Don’t Bother Competing
Posted on 14 July 2011
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, just a strong suggestion that’ll save you lots of headaches and time. Don’t compete in ways where the competition is overwhelming or your competition can destroy you on price.
For example, if you’re considering starting a new business in the US, would you consider starting a new customer service call center business from scratch? Would you think it’s a good idea to manufacture umbrellas stateside? Do you think you could run a business based on volume post-processing of images in Photoshop? — All of these things are being outsourced successfully from the US to overseas suppliers and the costs make US start-ups in these fields a suicide mission.
So what’s the takeaway from this? Two things. One is obvious and the other one is less so. 1) Find or invent an unique niche and market to that niche’s potential customers; and, 2) Consider outsourcing to places that can do it cheaper. Even if you’re a one-person operation and I’m even talking about your Photoshop volume work.
I own a lawn mower and could easily mow my own lawn. It would save me money. But my lawn guy has a fast rider and does everything in 1/4th of the time I could. And if I just spend my normal mowing time on my business instead, it makes me more money than I could save by mowing my own yard.
I ran into the exact same situation recently when I was talking with a well-known photographer, author and trainer. (No it’s not Scott, Matt, or anybody who even lives here in Florida.) He told me that he sends out volumes of his images to have models expertly cut from their background for $2 or $3 per image. After a day of shooting, he emails dozens and dozens of images of models to his Photoshop service bureau overseas, and when he wakes up in the morning, he has all of the images back on his computer with layer masks that knock the model off the background. And this guy is a Photoshop trainer!!! He told me that the work gets done far faster than he ever could do it, it’s done while he sleeps, and it’s amazingly affordable. And if you consider that the people creating these layer masks for him do dozens or hundreds each day, they have far more experience than even the best Photoshop experts out there.
Does that mean you shouldn’t ever do your own Photoshop editing (or mow your own lawn)? Heck no! But do what makes sense and don’t waste time competing with people and companies you can never beat. Be unique in your offerings or maybe even consider using these volume outside resources yourself if your work volume is sufficient, so you can focus on alternate profit centers or unique marketing angles.
DISCLAIMER: In spite of the title, I’m not really suggesting that you don’t bother competing. However, you should look for a way to provide something unique if you plan to compete in a saturated market. Doing something that someone else is already doing cheaper and faster and in volume, even if they’re in a different country, usually leads to failure. You have to do it brilliantly or somehow bring something unique to the table in order to compete. Regardless of how you feel about outsourcing, especially outside your country’s borders, this is the current state of the world and (based on an email I got from someone who apparently wishes things were different) you might be angry at my suppositions but I believe that anger is missing the target. I don’t make the rules. I’m simply trying to help people understand their competition and how to remain competitive in a challenging economy.