Let’s be honest, your city is full of people who are competing with you. Their prices might be lower and their photos might be better. But friend it is time to stop worrying about your competition and start focusing on your own business. I’m sharing some tough lessons that I have learned in getting really honest about my past struggles with competition in my community.
Hey y’all, I’m Tavia and I help photographers learn how to specialize and get fully booked with ideal clients so they can go full time. I do this with my Birth Photography Certification and my 7-Step Marketing System. So, I have been off of Instagram stories for what feels like forever. I think it’s actually only been a couple of weeks but I have been off of Instagram stories and off of TikTok for like over a week because the camera on my phone stopped working. And I didn’t realize how much I wanted to be on Instagram stories and TikTok until I couldn’t record videos to be on there. So as of about an hour ago, my camera is back to working so I look forward to connecting with you guys on Instagram stories again. Like we’ve still been posting stuff, but I love being like face to camera and being able to like engage with you guys that way. So I had no idea how much I relied on my phone camera to do business, you know? It’s kind of crazy.
Today we’re talking about why you shouldn’t worry about your competition. In fact, actually embrace them. I promise – the best thing for your business is to embody this phrase, community over competition, which means work every day to provide something valuable for your clients that will keep them coming back no matter what your competition is doing and building that community. So I’m gonna teach you how to not worry about what those people are doing, but instead focus on yourself and provide value for others in order to succeed.
Where is your focus?
So when it comes to your competition, where is your focus? Because competition is a reality of life. You’ll lose competitors in this industry as they maybe drop out of a photography or whatever your genre is as quickly as new photographers are going to pop up. And the truth is I used to spend a ton of time quite literally memorizing what my competitors were doing. I would scour their Facebook pages and critique their photos in my mind and analyze their pricing. And I’m not proud of that. It’s just the truth. My focus was absolutely on my competitors. So when I would have asked myself, “Where is my focus,” the answer would have been on my competitors, a hundred percent.
And I realize now – it’s because I was a new and insecure photographer. I needed to compare myself to them to find out where I was and how I was better in order to feel better about myself, which is really ugly to say out loud. But I literally would critique and analyze their work and their pricing to decide like, “Okay, am I better than them? Am I more worthy of being hired than them? Yes or no.” And the truth was I could have done some market research and moved on. Market research is important to your business and I could have done that and moved on, but it became my focus early on in business like obsessively so.
And so the problem comes when we’re looking at our competitors for more than just research. We’re looking at them for validation. We’re looking at them for our worth. Like, “Do I think I’m better than them? Yes? Okay, I’ll keep going. No? Then, what am I even doing? I should just quit.” That is a bad place to be, right? And I don’t know about you, but I can speak for myself and say I definitely was in that place where my worth was being decided based on what my competitors were doing and if I thought I was able to compete with them or not.
So where is your focus? Are you seeking validation – whether good or bad validation – from your competitors?
Why you shouldn’t even be worried about your competition at all
You don’t know their journey
I saw a quote but I can’t remember it now, something along the lines of…
“If you’re jealous of someone else’s quick progress and growth, remember you want to walk in her shoes NOW but were you willing to walk through what she went through to get here?”
That’s so powerful when you let it sink in. What if you’re on the path you need to be on, right now, to hit your goals? What if hitting them faster or bigger isn’t the path you need to take to get there? You don’t need to move faster, you don’t need to move slower, you don’t need to do anything differently. Exactly what you’re doing is exactly where you need to be to hit your goals. And what if hitting them faster or bigger is not the path that you need to take to get to your goals?
Sometimes we can look at another photographer’s social media post, for example, that says something like, “I’m fully booked for October or only 1 spot left for minis,” and we start to imagine that like everyone in our city is flocking to them and away from us, right? But think about it like this: what if they only take 1 client a month and so that’s how they’re fully booked? Or what if they gave away for free 9 out of those 10 mini session spots which is why only one is remaining?
You don’t actually know what they’re charging or what they’re doing or how many clients they actually have
So hear me on this friend, another reason not to worry about your competition is because you don’t actually know what they’re charging or what they’re doing or how many clients they actually have. You’re judging their business from the outside without really knowing what’s going on and then you’re potentially basing your worth as a business owner on that judgment of their business and that can be as you know so damaging.
So another point for consideration are the ways that you’re different from your competition. Even if your prices are higher and you have less experience, you have your own awesomeness that no one else can compete with. And you might not believe it, but that doesn’t make it untrue. You have your own awesomeness that no one can compete with.
So maybe you’re not a mom yet and you feel like your competitors have an advantage over you because they are moms. But can you find a different connection point with your ideal client:
Maybe you’re both dog moms or maybe you’re both foodies? Maybe you’re both vegan, maybe you both have like football-obsessed husbands? Or maybe you’re 50 or 60 plus and your competition is younger than you and you feel like they have an advantage because they’re closer to your ideal client’s age, but what if your age is an advantage? I mean chances are it’s easier for you to get up and leave quickly for a birth when you don’t have small kids at home, right?
