Blog to support the book "Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs" by Kristen Fischer

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Keeping Your Cool with Competition
by Kristen Fischer

People often complain about freelancers being too competitive—but that’s not such a bad thing.

As a freelancer competing for jobs, you have to make it a point to stick out from the rest. And as long as you’re professional about things, there’s nothing wrong with maintaining an edge.

Here’s how to—and how not to do it!

DO: Make your marketing collateral flawless. These days, a simple click to your website by a prospective employer could mean the difference between getting the gig and getting passed up. So make sure that your logo is solid, and your branding carries across things like your brochure, business card and website. Content matters just as much as design, and you’ve got to have both to compete against others.

DON’T: Ask colleagues for specific referrals. While there’s nothing wrong with seeking out a mentor, I think it’s vital not to try to step on their toes. I’ve had plenty of people ask me for specific leads and referrals—and it wasn’t the way to enlist my help. Stick to asking others for advice on how to do things and don’t try to dig for anything more, such as asking them who some of their clients are. They’ve gone through tons of hard work to get their connections and it’s only fair that you do the same.

DO: Keep learning. It’s vital to stay on top of your game—and that means staying on top of your industry, too. Whether you read books or attend seminars, it’s always great to learn the newest techniques, tricks and players that affect your industry. This is especially true if you’re in a more technology-based field, as that’s always changing. Even writers that only use Firefox and MS Word to get by can still learn new tricks and make new connection.

DON’T: Get nasty with networking. I attended a networking event once geared towards creative professionals. Everyone was nice, except the other writers. It seemed that everyone within their own specialty wasn’t too chummy, and instead were only nice to those who could possibly give them paying work. But even others in your field can provide connections. No matter what happens, it’s best to be nice to others in your field, especially at networking events where people can pick up on your vibe easily.

DO: Enhance your services. As a writer, there is still plenty of ways for me to improve. Because I do mostly Web collateral, I try to make an effort for more print work. I also try to complement my book-writing with magazine-writing. I’m always looking for more to give my clients, and always looking to make things easier on both parties. Staying competitive means constantly taking stock of what you can improve—and your services offer direct benefits to your clients so exploring this area of your business is worth the time.

DON’T: Bad-mouth the competition. This should be a given, but I feel the need to say it. Because some freelancers don’t insult others on purpose—but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it. When clients ask why they should use you over a competitor, it’s important to highlight your advantages rather than the competition’s shortcomings. This saves you from burning bridges and also helps you appear more practical.

Even though you may not play for a team as a freelancer doesn’t mean that good sportsmanship doesn’t count. Put your best foot forward and continue giving yourself that competitive edge—the right way, of course.

link | posted by Kristen at 5:48 PM |

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