{getting started} how to build a biz without pissing off the competition

last week i wrote a post called how to deal with copycats, imitators and thieves. and i had a great response from readers telling me it really helped them to deal with this frustrating situation.

and then it hit me. what if one of the people reading is someone who is trying to build their own little biz and is now worried: “crap! am i the copycat/imitator/thief she was talking about?”

(you weren’t by the way – i wasn’t thinking of anyone specific, more just the general problems i had seen people discussing on facebook and twitter.)

so this post is for you: the little biz builder just trying to get your foot in the door. how do you start a biz without being seen as a copycat, imitator or thief?

it’s all been done before

let’s face it; someone out there probably has a similar business to the one you want to start. that’s ok! most fellow biz builders can acknowledge that there is room for newbies in the field, that competition is a good thing, and that we all started somewhere!

don’t sweat it if someone else is selling the same thing as you (well maybe sweat it if that person is your best friend or the person who has mentored you – you might want to chat with those folks first!) anyhow – what you need to do is conduct your biz with respect to the other biz builders out there and concentrate on making your thing unique.

fill a gap

look to see what your competitors are doing, and then see if you can add something to the field that is missing.

  • is there a gap in service that you can fill?
  • is there a product that is not being offered yet?
  • is there a niche that is not being tapped?
  • is there a problem that is not being solved?
  • is there a customer out there with needs that you can meet? 

if you can find this gap, if you can offer a new product or service or tap into a new client base then you should be able to build your biz without stepping on toes and you will also probably find more success. now that is good motivation right there!

be friendly and respectful

~ reach out to those who already have businesses in your field. say hello, introduce yourself, compliment their work.

~ if someone is doing something you would like to emulate – ask permission to try out or build on their idea.

~ give credit to the people or products that have inspired you by naming the business and linking back to their site.

~ create win-win relationships. show your respect for businesses you admire in your field by passing their name onto your clients when you can’t solve their problem or fill their need. i would bet that same biz would do the same for you.

do your homework

a big mistake as you start to build your biz is to undercut pricing or to undermine expertise. you are not going to make any friends in your field by doing this. with all my “woo woo let’s share” advice from the previous article, this is the thing that causes the most problems in my field (photography) and is the one thing that turns me off of wanting to help new biz builders out.

~ pricing – look at what people are already charging for that thing. consider target audience, niche, geographic location, value and quality. if you undercut those people just to steal away clients then you undervalue the entire field. (and you aren’t doing yourself any favours, so it is pointless.) do your research and price your stuff in a manner that is fair, matches the marketplace, and values the work you and others do.

~ expertise- you may be just starting out, and may not have as much training or expertise as your competitors, but you can still make an effort to show that you are working at it. do your homework, build your skills, show your clients and your competitors that you are serious about your work and your biz. if you come along and do a half-assed, amateur job and make no apologies for it you lose the respect of your counterparts and you make them look like fools if they have helped you along the way.

take a break

look, we are inundated with information from others so obviously we will get inspired by others. i know i do, and i bet you do too. there is a fine line between inspiration and imitation though. if you are worried that you are inclined to imitate the work that others are doing, take a complete break from all those other businesses. for a while, don’t look at what other people are doing in your field, concentrate solely on your own work. try to find inspiration in other areas of life to get your creative juices flowing.

fake it till ya make it

just because you are new to the field doesn’t mean you don’t need to look like a professional biz. pick just a few things that you absolutely need to start out (perhaps a logo, a business card, an email address, a website) and make sure those things are awesome: make a good impression and show that you are serious about your biz. these things will become part of your brand – you can build on them as you grow. if you have a half-assed sloppy brand then you won’t be taken seriously by competitors and you lose a chance to build up relationships with them.

and for the love of beer, don’t steal!

you aren’t going to do this anyways, but i think it must be said. don’t outright copy other people’s stuff. i am shocked by the stories of entire businesses being copied, down to the writing on the website. but even if just one design or idea is copied it hurts – people put their heart and soul into their biz (as you know) so respect that!

here is a good rule of thumb – would you be comfortable showing your thing to that other biz owner? if not, if the idea makes you feel squirmy and uncomfortable, then maybe your thing is a little too close to being a copy of their thing. what could you do with your thing to make it different enough that you could all exist together comfortably?

don’t underestimate karma

i had to say it, didn’t i? remember that karma is a bitch. and also a blessing. which side will you come out on?

what advice do you have for the newbies in your field? how did you deal with this when you were starting out? what questions do you have as you figure out how to start your own biz without pissing off exsisting competition? do add a comment, i would love to hear from you =)