One of the most common fears as an independent contractor is the constant uncertainty of industry competition and how you are faring compared to other businesses. This is a legitimate concern, as what your competitors are doing can dramatically impact your ability to earn or maintain current clients.
The first step in staying on top of your game is to understand who your competitors actually are. Just because another business or consultant works in a similar industry doesn’t mean they are directly competing for your same target clients. With some strategic searching, you can discover your true competitors, and get an idea of both their strategies and level of success.
It’s a common misconception that to be successful as an independent professional you have to brainstorm an unprecedented idea, tactic, or service—one that will shock and amaze consumers or businesses and be the next hot commodity. However, this is not necessarily true.
It can actually be quite profitable to offer a service that is already established. Success is equal parts personality, flexibility, organized financing, strategic branding and marketing, and a demand for your services.
The best way to prevail in your industry among your competitors is to differentiate. That doesn’t mean you have to set yourself apart by being dramatically unique, it just means you need to provide the most value to your clients. Here are three ways you can offer value and remain competitive:
1. Price Your Services Competitively
Whether you are first starting out, or are an experienced consultant, it’s imperative to consistently review your finances, including both your budget and your bill rate. Understanding your accounting and financial situation can help you budget wisely, which will lead to less expensive business solutions and ultimately allow you to competitively price your services without impacting your margins.
2. Build Trust to Retain Clients
Not only do you need to have an advantage over your competition, but you must also be able to clearly communicate your value and differentiating factors to your clients. Most importantly, you must be able to deliver on your promises. Being available to address concerns and questions, and offer useful solutions with sincere consideration will enhance trust levels and go far in helping to build lasting client relationships. One of the leading ways to earn or lose potential business leads is through word-of-mouth referrals. Take advantage of this free marketing tactic by providing your clients with an experience they will want to share.
3. Add Incentives When Possible
Adding an incentive or extra bonus to your services is a great way to avoid adjusting pricing, if that isn’t a viable option for you. Show value in your services by going above and beyond what your competitors are providing. For example, you could offer a reduced warranty, a free trial or consultation, or a personalized strategy outline for review prior to signing a work agreement.
There will always be other companies, entrepreneurs, or small businesses working in the same industry and providing the same service as you. Despite competition, success is achievable; it’s simply up to you to devote the time, research, and strategy to differentiate your business.