I was speaking to a man at a networking meeting, who described himself as a "business coach." He told me that he worked with solo professionals as well as with people who worked for large companies.
So I asked him, "What’s the biggest difference you find between the two groups?" His answer surprised me: "There’s no competition out here," he said.
He went on to explain that in a typical organization, it’s set up so that everyone fights over the same scarce resources (jobs, projects, offices, etc.), and competition naturally arises. Outside, on the other hand, people tend to be very supportive of each other.
My own experience bears this out. I’ve seen people who at first glance would seem to be in competition with each other (two marketing consultants, for example), sitting together in meetings and openly sharing notes, ideas and encouragement.
Before I left my job to go off on my own, one of my concerns was that it was a "cold, cruel, dog-eat-dog world" out here. Turns out I was way off; the world of solo professionals is supportive, friendly, collaborative and quite a bit of fun. Never a shortage of people who want to grab coffee and share ideas or (one of my favorites) waste a few hours just enjoying the company.
I agree with you, Michael. I hadn’t really compared the two groups before. But just as you and I both work with newsletter clients, I’ve never been afraid to link to you or connect with you. I even promote your ezine ebook, even though I have written one myself. I also promote and collaborate with Ali Brown, the Ezine Queen, even though in a way we compete with similar products. The thing is we each do something a little differently, and we each have different clients and there seems to be enough to go around. None of us are starving, so I guess generosity of spirit works better than hording.
Of course, I could be green with envy over your cute blue penguin and your writing savoir-faire… but that wouldn’t do me any good anyway.
Okay, so Ali has a beach house and is a young beautiful blond… what’s the point of being competitive to the point of being isolative and ignoring other talent out there? Why not share? It’s just more fun…
Michael Katz: Words of wisdom on competition among solo professionals
I’m a big fan of Michael Katz. I read his E-Newsletter on E-Newsletters, and love his funny writing style. He is a leading expert on electronic newsletters and is head Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development, Inc. Michael recently joined
My 2 cents about it is that there are enough businesses out there for everyone. I own my own real estate staging company in San Francisco bay area, where competitions are growing everyday. That’s largely due to the industry is becoming in demand and it looks like a very glam job thanks to HGTV. So lots of people dove in. But frankly, the real estate agents population is vast in California (1 out of 75 Californias according to the stats), essentially there are enough businesses out there for everyone. Instead of fighting each other, it’s better to band together to make sure the industry grows stronger and healthier through synergy. Everyone offers something unique and instead of fighting each other viciously, we might as well band together and be constructive 😉 I also think that having my own small business is a very lonely path because there are no interactions with others. Naturally I lean toward another friendly face who knows what I go through on a daily basis.
I have owned retail and wholesale businesses throughout the Eastern US and Bahamas. Prior to this I was a consultant to large companies.
I find you are correct. When my friends would ask me if working for your self is tough because competition is fierce, I would respond it sure beats working in an office where you have a very small market for your ideas.
I also would relate to my friends how my competition partnered with me on many of my larger deals. This seemed to amaze them, because I don’t feel you get this same sense of working together for a common cause in a large business. It seemed to me that many people in these large companies are more worried about protecting their job than working towards a common goal.
I agree about lack of competition.
If anything, I wish I knew more qualified writers to whom I could refer work that I doesn’t fit my narrow niche.
Moreover, I have gotten some great jobs from overworked “competitors” who don’t have the capacity to take on new work. We seem to take turns referring work. It’s very satisfying.
I have also experienced the help and comradeship of my fellow writer and marketing consultants.
One of the reasons I stay in touch with my colleagues (other than to avoid going insane from working alone too much), is so that I can always find a way to help potential clients, whether I am the right fit for that particular project, or not. That way, when the right work does show up, they will call me because they trust me to do right by them, no matter what.