When you keep getting distracted by the competition.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Kirsty Moore. Kirsty runs baby massage classes in North London. She says:

“How do you keep focus on your business when competition keeps popping up? It’s so easy to get distracted and compare in terms of content, pricing, offerings etc. How do you stop yourself from getting distracted by what others are doing?”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:15] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve. Hello.

[00:00:25] – Steve
Oh, yes. Welcome to another one.

What are we on? Episode what?

[00:00:29] – Frankie
I think it’s lucky 13.

[00:00:30] – Steve
Oh, excellent.

[00:00:32] – Frankie
Which feels appropriate.

[00:00:33] – Steve
13, the first episode where Frankie is doing it live from a car somewhere in Somerset.

[00:00:42] – Frankie
I will not disclose my location.

[00:00:44] – Steve
Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community, do our best to answer it, but of course, we also ask for your experiences, your answers, so that we can feed those back in the next episode. Which means we rewind to last week’s question, which was…

[00:00:58] – Frankie
When relatives, in this case a mother-in-law, offers to help with childcare but isn’t actually that much help in reality!

[00:01:04] – Steve
We had some really good comments on it, some of which I think will be anonymous. But let’s start with Penny. Do you remember Penny? I said, is it Penny Smith? Penny Smyth?

[00:01:13] – Frankie
It’s Smith. It’s definitely Smith.

[00:01:15] – Steve
No, it’s Smyth.

[00:01:16] – Frankie
Oh, I thought it was Smith.

[00:01:21] – Steve
I read the comments and understood it as Smyth. But you’ve read the comments and understood it as Smith.

[00:01:25] – Frankie
Oh, maybe I misread the comments. Balls.

Wait. I know you’re right, because her friend was like, oh, it’s definitely Smith, and then she was like, no, no, it’s Smyth. You’re right. You’re right

[00:01:59] – Steve
Anyway, Penny said,

“I had a very similar situation with my mother-in-law. She presumed we wouldn’t need her on a Thursday after I told her I was going freelance. I did the sit down explain thing, which was indeed painful. Despite clearly spelling it out — she still didn’t get it, but agreed to keep coming. And I agreed I would leave the house all day. I tend to book meetings on that day, co-work, or just go to coffee shops, which suits me fine. She’s started to grasp it a bit better now. Weirdly I suspect this is because her sister follows me on Instagram, where I write a lot about my freelancing journey. Now they both get it.
Obviously not recommending this as a solution. That would be weird and maybe impossible. But there is something in educating the older generation about freelance life, and not just assuming they have your level of understanding. All the grandparents in our family worked in the public sector their entire careers. It’s totally alien to them.”

[00:02:59] – Frankie
This is it.

[00:03:01] – Steve
Isn’t that funny? So by seeing Penny’s Instagram stories, they’re getting an idea of actually what she does.

[00:03:07] – Frankie
Right and that’s not, you know, rocket science, is it? It’s just seeing your day to day life and how it works. Yeah. Maketh the sense, right.

Our other two comments are anonymous.

Anon says,

“My first thought — if Gemma doesn’t want to go for the sit down serious chat straight away, could she try drip feeding the mother-in-law with tidbits? That might slowly get her to understand that it’s work you’re actually doing. Basically ham up the jargon to make it sound legit.”

[00:03:33] – Steve
“Oh, God. Got to get this invoice sent to the clients, got a hard end at two”.

[00:03:39] – Frankie
All the good stuff.

Anon says,

“Second thought, I totally get the awkwardness of having someone looking after your kid in your house while you try and work. My mum and dad regularly look after my youngest at their house, but if they’re going away, my husband often suggests that his mum comes and stays with us for the week so she can help instead. Except it’s not the same as she doesn’t feel comfortable taking full responsibility while I’m sitting at my desk hoping she doesn’t feel too awkward. We seem to have come to a mutual unspoken realisation that it’s just easier if I go out to a coffee shop.”

