Anyone who has been a part of a creative industry for long enough has likely lost (or won) work from a client that several other creatives were bidding on. When you’re a small shop or an independent, this can be tough, but don’t hate– collaborate. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great people, but I’ve also come across those who are less than accepting when they fear you might take their work. The attitude I approach situations like this with is one of joining forces, and here are some ways to do it.

Drop your ego. Like, now.

The biggest barrier between you and another creative that is close to your level, is often your own pride. Let it go. They got where they are for a reason, as did you. Show them some respect and take a genuine interest in how and what they are working on– even if at first they don’t show any towards you.

Offer to be an assistant for them.

Time and time again I write about (and read others suggesting) working as an assistant for someone else, even though they might run their own business or be a professional themselves. Consider taking this approach with the other creatives in your locale. Not only does this get you a little work, but you’ll be able to learn from someone who likely does things in a completely different method than you. A creative at any level can still learn a thing or two.

 

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Some folks won’t be interested in hiring you and will have their “own people.” If this fails, try turning the tables on them and…

Try to hire them when you have a budget that won’t insult them.

This is the flipside to assisting for them– try to hire them. Don’t be a dick, rather be a partner. Show them how good you are at what you do but allow them to have input as well. (This can sometimes lead to not just a working relationship, but a friendship as well.) I always need a few people in my digital rolodex to recommend to potential clients when I’m too busy, and hopefully they can see the value in doing business with you.

Cultivate a working relationship.

From a distance, resentment can easily fester and misconceptions about the kind of person a competing photographer or filmmaker might be. You’d be surprised how much your goals might align though, and how similar you might be.

Building a rapport with someone you might consider to be your “competition” not only soothes any tension that might exist, but all of the sudden when either of you get approached with a huge project where you need a big crew with a lot of talent, you can hire each other. What I’ve learned is that what goes around usually comes around– I’ve hired my competition and they have hired me, and we recommend each other when one of us is too busy to take on a particular job.

 

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People who are scared of losing work, read this.

I reached out to just about every local photographer and filmmaker in the southwest Colorado area, and I got very few calls back. (I pretty much have only 1 person I regularly work with, and I have to fly in the rest of my crew from out of state!) I’ve met some of them while on shoots we were both working, and even tried to hire them to assist me on projects. I don’t know if they genuinely are busy, or are scared that I might start to eat in to their clients and work, but I honestly believe it is their loss– collaborating with fellow creatives opens doors that are often not even seen and can result in work that no single creative would have been able to produce.

People like me are looking for work, yes, but we want to work WITH you much as we would like to work with some of the same clients. Every year I make a decent income from being hired to work for other creatives I’ve met– but I also put a fair amount of money into the pockets of those that I hire.

 

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The thing no one wants to hear.

The last thing that comes to my mind on this topic is this: If you’re that afraid of losing work to someone else, perhaps you need to get better at what you do.

There’s no use in getting upset about someone else getting jobs over you when their work is better; in fact, it should motivate you to push yourself. A new guy sold some photos to one of your regular clients? Well why didn’t you have those same images? Either you were too busy working because you’re a pro and have other jobs (in which case you probably aren’t hurting in the back account so get over it) or your work wasn’t good enough– which means you need to get out there and get better. And finally, to bring it full circle, one way to get better is to work with and learn from your competition.