Community Over Competition

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to incorporate topics of conversation into my blog properly, so we’re gonna start doing something new called Coffee Talk. I wanted to start by sharing my thoughts on the “community over competition” movement, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences down in the comments!

Community over competition. We hear this all the time. But what does it really mean and is there truth to it? Are there limits? Is it ever misinterpreted?

Well, the last time Bethany and I shot together, we were talking about Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast (which is incredible if you’re not already a listener, btw). We talked about how thankful we are for creatives that are willing to share their advice freely. Sharing information freely – especially when it comes to business – doesn’t feel natural. You’ve worked really hard to make it to where you are today, right?

Let me tell you why I believe in the power of community over competition, and why I think there’s room for a healthy amount of both.

A little background on how I know Bethany: she and I went to elementary school and high school together, and we danced at the same dance studio growing up. She’s a year older than me, so even though we were never really friends, we always knew each other. And this past summer, she got married to my friend Johnny.

Bethany sells gently used designer and brand name clothing and accessories on Instagram and she’s great what she does. For a long time, I’d look at her personal Instagram account and think, Why isn’t she monetizing this? She’s posting outfits every day, she’s great with styling, people love her content… so I messaged her and asked her if she’d ever thought about it. We got coffee to talk strategy and kinda see where her head was at.

Fast forward to today, and Bethany and I shoot once a week if we’re both in town. I take her photos, she takes mine, we each edit our own. Bethany is now signed up on rewardStyle, she paid me to set up her blog, and she’s rocking Instagram. If you go look at both of our accounts and compare them, Bethany has better engagement with less followers, and we’ve talked about this.

Reciprocity, Support, Tribes, and Competition

We have different tribes. Bethany’s style is not my style. Her followers are not my followers. And guess what? All of that is okay. You know what that teaches me? That I need to do a better job of digging into what my tribe wants and needs without worrying that Bethany doing well is taking anything away from me, because it’s not. This is what I call “healthy competition.” I’m not competing directly with Bethany, but looking at her numbers does motivate me, and it should.

These are things that we talk about openly. We talk about our numbers, our followers, our engagement, our conversions. That’s all important. But guess what? We’re learning from each other. We each have a partner, a support system, and a free photographer as a result of that transparency.

And where an interaction is not reciprocal? Bethany needed help setting up her blog, and she was very transparent in saying if you could do this for me, it would be such a huge help and I want to make sure you’re properly compensated for that. And if I ever need something from Bethany, you can bet I will be paying her for it. That’s what it means to believe in yourself enough to invest in your business and to treat people with integrity.

So many people approach Community Over Competition with a sense of entitlement.

I know that it isn’t popular to talk about this, but we’re gonna talk about it anyway. Have you ever felt pressured to provide your services for free in the name of community? Probably. It’s happened to me as a model, it’s happened to me as a blogger, it’s happened to me as someone who knows a good deal about technology and social media. I wish I had a tally of the number of times I’ve been asked to coffee so that someone can “pick my brain.”

I used to work for a well established blog in another city. Do you know how many times I asked my bosses if I could pick their brain about how to build a blog empire? Zero. Because I know they spent months and months figuring it out. I’m not entitled to that information just because I want to know it. So I learned what I could through the work I did, and researched the rest. A lot of the creatives you know have spent months or years researching and working their way toward what you see now, doing a lot of that completely on their own or paying for help.

Many creatives (myself included) are more than happy to help other people and point them in the right direction, but a lot of the time, people ask in a way that provides no motivator for us to carve that time out of our week. They approach that interaction with a sense of get, get, get. How can you help me? They’re probably not meaning to be rude, they’re just not thinking. Two hours of my time and months and months of work is worth more than a $5 cup of coffee (which, to be honest, I’ve ended up purchasing myself many times), especially since I hardly have time to grab coffee with the most important people in my life. Moral of the story? Give more than you take. Be willing to put in the work. Support other creatives, but realize that you’re not entitled to insight just because you ask. Be kind.

So what are my takeaways on community over competition?

1. Support creatives around you.
2. Realize that it’s your job to know your tribe – no one else’s.
3. Aim to make every interaction reciprocal. Don’t take if you’re not willing to contribute.

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