Toxic Competition

“Why are you helping me?" is an innocent enough question, although further consideration into the motivation of the question becomes concerning: it is often rooted in toxic competition among creatives.

Edited with  Skylum’s Luminar 3

As a budding freelancer, first understand that your success is not a hinderance. Time is the most valuable asset we have. If you come to a professional for advice, remind yourself that they (and you) are responsible for their life, their actions, reactions, and their business. Instead of coming from a place of lack (I’m new and not worthy of this giant’s attention), look at it as then investing in your future, probably because your passion is persuasive.

Not everything is a transaction. Although, yes, someone is sacrificing their time to add a brick to the foundation of your future “why are you helping me?” implies that they are giving you something valuable for trade.

This is a mindset we need to redirect.

Recognize your potential. Sway from the negativity of ‘why’ and realize that you are worth cultivating.


To those hoarding secrets, who count their gold and refuse to contribute to new creatives:

No ones success comes at your expense.

Your competition is yourself. Stop blaming your gear and work on your concepts. Joe getting the client you wanted isn’t Joe’s fault: it’s something you didn’t deliver or he was a better fit for whatever reason. You are entitled to nothing: blaming other factors refocuses what could be a moment of personal (and business) growth and places it maliciously externally. 

Compete against your procrastination. Challenge what experience you deliver to clients. Stop looking at your neighbor unless it’s to innovate.

When I first started, I was totally guilty of toxic competition. I thought retweeting a photographer meant I was giving more shine to someone else when I should be the star on my account. What's so special about him? What if he takes my imaginary clients from me? Why do my retweets from his account get likes but mine don't?!

"Treat others the way you want to be treated." Take this to heart: generally the aim of social media is to push your reach, get noticed, pile on followers and be the biggest kid on the playground. I think the easier way to do so is through building relationships. You'll find out through genuine engagement that the cost of your time and occasional expertise, the route to recognition is paved with selflessness. 

Even if your hustle is admirable, disingenuousness has a distinct odor and we smell it. If you're posting for that sweet retweet value, it shows.

Your audience probably wants to know what you're thinking, especially if you're an expert in a field (I say hesitantly: stick to the tone of your audience).

The anxiety is that your competition will use your experience to beat you, yeah? Stop that.

If you have an Instagram tip, share it. The reward is either one person in the back of the room listens and succeeds and will send you a nice Christmas card -OR- your tip is shared, which gives you exposure, which makes you the king of Twitter engagement for a few days. What did you lose? What did you gain? More importantly, what did the community gain? Was the loss (if there was one) worth the mutual gain?

My Lightroom Editing Tips post on Twitter. It wasn’t exactly viral, wasn’t the most retweets I’ve ever had, but it gave me exposure to a totally different audience that not only engaged with the post, but followed and continues to engage with new posts. I put my Instagram Grid Template up for free which has had barely any returns, but it’s been useful for those who have downloaded it. The only sacrifice was time. In business, reach matters. Personally, I don’t care that the IG Grid didn’t make returns because it did help some, but from a business standpoint, obviously I need to strategize better - that’s my fault not because people are big stupid dummy dumb heads who don’t want to support me, like…. stop that.

If you're not convinced, try it: hit share on another artist you admire or say something kind about their efforts and tag them in an original post on your account. If the artist on the other end isn't similarly afflicted with toxic anxiety, they will retweet your post, especially if you adhere to their target audience. Give yourself some positive reinforcement by giving a little and gaining some likes and retweets if that's your thing. Comment on threads, give engagement to others and they will generally give unto you.

“Treat others the way you want to be treated“
works as much on the playground as it does in business.

You can do it alone, but that hustle is much more time-consuming. I manage another creative’s social media account who isn't part of any community: the account hasn’t moved in two years so I'm putting it in chats, and studying the audience and engaging with others. I'm making progress but it's so slow for an account that's been around for years even with a budget. I don't think the root of the issue is toxic competition on this account in particular, but disinterest.

The issue remains: lone wolves die alone.


What do you do to compete against yourself? I’m in the middle of creating a time block so I can manage my future more effectively. Consider the obstacles you put in your own way - how can you master them?


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