What does "Community over Competition" Really Mean?

By: Effie Gurmeza

There’s a phrase small creative businesses and solo-preneurs like to use: “community over competition.” It’s a catchy phrase, a popular hashtag, and may make you feel like you’re part of the club if you throw it into an Instagram or blog post, but what does it really mean?

Simply put, community over competition means that people and relationships are more important than gaining all the business or customers you can.

How does this play out in real life? Here are a few examples:

  1. Community over competition means being kind to others in your industry. Whether that looks like commenting on their Instagram posts and cheering them on or not hiding your industry “secrets” from them if they ask you a question. Be kind to those in your industry and those outside of it too. The heart of community over competition is to put people and relationships above getting another job, having the fullest schedule, or being the best.

  2. Community over competition means giving credit where credit is due. This is huge. Don’t steal people’s work. Don’t copy their ideas and market them as your own. The area that I see this happening over and over again in my industry is when people use images without credit to the photographer. Even if you bought the rights to that photo, if you really believe in the spirit of community over competition, you’ll credit the photographer. And I’m sure you can find the application for your industry pretty quickly too.

  3. Community over competition means referring business to others. This could be referring excess business that you don’t have time for. It could be referring customers that aren’t a good fit for you, or that want something you don’t offer. For instance, I refer a lot of my customers for websites because they often need them in conjunction with brand photography but I don’t do web design. Rather than trying to do it all, I’ve been able to create community with other creatives by referring customers back and forth.

  4. Community over competition means that you have the freedom to collaborate. Some of my favorite photoshoots I’ve ever been a part of were collaborations with other small businesses. Collaborations are a great way to form community and learn from each other so that everyone can grow stronger together.

What community over competition does NOT mean:

That you have to work for free or give anything away. That you can’t be a smart and savvy business owner. That you let people walk all over you and your business. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t, or won’t have, competition in your field. You will, but just remember to keep it in its proper place.

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