Part 3 – we made it! I went back and forth on topics to discuss for part three of this series, and I kept coming back to an issue that has been rapidly growing within our industry. This one might be a bit of a dividing subject, but I do feel like it needs to be addressed. I realize that I’m not the first small business owner to bring this up, but it has increasingly started to affect me over the last year and I think it’s something that needs to be brought to light.
The Community Over Competition Movement
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know by now that I am a firm believer in the Community over Competition movement that was started a few years ago by the Rising Tide Society. I’m not alone in this! There are tens of thousands of other creative entrepreneurs in the industry who have accepted this idea and long for people within the creative industry to be more supportive of each other. I genuinely want to help others with their businesses, and there’s a lot that I try to openly share about my experiences. I’m constantly blogging and sharing stories on Instagram because I want to reach others who might be struggling with something I did when I first started out. I want to inspire others in their businesses because I had people who inspired me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I want to provide education and guidance to those who are struggling because I’ve been there, and it’s so hard to figure it all out on your own! I genuinely want to help people because my business wouldn’t be where it is today without the guidance I received from others. However, I think the main issue is that a lot of people are starting to get the wrong idea about what true community over competition means.
In the last few months, I have received a few of those dreaded emails…you know, the ones where people ask you how you run your business because they want to start up their own, but it’s in the most unprofessional way possible. The first time I received one, I was stunned and I honestly had no idea how to even respond. If I’m being honest, it came across very entitled, and I walked away from it feeling heartbroken.
You see – I’ve invested a lot into this business. I’ve invested thousands of dollars into my education: conferences, workshops, mentoring, online courses…heck, I actually majored in photography (minored in business) in college so my entire degree even counts towards my educational investment in this business. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to be not only an editor, but also a business owner, a social media marketer, a website developer, blogger, email marketer, and educator. I have huge dreams, and I’ve put a lot of time and effort to get where I am. There have been many tear-filled nights over the last few years because there were many times when I didn’t know what I was doing. Each time I ran into an issue, I found a way to fix it: I would invest in educational opportunities provided by leaders in the industry. I invested in opportunities like this because I was raised believing that nothing in life comes for free. You have to work hard to be successful, and if you want something you have to earn it.
Getting emails like this makes me feel that there is this mentality in the industry of, “because you believe in community over competition, you have to tell me what I want to know.” Politely asking for help or guidance is simply out of the question for some, and I am telling you – this will discourage that person from helping you or working with you. Period.
Don’t get me wrong…
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here – it is absolutely okay to ask for help! In fact, I encourage it! There are a lot of business owners in the industry who want to help others succeed in their ventures. However, if you are going to ask someone for help, there are a few things that I ask you to keep in mind:
Know Who They Are
This should be a no-brainer, but it will surprise you to know that a lot of the unprofessional emails I get are from people who have absolutely no idea who I am. So – take some time to get to know the person you are writing to. What do they do? What do they stand for? Are they already providing educational resources? Take a moment to connect with them on a more personal level than just a, “I’m just looking for information and you seem to have it all together,” level.
There have been many instances where I received emails where people asked me really politely (and very graciously) if I would be willing to share how I did XYZ with them, and I am so happy to get these! I want people to ask me for help because I have the desire to help them, and when someone asks politely, I try to assist them in any way that I can. It also helps me to get an idea of what people want to know from me so I can provide resources that are actually helping my audience. Asking for help is all about how you approach it. So, if you are sending an email, make sure your wording is professional and polite!
Please realize that you may not get an answer to your question, even if you ask really nicely. If the business owner does not want to share information with you, you should respect that. If they don’t want to answer your question, you could try asking them if you could pay to mentor with them (if they don’t already offer this option). Not every small business owner wants to get into education, so if they decline your request, thank them for their time, and move on. If this were the case, I would encourage you to find someone else who does offer educational opportunities already and reach out to them!
Be Prepared to Invest in Education
Like I mentioned above: if you want something, you have to earn it. This means spending a little time and money on your education. There are SO many free resources out there, and I do encourage you to try to take advantage of those opportunities when you find them. However, free resources will not always give you all of the answers you need, so be prepared to spend some money on it. Just remember that it’s going to help improve your business.
It’s okay to ask for help, but please don’t use the spirit of community over competition in order to take advantage of business owners who have been in business for a long time. If a business owner believes in community over competition, that doesn’t mean that they have to give you all of the answers for free. They’ve worked hard to get where they are, and they’ve probably invested a lot of money into educational resources so they could get where they are. If you want to be successful, then make sure that you are asking for help in the right way with the right mindset.