Evaluating Your Competition

One of the biggest parts of starting a company is evaluating your competition. An entire section of your business plan should/will be devoted to this, and it’s one of the things you should probably do fairly early in the game. This is because evaluating your competition can lead you to opportunities you didn’t know existed. It can also help you figure out how to differentiate your company from their in your marketing materials–as well as where you market to find customers.

I’ve mentioned before that your website, when done well, can be a major tool in promoting your business–it creates a place for clients to find more about you and, sometimes, even a place for clients who have never heard of you but are looking for the services you offer to find you.

My website is one of the primary tools I am creating as a freelancer. I want it to be a place that I can refer potential clients to, where they can find information about me, samples of my work, informational articles that will help them decide if they need my services and that will help them promote their business, ways for them to contact me and a list of the services I offer (with aprox. pricing info.).

Right now I’m taking a class about creating a website, and one of the assignments for week one was to look at and evaluate three competitors’ websites.

I found looking at my competitors’ sites very enlightening. Despite the number of web savvy writers out there, there appear not to be very many in my area. I started by using yellowpages.com and searching for writers in Astoria, NY. Most of the search results either didn’t link to a website or were not actually people who are doing what I want to do. That tells me that either most people don’t look for writers via the Yellow Pages and therefore writers don’t bother to be listed there OR that it’s an opportunity for me to be listed in a common place potential clients may look where my competition, for the most part, isn’t. So I found two sites to evaluate through Yellow Pages.

Then I Googled Freelance Writer. The initial return was mostly resources FOR freelancer writers, not freelance writing services. So I tried again – this time I added my location (Astoria, NY) to the search query. This returned a number of freelance writers. The first search result that came up was in Brooklyn. Since Google searched via proximity, this shows that there is a lack of people doing what I want to be doing in my area (at least a lack of them online). This didn’t match my expectation at all. I thought with my proximity to NYC that I would have a lot of local competition. Which means I expected to find a lot of companies online doing what I do. I did not.

In all honesty, that’s probably because a lot of writers rely heavily on referrals. But, it means that any potential clients that don’t have a writer within their network and turn to the internet have a small pool to choose from. So, there is a real opportunity there to differentiate myself via my website and find clients online. Without doing some research on my competition, I never would have seen this opportunity, which for me emphasizes how important my website will be. As a result, I’ll spend a lot of time and effort on my site.

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