I have a confession to make. When I was first getting into hand lettering, I saw every other hand letterer as my competition.
Essentially, I thought, “Oh, they’re doing the same thing I’m doing and they’re trying to get the same kind of work I am, so I guess they’re the enemy!”
But this is such a sad way of thinking. I’m embarrassed to even share that with you now years later, but I know I’m not alone in dealing with these feelings.
What I realized was these people were not my competition, they were my community.
Competition vs. Community
It’s really interesting when you think about it: what’s the difference between competition and community? Well, really not much!
It’s mostly a difference in perspective. Community is where you have like-minded people coming together and sharing experiences. Those shared experiences come from shared pursuits.
But for there to be shared pursuits you need to all be doing the same thing! This is where it can feel like competition.
If you view every person who does similar things to you as competition, you will never have community.
If you isolate yourself from people who do similar work, you rob yourself of the potential growth that comes from collective learning.
These people can help you! But you have to change your view of them first. They’re not the enemy.
We’re In This Together
You have a choice. You can view other letterers as the enemy, or you can connect, collaborate, and form community.
We are all building this industry. We are all contributing to the growing interest in hand lettering. As a collective, we share the common goal that is getting more people to be excited about hand lettering.
Commenting on other artists’ work and sharing it is not just helping them, it’s helping you. It’s causing your followers to see you as a source of quality work.
If they enjoy the work of someone you’re promoting, a little bit of those good vibes are coming back to you. They’re being associated with you. Meanwhile, you’re strengthening the community.
Connect With People On Your Level
Let’s say you know someone who’s very influential and has a ton of followers or exposure to their work. If you are going to collaborate or try to connect with some, you might be inclined to reach out to the person with the biggest audience.
But they’re actually going to be the most difficult to reach and the least likely to have the time to engage with you. There’s a reason they have a large following and they probably have more messages and emails than they can keep up with.
The key is to reach out to people on the same level as you and grow with them.
You want to find your peers. It may not seem like they have a lot to offer you right now, but they’re going to be a lot more accessible! If you connect now, you can grow with them. As you increase your exposure together, you maintain that bond and they become a great connection.
Collaboration Builds Everyone Up
When you work together with others who you would otherwise consider “the competition,” your entire mindset changes. You suddenly realize that they’re not so bad after all and it’s actually kind of fun because of how much you have in common.
Strike up a conversation with someone! Talk shop with them. Share your process and ask about their experiences.
If you’re able to do this in person, it will strengthen the relationship even more (this is why I like conferences).
But even if you can’t meet up, do it online! Even better, if you share this collaboration and discussion publicly, all of your followers will get to benefit from it. This leads to cross promotion.
It’s Not a Zero Sum Game
No matter what it is we’re interested in, we all follow multiple people. We don’t ever just follow one source or one person for any given thing we’re interested in.
Think about it: whether you’re into gaming, art, or fitness, you follow many people in that world! It seems like I’m saying something super obvious, but look at the double standard we have:
We admit to following numerous people in a given niche and we admit to listening to a bunch of music in a given genre, yet…
We freak out when someone else is doing the same thing as us because we fear that they will get all the work or all of the followers!
But it’s not a zero sum game.
What that means is if someone follows another letterer, that doesn’t mean they can’t also follow you! We all have different styles, and approaches, and content, and unique voices. It’s completely natural for people to follow a diverse group of people. We all do this.
As followers, we understand this. As creators though, we struggle with it. Sometimes we need a reminder.
Other hand letterers are not the competition. People doing the same thing as you are not the enemy. Change the colored lens with which you are viewing the situation and you can turn competition into community.
Speaking of community, I have an online Community if you’re looking for a place to connect with other freelancers and entrepreneurs..
We’re hard at work shooting the new videos! Here’s a photo from a recent shoot of the Drawing Letterforms module you’ll get access to. Just 10 days until the class launch!
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