If you’re a solopreneur, a freelancer running your own business, or someone working within the gig economy, it can be hard to understand how to operate in a world of Apple, Microsoft, Google, and other giants in and out of the tech industry.
After all, those big companies have marketing budgets bigger than most freelancers’ gross income. How is it possible to succeed in the marketplace?
The good news is that there are many ways that small businesses and solopreneurs can remain competitive in a world that often cherishes big box stores.
Understand where you’re competing
If solopreneurs want to compete against big companies, it’s important to understand how you will measure your competition. For example, a single person isn’t going to have the same bottom line as a huge company; that’s just true.
A small company shouldn’t compare its marketing budget to that of a large business; market reach, the number of products and services offered, and the ability to spend to survive bumps in business are all very different.
That said, solopreneurs have a number of advantages over big companies.
When the Wall Street Journal asked several well-known entrepreneurs what competitive advantages small businesses and solopreneurs had over their bigger companies, what most of them mentioned was agility, the ability to adjust quickly and embrace new technology. The same size that allows companies to spend a huge amount on advertising and product development makes it very difficult for the biggest companies to switch direction once they’ve committed to a course of action.
Big companies thrive because they appeal to a general audience, and because they offer a perception of uniform experience. Small companies and solopreneurs, meanwhile, can target very specific audiences and customers to play up their strengths. A large copywriting company, for example, might offer services to all businesses, while a single freelance copywriter might carefully target medical practice websites to cater to their experience and knowledge.
Embracing niche markets means that companies can spend less on advertising that is more tightly focused, allows them to create more customized experiences, and allows them to be big fish in little ponds, shining as experts in ways generalists can only dream of.
Exceptional customer service
Big companies can offer good customer service, but it is rarely personalized. To handle the sheer number of customers that a big company has, they need to use scripts, a large number of customer service reps, and more. Solopreneurs, meanwhile, know their clients personally.
They can communicate one-on-one with a deep knowledge of each interaction they’ve had with each customer. This allows for better, more customized service that customers prefer. According to SCORE, more than fifty percent of customers choose small businesses because they prefer the customer service they receive.
Solopreneurs may feel an urge to justify their size or show that they’re “just as good” as bigger companies. Resist the urge. Many Americans enjoy or even prefer shopping with smaller companies. According to SCORE, 90% of Americans shop at a small business once a week, with just under half choosing a small business three times a week or more.
It makes sense, therefore, to study what your business does and how it operates in relation to a bigger business, and play up those skills, rather than apologizing for what you can’t do. Tell potential customers that they will get a deeply customized relationship, that your experience can’t be matched by someone who does a hundred different jobs every week, and you are prepared to go the extra mile for them because of the relationship the two of you will have.
Remember that businesses thrive on competition. While it can be difficult to frame what you’re doing as any kind of comparison to a very large business, remember that you aren’t trying to match numbers; you’re trying to make sure your customers have an exceptional experience that can’t be duplicated.
Looking at what big businesses are doing and deciding how to react to that can be a valuable tool to keep your company growing and developing. It means understanding how your shared audience can be catered to; understanding what the bigger companies are doing right, and what they’re doing wrong that you build on.
There is a certain school of thought that would argue that solopreneurs and big corporations aren’t even competing. They serve different audiences, offer different benefits, and have different weaknesses. Framing your relationships as competition may end up doing your ambitions a disadvantage. Instead of considering how you can compete against a big business, consider how you can thrive in the same world that they occupy.