[00:04:08] – Steve
Well, I’m glad to hear that we were kind of right on that! It seems there are two situations now where, despite the awkward conversations, they have come to the realisation they might as well leave the house.

[00:04:19] – Frankie
And I like the idea of, like, a month in just going, “Do you know what? I’m just going to go out”. And the mother-in-law being like, “Yeah, you do that”.

[00:04:26] – Steve
Another anonymous one. By the way. I’ve got to say — I’m a little bit disappointed that people didn’t come up with anonymous names like we suggested. Anyway, this one comes from Dame Pomplemoose of Dover.

They say,

“So this situation might be one of the reasons why my son is starting nursery two mornings a week. But my lips are sealed.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:07:01] – Steve
On to this week’s question, which comes from Kirsty Moore, who runs baby massage classes.

Kirsty says,

“How do you keep focus on your business when competition keeps popping up? It’s easy to get distracted and compare in terms of content, pricing, offerings etc. How do you stop yourself from getting distracted by what others are doing?”

I guess it’s not helpful for us just to say — don’t?

[00:07:30] – Frankie
Just don’t. Yeah.

[00:07:33] – Steve
Because when you’re driving a car, sure, you need to keep an eye on the person behind you and in the other lanes around you.

[00:07:40] – Frankie
Nice analogy.

[00:07:41] – Steve
But if you do that too much, you’re distracted and you’re more likely to either slow down or worse, stray from where you were going and maybe crash.

[00:07:50] – Frankie
Stay in your lane, mate. Stay in your lane.

[00:07:53] – Steve
So much better to keep your focus on the road in front of you, on where you want to go and how you’re driving and what you’re doing. Especially because, as a parent, there’s enough distractions with the puke and the poo and the red wine spillage going on anyway.

[00:08:07] – Frankie
Like was it the poo that caused the sick? Or the sick that caused the poo? It’s a never ending cycle of confusion…

[00:08:15] – Steve
It’s the chicken and egg, isn’t it?

[00:08:16] – Frankie
Yeah. We live in a particular time where we’re on social media a lot, right? And a friend of mine recently was saying… And I know it’s not the same… But my friend of mine recently was talking about our kids starting school in September and she’s got a couple of friends going to the same school as her. And she was noticing what stage they’re at with their numbers and their reading through updates on Facebook. And it was getting to her a little bit. She was like, “Oh, they can count to 10,000 and my kid can’t!” or whatever it was that she was worrying about.

And yeah, it’s quite hard when you’re seeing that stuff all the time in your feed because a lot of the time, if you run a business, for example, you’ve got other friends that are in a similar situation or you’ll follow pages by similar businesses because you’re all doing similar things. Like, it’s part of your network of people doing other stuff. And so you’ll log on and suddenly you’re being bombarded with the endless scroll of doom. Like, “Oh, look at what everybody else is doing. Look how amazing things are, blah, blah, blah”. And with the situation with the kids, I was just like, “You know what? Just hide them from your feed. If that particular situation is stressing you out, if you didn’t know that information and your life would be happier as a result, just hide it”. You can curate what you see.

[00:09:37] – Steve
She says, “How do you stop yourself getting distracted by what others are doing?” And it obviously is distracting you.

It’s okay to be inspired by people, isn’t it? And to a certain extent, it’s kind of healthy to see what your competition are doing. But you have to remember one thing. Now, you’ve broken it down into different things. Pricing, for a start, is a really dangerous thing. I mean if they’re all in your area and what you do is geographic, then yes, I guess it makes sense to see what others are doing?

[00:10:08] – Frankie
What Kirsty does is definitely geographic. Yeah that’s true.

[00:10:10] – Steve
So it does make sense, because obviously other parents will be doing those kind of searches as well. So that kind of makes sense to know. However, you still need to stick to your pricing to a certain extent because just because somebody is offering something for less money than you doesn’t mean that they’re turning a profit. So yes, they could be charging… I don’t know how much. But let’s say they’re charging 30 quid when you’re charging 50 quid. But they could be out of business in five months time because they’re not actually being realistic with their pricing. They’re just trying something out. So pricing is kind of dangerous in that respect. Don’t ever let yourself undercut what you know you need to make and what you think it is worth.

