Colleagues Not Competitors: Why It’s Smart to Develop and Maintain Relationships with Fellow Web Writers

I still remember it vividly… meeting and connecting with my first fellow web writers at the Catamaran Hotel in San Diego. I knew the value of networking and building professional relationships, but I wasn’t prepared for this. At all.

It was February 2012, and I had driven 340 miles to attend my first Web Copywriting Intensive. There I was in a room with 49 other people who wanted to make a living as a web copywriter.

I was at the event to figure out how to do that in the shortest amount of time. As was everyone else.

And, if we were all there to do the same thing — become working, well-paid web copywriters — didn’t that mean we’d all be competing for the same clients?

Of course, I realize now this couldn’t be further from the truth. I know now there’s an abundance of web copywriting that needs to be done for an infinite number of clients.

During those three days in San Diego, I had multiple “a-ha” moments. I went from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance. From thinking of my fellow web writers as competition to recognizing them as colleagues.

And, it has made all the difference.

I finally understood why my mother-in-law developed and maintained a relationship with one of her closest competitors for local housecleaning clients. My mother-in-law Suzette owns a housecleaning business that makes between $500,000 and a million dollars a year, with 15-20 employees. She’d regularly call on Suzanne, the owner of a competing housecleaning company, to discuss common issues like the rising price of gasoline, minimum wage increases, insurance coverages and rates, and so on.

They’d even discuss what they were each charging their clients.

“She has her way of doing business, and I have mine,” she’d say. Suzette’s business model is to send in a crew of four workers; Suzanne’s is to send in two. “People will either like her way or mine, but there’s enough work to go around.”

She was right. There’s close to 1,000,000 people in their service area, and neither company has gone out of business since 1975 for my mother-in-law and 1984 for Suzanne.

The value Suzette received from treating Suzanne as a colleague instead of a competitor is shared knowledge, an empathetic ear, support, and an affirmation of abundance.

I get the same value from my relationships with my web-writing colleagues. You can, too.

Shared Knowledge

The benefit of sharing knowledge about what’s working — and what’s not — is that you shorten your learning curve and don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Like my mother-in-law, I discuss what I’m charging clients with my web-writing colleagues. In the beginning, and even still today, this gives me the confidence to raise my rates and charge what the work is worth.

We also tend to “geek out” and discuss email subject lines that got great open rates, changes in Google’s or Facebook’s algorithms, and testing call-to-action copy for sales page buy buttons.

We have these conversations at live events, in mastermind groups, on social media, and sometimes by email or phone call. Whatever the medium, the important thing is the give and take of collective knowledge.

Connection 

Another benefit of interacting with web-writing colleagues is the feeling of connection. The business of being a web copywriter is typically a solo endeavor. We don’t have a break room or water cooler where we can chat with co-workers.

Instead, we have to be more intentional about connecting to beat the solo-entrepreneur trap of solitude.

Solitary confinement is one of the harshest punishments a person can receive, because we humans are social creatures. Even introverts need contact and connection with like-minded people.

Having a network of copywriting colleagues meets that need.

Understanding and Support

Similar to the benefit of feeling connected to people who are like-minded, having copywriting colleagues means you have people around you who understand the challenges you’re facing… who know and “get” you.

For example, I know my fellow baseball moms love me and have my back about the logistics of keeping schedules updated, volunteer duties coordinated, and fundraising efforts managed. But, they’re pretty much useless in a conversation about keeping email subscribers engaged, increasing click-through rates, or testing headlines.

Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., says, “Not feeling that others really know us can leave us feeling hopelessly estranged from the rest of humanity. It may well be that feeling understood is a prerequisite for our other desires to be satisfyingly fulfilled.”

Because they “get” me, my fellow web copywriters can provide support that’s more meaningful when it comes to issues unique to our business and industry. I feel understood around them without having to explain myself as much. That’s comforting.

Potential Partners

Not as common, at least for me, but no less beneficial when it arises, is the potential to collaborate with copywriting colleagues.

I’ve helped proof and copyedit large projects for colleagues. I stepped in and wrote a video script for a colleague who wasn’t going to make his deadline. I’ve managed social media campaigns for a fellow copywriter who didn’t specialize in social media but who had a client who needed it.

On the other side of that coin, I know copywriters who I can refer business to when I need the help or when I come across a client who needs something I don’t do.

It’s great to have colleagues who have complementary skill sets, so we can help each other without competing.

Mindset

Perhaps the biggest benefit of developing and maintaining relationships with fellow web copywriters is keeping a mindset of abundance.

Seeing another web writer as a colleague instead of the competition affirms there’s an abundance of work to go around for us all. I can remind myself that another person’s success doesn’t take anything away from me or my opportunities.

In fact, being genuinely happy for my colleagues and surrounding myself with other successful web copywriters sets me up for greater success of my own.

And with that kind of mindset, I am unstoppable.

I still stay in touch with the web copywriters I met back in 2012 in San Diego… and with those I’ve met and established relationships with since then. My network of copywriting colleagues continues to grow and flourish, and we all benefit from our connections to each other.

What about you? Do you have a strong professional network? Do you have web-copywriting colleagues who you connect with and get support from? I’d love to hear your story! Leave a comment below.

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Michele Peterson

Michele Peterson is a direct response web copywriter, online marketing strategist, speaker, and coach. She draws on 20+ years of sales and marketing experience to help her clients tell their stories, engage their audience, and make more money. On a personal note, she’s the wife of a winemaker, baseball mom, back pain survivor, SF Giants fan, former cheerleader, gardener, master networker, tech geek, avid reader, and fan of all things Disney.

