Working Girl How-To: Being Friends with the Competition
I can vividly remember staring at my computer for hours on end. I was at the start of my journey as a photographer, fresh from college. I was also poring over articles on the business side of being a creative entrepreneur. I was desperate to make money, to show myself that this wild and crazy dream was truly possible and to not feel alone in the endless cycle of marketing, shooting, and editing I had created for myself.
One day, a Facebook friend invited me to be a part of a new group of local area photographers. The goal of the group was for photographers to meet and network in a cozy coffee shop that wasn’t so far away as the big city. One month, I finally summoned up the courage to abandon my computer screen and head for the coffee shop. What greeted me was a small group of some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met in my whole life. So willing were they to share, to laugh, to vent, to empower, to educate and to support each other. Even though we were all photographers, and the vast majority of us in the same genre of photography, we had unique visions and businesses so “competition” wasn’t even an issue to them. Since those first meetings, I have traveled on several road trips with these women. I have photographed their families and they have photographed mine. They have become, in the truest sense of the word, my friends.
In business, I find myself constantly worried about the “edge” - the place where I feel my business will collapse. With this often comes a desire to guard my business. Keep my clients close, keep my success secrets close and don’t ever, ever give any indication of failure. Hiding will keep me safe and far from the edge.
Being friends with the competition is a deliberate decision to be open, to share and to be vulnerable. It means honestly being friends with the competition, with no agenda. Finding these relationships happens in the way any does. It requires effort and probably a few missteps along the way but the rewards are so worth it. True and honest friendship with your competition will gain you someone who understands your trials, who can provide you with important insight and yes, perhaps even provide you with new clients.