[00:10:59] – Frankie
And pricing is a funny one. Like… as you do when you stay in your country pile captain’s house… We were talking about buying Prosecco last night. How we were always drawn to the more expensive ones, rather than the cheap ones. Just because somebody’s cheaper than you, for example, doesn’t mean everyone’s going to go to them as a competitor, because… and I don’t know what it is. But there is a psychology of pricing, isn’t there?

[00:11:23] – Steve
Especially when it comes to your children as well.

[00:11:25] – Frankie
Exactly, yeah! Yeah absolutely. Often being more expensive can make you feel more premium and more experienced or whatever?

[00:11:33] – Steve
I think you also need to keep your focus on you. Like, what separates your business out from all the other businesses is YOU. The way that you manage to put yourself across on Instagram, Instagram stories, or however you’re marketing yourself. Whether you’re making videos or writing articles or just the experience of people being with you and doing your courses and then going off and telling other people. You are crucial to that. And I wouldn’t underestimate that either. And if anything, that is the part in your marketing that I would be tempted to really play on. Like that whole personal element of it.

Because some people will form a connection by experiencing your marketing, by following you on Instagram or whatever, and then come to your classes feeling like they really know you and they like you. And that is a different thing than the other person is offering. And you don’t want to change who you are by looking at what other people are doing. Saying, “Oh, I should do what they do, because they do this on Instagram”. Be you and be true to that. And the experience that people get on your courses. And I think that’s really important.

[00:12:45] – Frankie
100%. So I’m a graphic designer. What I do is not unique. There are tens of thousands, if not millions of graphic designers around. Why people come to me is because they know me as a person and they want to work with me for whatever reason, and they like my style.

And I remember at the beginning when I started out, my portfolio was so broad and I was trying to appeal to everybody because that’s what I thought I should be doing and like showing off all the things that I could do, and the different types of clients that I could potentially work for. But actually, in time, my portfolio is very representative of the work I really fucking love doing and want to be doing more of.

And actually, that’s quite niche. We’re going to get all niche, niche, niche. Find your niche, then find your super niche. Yeah! Ha!

Yeah so, in time, my portfolio is more and more specific to me as a personality, as a person, as an individual. And that’s why people come to me. Yeah, get your face on there, get visible upfront. She does that anyway. But like, by making yourself as visible as possible, your business becomes more about you. And then people come to you because they want to work with Kirsty. They want Kirsty to teach them how to massage their babs.

[00:13:53] – Steve
So get Kirsty across and if your venue-, I don’t know where you do it, but if where you do it is different to what other people do as well, I guess that’s part of that whole experience too? So maybe you could make some kind of video to go on your website which shows the experience of a baby massage class with Kirsty and the venue that it is in, if it’s always in the same place.

[00:14:18] – Frankie
So true. My mum teaches yoga, has done for 35 years, but in our house, in our front room, basically. And that’s part of her USP is like — it’s in a home environment as opposed to a leisure center or wherever or church hall kind of thing.

[00:14:34] – Steve
So we said at the beginning that, yes — it’s helpful to see what your competition are doing, but not to let it totally distract you. Maybe you should limit yourself? Maybe doing it as a research thing like once a month or every six weeks or whatever-,

[00:14:47] – Frankie
Yes, once a month sounds too full on. Quarterly? Quarterly.

[00:14:50] – Steve
Quarterly. Marvelous. There we are. That sounds business like, doesn’t it? Quarterly. So in Q2.

Yeah, so you do it less frequently. You’re doing it with a real business head on. So rather than your heart, you’re looking at it with a business head and saying, “Right, this is what they’re doing. Oh, they’ve changed their offerings. Oh, this is the content they’re doing”. But yeah, once you’ve done that and you’ve analysed it and you’ve decided what you’re going to tweak, if anything, then you ignore it again for the next quarter and carry on like doing what you’re doing. There’s nothing nagging on you that maybe you’re missing out, but you can focus entirely without being distracted in that way.

