Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Competition

Here's a pretty picture to make this post more entertaining. It has nothing to do with this post.

I had a conversation with my hair stylist last night that was bemoaning how a competitor hair stylist was "getting on her nerves". I know both of these hair stylists so I have a little insight into their work lives and personalities. It turns out that my hair stylist felt a little threatened by her competitor because the competitor hair stylist was really on top of her marketing game (Facebook, twitter, etc.). Secondly, she felt threatened because her competitor was getting more editorial tear sheets than her. When asked why she couldn't do the same, she responded that she was too busy working to do editorials.

Jumping into the conversation I said, "So let me get this straight. You are threatened because she works less than you, makes less money than you, and then hangs out on Facebook all day?"

"I hadn't thought of it that way..."

"Okay, here's my 2-step solution to your problem" I said.

1. Stop hanging out on Facebook so much. The problem with your competitor goes away if you aren't following her every post, picture, and inane comment. For example. When I logon to Facebook, I don't read through the wall posts. I go directly to my own profile. If there's nothing there and no conversations to respond to. I leave. Done. Onto the next thing. I'm not sure why you would spend all day reading the public wall. Maybe I'm unusual. Maybe it's because I don't know 4,000 of the people that are on my Facebook friends list? Or maybe because I have other things I should probably be doing. I don't know. But if you have time to be stalking your competitor on Facebook, you probably have time to be marketing yourself better. And it's not just Facebook. It's twitter, YouTube, Instagram, tumblr, Model Mayhem. Ask yourself this: Who are you really marketing yourself to when you're surfing Facebook? The more I think about it, the more I realize that the clients I want to have aren't on the sites that I frequent. Executive producers, magazine editors, art directors, etc. those people aren't on my friends list. They might have a Facebook account but something tells me that Facebook isn't how I'm going to reach them. Hmmm, maybe 10 hours a day on Facebook isn't getting me where I want to be? Could that be possible? But I love Facebook so much! And I love hanging out with my 4,000 unemployed friends who are also on Facebook 10 hours a day! Gosh, what should I do?

So stop hanging out all day on Facebook. Seriously. You'll be just fine with 1-2 posts a day. 10 seconds. Done. Move on.

2. Focus on you. It's the same philosophy I have on the whole watermarking/copyright issue. Should it matter if someone steals your picture and makes $100 when you're too busy making $1,000 on bigger jobs? Nope. So should it bother you that your competitor is getting all the $100 jobs if you're booking all the $1,000 jobs? Nope. Because if you've got bigger fish to fry, you're not worrying about minnow.

So go and get some bigger fish to fry.

In the time that I've been here as a photographer, which is not that long, I haven't had to think much about my competition. They stick to what they do while I'm busy adding skill sets and looking for "rarified air". Recently for example, I've added cinematography onto my resumé and getting Lost on, shooting music videos, commercial videos, and teaching the whole process. That puts me in a different league than most of my former competitors. The idea is that you should make it so people can't compare you to your competitors. Make it awkward for people to mention you and your competitors in the same sentence. Be unique. Be incomparable.

Part of the problem is that many of you use social media to validate your existence. Someone should do a study on that. Actually I'm sure there are psychology studies in the journals on this subject. But the reality is that most of the people on your friends list can't help you. They're unemployed. They can't help themselves much less help you. So why are you working so hard for their approval? You want 100 unemployed likes on your picture? Because that's going to do what? Make you feel better about yourself?

Because it sure ain't gonna to land you a job.

And those jobs that you're worried about losing? You should be worrying about how you can get rid of those jobs altogether? For example. On Tuesdays and Thursdays you work with that commercial client and they pay you like $100 each time you come in right? Sure, it's a steady job. But you should be thinking about how you can replace those jobs with better jobs. Stop hanging onto the small stuff. It's like you're fighting over who gets to buy this raggedy old dress at the flea market. Why are you fighting over this raggedy old dress? Why are you shopping for dresses at the flea market anyway? Do you even know where this dress has been?

Focus on yourself. Instead of worrying about all the things that you can't do, start pushing the things than you can do. Just be the best at something. Anything.

But focus on yourself.


  1. ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS!!! inspired (:

  2. Charles, it's been a while since I've made a comment, but had to on this one. A great post.

  3. A friend of mine that owns his own art conservation business invited me to join Facebook. As soon as I actually did, he commented back to me "welcome to the world's biggest waste of time".
    Funny, but he meant that & he is virtually never on Facebook anymore.

    BTW, he is extremely successful at what he does.
    He used to have a house in Beverly Hills... but he moved up from that slum.
    So, maybe that's the point.
    Successful people don't have time for Facebook.

  4. Great advice! I need to stop doing the jobs that aren't worth my time and go for the good stuff!