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Everyone frets about the competition. Whether you’re an old established firm terrified about young upstarts or a brand-new small business trying to break into a competitive field, it’s hard not to be fearful.

After all, there is only so much business pie to go around, right? Your slice is barely big enough, so how will you cope if your competitors start taking a bite?

Well, I’ve got a radical suggestion for how you can overcome your fear of your competitors and it’s simple: Embrace them.

My copywriting competitors

When I gave up my real job (running digital departments for ad agencies) and became a full-time copywriter, I often wondered if the competition would be too much.

Just type ‘Copywriter Sydney’ or ‘SEO copywriter Sydney’ into Google and you’ll see that there are simply zillions of copywriting businesses out there. How on earth would I make my mark? Would I ever get enough work?

Well here’s what I did, in five simple steps:

Step 1: Ignore the competition

It’s important not to get overwhelmed by who else is out there. Think about your own business, your goals and be true to your vision. If you’re good at what you do and you work bloody hard, you’ll be right (as the Aussies say). Or as they whispered in that Kevin Costner film, ‘Field of Dreams’: “If you build it, (they) will come”.

Step 2: Copy the competition

Okay, so this sounds like I’m negating point one and I kind of am, but bear with me.  When you’ve established your own business idea and have a clear vision of how you’re going to present yourself, then you can check out what your competitors are up to. Is there anything you can ‘borrow’? Do you need to tweak your model/idea a little? Obviously copying is bad, but being ‘inspired’ by someone else is fine. Remember: Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

Step 3: Befriend the competition

I’d argue my three biggest competitors (in terms of Search position) are also my three biggest virtual business chums. I’m regularly in touch with several writers. We share each other’s blog posts, we retweet, we ask for help and advice.

We’re not precious and it works.

And it’s not just these three; there are hoards of us copywriters out there in the Twittersphere, refusing to be precious. It might sound hard to believe but we’re one big happy community of copywriters. Group hug! Here’s a story about how I befriended one new competitor.

Step 4: Recommend your competition

Hopefully, there will come a time when you have to turn down a job/project because you’re too busy (yay). Instead of just saying ‘no’, it’s a good idea to provide the potential customer with recommendations.

Simply find a few competitors whose work you admire and then pass on their details.

You could even speak to them and ask them to reciprocate. Your customers will be grateful for some guidance, your competitors will be grateful for the work. Win, win!

Step 5: Help the competition

I get several emails a week from up-and-coming copywriters who want advice. Do I quake in my boots about these Gen Y upstarts coming to snaffle my customers?

No, I do not.

I believe there’s enough work for everyone. So I always try to share the love and help them where I can.
From a business point of view, everyone you help could potentially recommend you, later down the track.

From a karmic point of view, you’ll be positively glowing.

Now this might sound all a little too lovey-dovey for you; not the stuff of hard-nosed businessmen and, yes, Gordon Gecko would NOT approve. So if you don’t feel this is your style then no worries, but I can honestly say it worked for me.

In conclusion

A combination of hard work, true genius (!) and sharing the love with my competitors has been hugely beneficial to my business.

I’ve risen to a fairly high spot on Google for a highly competitive keyword phrase and, with almost 95% of the work I take on coming via recommendation, I feel that the good vibes I’m sending out are coming back. Tenfold.

So instead of fearing your competitors, befriend them. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you have a story of competitor love you can share? Please comment below:

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confessions of a misfit entrepreneur with Kate Toon

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