[00:15:34] – Frankie
So I do a lot of branding work, right, and clients come to me and they fill out a little form about their business. And one of those things is who your competitors are. And it’s so interesting how a lot of people come to me and are like, “Oh, I really like what they’re doing. Can I look a bit like them? Because I feel like that’s what I should be doing or whatever”. But my advice is always like — yes, look at your competitors. Absolutely. That is part of the process of running a business, but look at your competitors and then do the exact opposite. Or like, do something completely different, particularly on things like Instagram and stuff. There’s such a formula now of the types of posts you should be putting up, blah, blah. And actually my advice is go and look at that, see what everybody else is doing and then create something completely at odds with that that will make you completely identifiable from the off.

And I know it’s easier said than done, depending on what you do. But, yeah, I’m all for looking at the competition, but rather than going, “Oh, maybe I should too”. You have that tendency to want to take elements of what they’re doing because they look successful or whatever. But, yeah, stick to who you are. Stick to your authentic self. But also, rather than move towards that, I would actively try and move away from it.

The car just moved because I was gesticulating so aggressively that the whole car just shook!

[00:17:00] – Steve
I thought you meant it’s like the handbrake came off when you’re rolling.

[00:17:05] – Frankie
No, no, no!

[00:17:06] – Steve
Imagine if that happened. Are you sitting in a driver’s seat or the passenger?

[00:17:08] – Frankie
I can’t drive Steve so then we’d be in real trouble.

[00:17:11] – Steve
So we mentioned the idea of, like, a quarterly — because it sounded grown up — review of what your competition are doing. Another thing to do though is to look outside of your competition, to look to other industries, maybe related industries, but other industries when you’re doing that kind of review process. Because by looking at what other industries are doing, you can perhaps be inspired by their content and their techniques and that might bring something entirely fresh to what your industry are doing.

[00:17:42] – Frankie
Totally. You know, like when you’ve got those days where work just isn’t happening, you’re not getting anywhere, and people are always like — go out! Do something else! Read a book! Switch your brain off to something completely different. And then when you come back to what you’re doing, you’ll have that fresh eyes?

Oh, man, I’m tired… Can you tell?

[00:18:04] – Steve
No, not at all.

[00:18:06] – Frankie

[00:18:07] – Steve

[00:18:09] – Frankie
Yes, competition is good to look at, to make changes in your own business, etc. But competition is also potentially good to embrace and work together depending on what you do. So, like, I’ve got a bunch of designers who are my competition. They do very similar work to me. But when I can’t take on a job or I feel like somebody else would be a better fit, I have people that I can just send stuff to, and I feel confident that they will do a good job. And that makes my life easier. Having those competitors available to me, working together rather than feeling like we’re against each other.

[00:18:43] – Steve
It’s an interesting one in terms of baby massage, though, isn’t it?

[00:18:46] – Frankie
Yeah. But again, my mum’s a yoga teacher, and she’s got a couple of other yoga teachers local to her who are doing classes. But when my mum wants to take a holiday for a couple of weeks in the summer, she asks those people to sit in on her classes, and they take a cut. So like it’s the same sort of thing, isn’t it?

[00:19:02] – Steve
Yes, that’s true.

[00:19:03] – Frankie
Handing over work when if you’re sick or you want to go on holiday etc.

[00:19:13] – Steve
So there we go.

Well, I hope that was helpful.

Basically, put the blinkers on, take them off intermittently, and see what everybody else is doing, but concentrate on being you. I like the fact that her business is actually called Baby Massage with Kirsty, isn’t it?

[00:19:28] – Frankie

[00:19:28] – Steve
So clearly your name is already a key part of what that business is and just keep pushing you forward.

[00:19:35] – Steve
If you’ve got an experience of this though and how you stop yourself getting distracted and comparing yourself to others, we’d love to hear it.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.