Community Over Competition
Write what you know.
That's a pretty standard writing cliché, right? Just thought I'd get it out of the way before continuing this blog post that is true to my heart. Literally, on the left side of my screen I have four drafted blog posts, one doesn't even have a title. "Gifts for," "How to Identify your Brand - Part I," "No Title," and "How to Take the Best Photo." They all have either an intro sentence or, obviously, don't even have a title. This jumped the line because of an encounter I had this morning and I realized this might be a concept I've been taking for granted.
When I began photographing for bloggers and small businesses, BECKLEY was just a hobby. I count myself fortunate that when I began my business, there wasn't a lot of risk involved; I was pursuing a career in physical therapy so whatever I did as BECKLEY was just a bonus. It was a happy time of meeting bloggers, befriending "real" photographers, and getting my name out there for the fun of it.
Now that this is my career, I am so glad I got my start with the right attitude - an attitude of community over competition - because I didn't really have "competition." More so I had a community of people I respected and admired.
Why do we feel competitive?
It happens to the best of us. We see someone doing something similar, or working with people you saw as "your people," or someone didn't give you appropriate credit. There's always SOMETHING we can find that has the potential to strike a chord.
I find that whenever I look at someone's work with anything less than excitement for that person, that's a reflection about how I'm feeling about my own work. When I see people succeeding and the phrase "congratulations" doesn't immediately come to mind, that's a reflection of how well I think I'm succeeding or not succeeding.
But someone creating cool images, or wearing something so chic I'm mad I didn't think of it myself, or being published somewhere is a reflection of their own merits. If I'm feeling uncomfortable with that or wishing I were doing something similar, that's a great opportunity to think about what's going on in my own life that's preventing me from doing those things. Maybe I'm bending too much for a certain client and need to regain my vision as a photographer; maybe I'm not planning my time well and am feeling over-worked and not creating as much as I'd like to be. Either way, whenever I feel that pang of competition, I think of it as a chance to acknowledge the real reason I'm feeling uncomfortable, do something about it, and move on.
How do you find a community?
Buck up and be nice. That's all it takes. I used to reach out when I was just starting out and let other photographers in the area know that I respected and admired their work and that if I ever had client overflow I would be giving out their info. It was a genuine act and one that helped my career exponentially.
Reach out online or even in person. We're at a point where it is completely normal to walk up to someone you recognize from Instagram and say how much you liked their last blog post or the outfit they posted on Thanksgiving. People love that (usually) and it's a great way to introduce yourselves and foster a sense of community.
Practice what you preach. If you're leaving comment after comment "One word: Fabulous! That outfit looks amazing!" say it in real life too. Hang out with people that are acquaintances that might become friends. Collaborate on a project together. Just know to check yourself: if you're feeling competitive or that your ideas are similar already and you don't want to risk copying each other, table that topic and talk about something outside of your field.
We have the capacity to help each other grow.
WE HAVE the capacity to help EACH OTHER grow.
When you foster a sense of community you are treating yourself and those around you with kindness and respect. We have so much to learn from other people and going it alone is the long hard road that is honestly a waste of time.
Please, this week go sit at a coffee shop and strike up a conversation. Or meet someone you follow on Instagram and grab a drink. Some cities have a wonderful community of entrepreneurs and young professionals and old professionals - people to learn from! Some cities aren't as inclined towards that scene, so be the person who reaches out and FORMS a community!
Have fun with it and let me know how good you feel once you adopt this as your way of life!