and push my insecurities and doubts away.
I often lean on meditation, reading books about personal success and long walks in nature to boost my self-esteem. Even after nearly eight years of full-time self-employment, I still second-guess my next business move and compare my approach to my peers (formerly known as competitors). Sometimes this thinking suppresses my progress, so I quickly change my outlook. Reading a few success stories on Medium and looking over my progress from the previous years usually puts me back in the right frame of mind.
Developing Your Brand
Let’s focus on you. Do you realize that there’s one aspect of your business that no competitor can ever replicate, steal or implement? It’s your story. As you tune out the noise of everyone else in your industry, focus on what you bring to the table.
Your background, reasons for starting a business, journey and discoveries are all innate to your process. Share a peek into your personal venture, and your audience will listen. Why? You’re telling them things they’ve never heard from anyone else.
I’m one of a million writers out there. A big segment of them also focuses on journalism and marketing writing. But, when I tell people my story about taking the leap into the freelance life, it sticks. There’s emotion, courage and confidence that others can identify with, making me memorable. I take a very public stance on simply being yourself and letting that shine through as you grow a business. Every industry has a cookie-cutter list of how you should run your business, so what if you decided to do things a little differently? It could be life-changing.
I wear cowboy boots with dresses, personally reply to readers who message me and post gym selfies on my social media. I could follow all the rules of being a published author, but why? I want to rise above the sea and stand out by being me.
It’s likely that your biggest competitor is your own mind. The “what if” thoughts can become emotionally draining and time-consuming. Self-doubt paralyzes progress. That ends now. Set lofty goals and focus on what you want to accomplish — not what others are doing. This is your adventure.