It could be your shooting style. It could be your own birth experiences. It could be who you know in the community, your past clients, a loss, your lifestyle, the city you live in, a diagnosis – there are so many unique things about you as a person and you as a photographer that could connect with people in a way that your competitor cannot.
How to embody community over competition
Are you with me? Are you starting to believe that it’s beneficial for you not to worry about your competition? Because the truth is, there really are enough clients to go around for everyone. It might not always feel that way but there are!
Be kind to your competitors
To embody community over competition, first of all be kind to everyone and don’t forget that your competitors are human too. They face the same struggles you face in business. Choose kindness to their face and behind their back.
Hopefully you’re with me and you’re starting to see why and how you shouldn’t be worried about your competition because of your own unique awesomeness and you don’t know their journey and you don’t actually know what’s going on behind the scenes of their business and comparing yourself to them whether good or bad is just a yucky place to be.
Give without expectations of return
We’re going next level here, but what if you give without expectations of return? You see a post of theirs on social, and you comment something complimentary or maybe you message them and tell them how much you love their work? And I am challenging myself on this one, because I challenged myself back in 2016, and we’re going to talk about that here in a second, but even now with my education business like I’ve had my direct competitors on this podcast like Lacey Barratt and Liz Cook are two that come to mind that also teach birth photography which is a very specific market and I’ve had both of them on this show and continue to collaborate with them. Why? Because I’m truly not worried about my competitors, because I believe these things that I’m talking to you about today.
I believe that I have a unique advantage and I believe they do too. And it’s so important to focus on that instead of instead of living in this like scarcity, lack place where you feel like the number of clients are limited and you’re frantically trying to get them to come to you instead of somebody else.
So back to 2016 I became a chapter leader for the Rising Tide Society and the Rising Tide Society is based off of this idea that ‘a rising tide raises all ship’, I’m sure you’ve heard that before, and ‘community over competition’, which I’m 90% sure Natalie Frank actually like trademarked that phrase, ‘community over competition.’ So I am the Oklahoma City Chapter leader and I found myself mostly leading photographers. It’s not specific to photographers. It’s creative businesses, but naturally it ends up being a lot of photographers.
So I found myself as the chapter leader leading mostly photographers that were newer and answering their questions about growing a business and marketing for free in these meetings. And I’m not going to lie, there were a few times that I was like, “Okay, is this a smart move for me and my business as a photographer to be literally training my competition and giving them my best “secrets” for free,” and I kind of started to question what I was doing, but I kept doing it and do you know what happened?
They didn’t steal my clients. And they didn’t undercut me and like dominate the industry. What happened was they became my friends and we helped each other and we referred each other and we empathized with each other. We shared photo location ideas. We got a studio together – I even hired a couple of them.
So what would it look like if you put your head down intentionally focusing on your own business and your own growth while also investing in the industry around you, like investing in your competition and giving freely? Let me ask you this: has there ever been someone in your life who really helped you grow in your business or get started or just like encourages you regularly? Remember those people who have poured into you and your business. Like where would you be without them and how can you give back in the same way to someone else?
So when we start looking at our competitors as friends, it really changes the game for everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats. If the tide in your city is flat and calm then you can absolutely be the one to rise.
Tips on Embracing Competition
Identify what makes you unique
First of all, like we talked about earlier I would love for you to identify what makes you and your business unique and lean into that! Embrace your own awesomeness! Remember the examples from before. Niching down uncomfortably small is a great way to stand out. So I would love to see you make a list of things that make you awesome and different and unique from your competition and they’re out there I promise you.
Wait, what?! I know we talked earlier about giving without expectation of receiving and one of the examples I gave was leaving a nice comment on someone else’s social post and I stand behind that when you’re in the right headspace and you want to intentionally give.
Sometimes you’re on social media to take a break, to kind of escape for a minute, and typically you’re a little bit more vulnerable in those times of scrolling. And so whenever you need to take a break and you scroll on social media and you see their post, you’re less likely honestly to receive it well than if you set aside time to intentionally go take that action of encouraging somebody – I want to go encourage five of my local photographers, I’m going to go comment on their most recent post – and you’re in that headspace versus it just being like thrown in front of you, if that makes sense.
So if you’re somebody who scrolls social media and gets discouraged when you see your competitors post, I would encourage you to unfollow them, but also still take the time to intentionally connect with them when you’re in the right head space for that. And if that’s not something that you struggle with totally keep following them.
Hopefully now you’re with me and you’re starting to see that, maybe competition is actually a good thing. If you let it, it can drive you, you can build friendships and grow in business as a result of healthy competition because there really truly are enough clients to go around.
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My friend, if you have a passion – it’s not an accident. Not everyone loves photography, or event planning, or real estate… whatever your passion is, it’s there for a REASON. What are you going to do with that passion? Get out there and make it happen! Have a great week y’all!