Finding our uniqueness can be tough. But once we find it, we don’t necessarily have to treat everyone else as a competitor.
One of the first things I was told to do as a soloist was to ‘check out the competition’. I had to ask myself these questions: “What are others in my market offering? What is going to make me stand out from the crowd? What is my Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?”
What I don’t like about these questions is that it implies there isn’t enough room for my competitors and I.
Competition, by its very nature, pits one against the other. For me to be right, you mustn’t be. There is your way or my way. There is nothing in between nor is there enough room to be in there together, sharing the same space.
So how do we find ourselves and still stay friends with the rest?
The issue with trying to find uniqueness
It can sometimes take time
I got caught up in the uniqueness concept when I first started my small business, but I was not at a stage to discover it yet.
What I realised is that only through exploring myself and my business, was I going to become the unique thing that everyone was talking about.
There is so much pressure to be aware of yourself and who you are in business, yet at times this cannot be forced. Rather, it needs to be a natural unfolding.
We ignore what is right under our nose
When we set off to find that unique thing, it implies we’re inadequate to start with, taking our focus off the very things that we possess already – our unique combination of qualities and traits. Don’t these traits already set us apart from others?
Uniqueness can change
Uniqueness is transient. It’s ever-evolving. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, the whispers of change begin.
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How to stand out without necessarily competing
Do a self-assessment
Take an honest inventory of the person you are. What is truly valuable, unique and special about you as an individual?
Integrate your qualities
Take all your qualities and integrate them into your business, authentically and honestly. Do not attempt to avoid them, diminish them or worst of all, compare them to your ‘competition’. This is about you and your nature. It will become the personality of your business.
For example, if you like to dye your hair pink – for crying out loud, dye your hair pink! Yes, some people may think it’s unprofessional, but you’re a soloist, if that’s you, do it. There’ll be clients who completely dig the honest expression of who you are, and they’ll also know if you’re trying to be someone you’re not.
Take steps, get started and try things.
You won’t know exactly who you are in business until you are actually in business. So get started.
Sitting behind your desk and planning is counter intuitive to discovering your unique self. Don’t discount planning, but don’t discount ‘doing’ either.
Turn competitors into partners
If there are people in your space doing great things, partner with them. This doesn’t mean losing your identity as a soloist, it means fostering business relationships and expanding your community.
Be flexible and accept change as it comes to you. People are re-branding and re-structuring all the time. It’s a melting pot of experience and ideas that will see you evolve and grow. Embrace it. Love it. Expect it.
To summarise my thoughts and ideas about trying to find your uniqueness without competing, I’ll leave you with a favourite quote by Erica Cook, “I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”
How do you stand out from the crowd whilst still embracing your competitors?