How competitive is freelancing, really?

If you and I are both oral surgeons, and John needs his wisdom teeth pulled, only one of us can get his business. The other one is out of luck.

In other words oral surgery is a competitive business.

Competition with freelancing isn't like competition with wisdom teeth removal

Freelancing is different. It’s kind of magical.

In freelancing you and I can both win. In fact when one of us wins it becomes more likely the other one will end up winning… And that we’ll bring many more of our “competitors” along for the ride, too.

One of the reasons for this is that when a client hires a freelancer — any freelancer — and that freelancer does a good job, the result is that the client now needs more freelancers.

Think of a client hiring someone to create a website for their business. Now they need someone to write for it, someone to help them advertise it, someone to help them get found on Google, and more.

If all of them do a good job, soon the client may need help with customer service, sales, product development, legal, accounting, virtual assistance, video production, and much much more. (I’ve hired freelancers in all of these categories, and more, as I’ve built Freelance To Win over the past four years.)

Another reason why freelancing competition is largely an illusion has to do with the trajectory of your most successful and talented competitors — you know, the ones you’re most worried about…

It turns out there’s nothing to worry about because those people are almost always too busy to actually compete with you. If you were a client on Upwork, like I am, you’d see that the top freelancers seldom apply to your jobs because they already have as many clients as they can handle.

Here’s another thing you might never have considered: Successful freelancers often build their freelancing business into an agency — meaning they have so much work on their plate that they now hire freelancers to help them with all of it. That means that you can get hired, and paid, by your own “competition.”

Even if they don’t start an agency, good freelancers will end up giving clients away to other freelancers. They might do it because they’re too busy with their existing clients, or they may do it because a client just isn’t a perfect fit for them (keep in mind, successful freelancers can be extremely selective because getting new clients is as easy as drawing in a breath of air). I’ve personally referred tens of thousands of dollars worth of freelancing business to my “competitors” — probably much more than that, honestly.

Next time you think you need to worry about how competitive freelancing is, maybe you’ll think again, and remember that it’s just a trick your mind plays on you.

Here’s the reframe: When a freelancer does a good job, they’re not taking a piece of the pie off the table in a way that prevents someone like you from having a slice…

They’re making the overall pie larger, giving you a better chance at getting some, and a better chance at getting more than you otherwise might have.

(Flickr Creative Commons image via get directly down)

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