2 Comments

  • Good Evening Michele,

    Great post! You’ve emphasized a lot of good points here, and just add to the discussion, I’d like to give some of my own thoughts about the topic of networking and nurturing relationships with fellow web writers, and see what you think.

    To be honest with you, it’s interesting that you bring this topic up because I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. I actually had a conversation with one of my co-workers about this topic just today (this evening). Moreover, I’m working on a book where one specific part is going to be covering this subject more in-depth.

    So, with that said, to begin, I like what you said about mindset and how those that think of other web writers as the competition are actually thinking with a scarcity mindset. But those that think in terms of other web writers as colleagues or co-workers are displaying more of an abundance mindset. I can’t agree more. In fact, I think it was Bob Proctor who said, “Amateurs compete, while professionals create.”

    Plus, I’ve heard many wealthy and super influential people say how they are so busy focusing on the their next project or the next thing they are creating to be worried about what their competition is doing. They are not aware of what their competition is doing, and they are certainly not focused on what those who are less successful are doing.

    I mean, think about it. Isn’t it interesting how scarcity and/or poor minded people are always focused on what others are doing, but those that are super creative, productive, and successful very rarely are focused on what others are doing? Instead, they are more focused on what they are doing, and what they are going to create next.

    Now, moving on from that for minute. I’m curious to get your take on this thought. I’ve been in the workforce for several years, and what I’ve found is so many employees have this attitude where they think, “I’m here to do a job, not make friends.” I don’t know about you, but that just sounds like a pretty rotten attitude to have, at least to, it does to me.

    You see, let me ask you this: How many high school kids have you heard say, “I come to school to learn, not make friends?” Not many, I’m sure. In high school, kids make socializing a top priority, and learning is put way on the back burner of importance.

    That changes, of course, when we go to college. College kids begin to realize how important learning and gaining knowledge in certain subjects is, but they still emphasize a healthy social life.

    But, for some reason, once we enter the workforce, people start to think that the job is more important than anything else, and completely disregard the need for a healthy social life among co-workers.

    Now, I’m not implying that the jobs we do are not important, but what I’m trying to say is that both are equally important. Our knowledge and competency in the job we do is important, but so is our relationships with our co-workers. And these are people that you are going to spend eight to ten hours with on a day-to-day basis. Why would you not want to cultivate strong healthy relationships with these people?

    Now, of course, that doesn’t mean you need to be all up in people’s business, or tell your co-workers everything about yourself. But, like you say, “…because we humans are social creatures”, it’s essential that we also see our relationships as being just as important as the jobs we do.

    Now, there’s a second side to that coin. You see, some are either to one extreme or the other. I mean, another thing that people in the workforce say is: “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” Well, again, I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s another ridiculous thing to say because what good is knowing someone (someone that can get you a sit at the table) when you having nothing of value to bring to the table?

    Again, as you can see, both are important. What you know and who you know are equally important. One is not senior to the other, but both are two sides to one coin. In fact, let me put it to you like this: Take a quarter for example. If you were to break that quarter in half and take off one side, would you then have 50 cents? Well, of course not. The coin is now valued at zero because it’s no longer 25 cents. When it is broken in half it is no longer worth anything.

    The same thing goes with competence and relationships. They are two sides to one coin. Take one side away and your value or worth is gone.

    In fact, what I told one of my colleagues just last week is this: “There’s a saying in business that goes like this: ‘People do business with those they know, like, and trust.’ The same thing applies to trying to be promoted and climb the corporate ladder. Those that are in management (or in some role where they have the authority to promote someone) can’t really promote anyone if they don’t know them, like them, or trust them. If you are trying to hide in the shadows and not be noticed, how can a hiring manager be able to know you? People can’t promote you if they don’t know you. And even though this may not be “politically correct”, these managers are certainly not going to hire you or promote you if they don’t like you, or if they are not able to trust you.”

    Now, I can go on and on for days about this topic (Like I said earlier, I’m actually working on a book that is going to cover a lot on this subject), but I know this comment is getting to be a bit lengthy, so I will bring it to a close with this final thought.

    I’m currently reading a book by Julian Birkinshaw and Jonas Ridderstrale entitled, “Fast/Forward: Make Your Company Fit For The Future.” Within its pages, they go on to discuss the progression from the Industrial age to the Information, and the Age that is to come.

    One thing that I found interesting is the following quote:

    “For us as individuals this paradox [the more I know, the less I understand] implies that we need to develop both the depth and the breadth of our competence. In a competitive world, we need our special area of expertise to help us stand out from the pack. But we also need the ability to work collaboratively, so that our fragment of knowledge can be combined with the knowledge of others – the ability to maintain a reasonable level of understanding in multiple fields of study.”

    They went on to say, “When success is a matter of getting people with the right ‘know-how’ to collaborate, ‘know-who’ also becomes a critical factor to consider. The smart thing to do, for even the smartest of people, is to hone your social skills so that others want to team up with you and complement your strengths with their own. Today, more than ever, Lone Ranger needs Tonto.”

    With that said, have you noticed that, even in the latest Superhero movies, Superheroes are working more and more as a team? I mean, you’ll never find Batman without Robin, and even Superman is rarely without Super Girl and/or Superwoman – it’s becoming a family affair.

    And lastly, I just want to end by saying this: Your net worth is highly dependent upon your network. The idea of a solo-entrepreneur is becoming more and more a thing of the past, and when it comes to succeeding in the new Age that is come, the web writers that are quick to move into the mindset of collaboration will be the winners.

    To that end, as information and knowledge is poised to continue to grow faster and faster, the only way to possibly keep up is through collaboration.

  • Great post; being friendly and open in any relationship is the best course of action. We are always able to learn something from others.

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