(Photo by MartinEric via Flickr)
Most freelancers work with other freelancers for major companies. If you write, for example, there are probably more than a handful of other writers that contribute articles to major websites. It's always great to think of these folks as competitors. They are, after all, being considered for some of the same assignments as you, and many of them will come up against you in other projects down the road. If you can forge a relationship with these fellow freelancers, however, it will just sweeten the pot.
I recently worked with another writer at an online media site for over 2 years. I often got passed over for new assignments, which were then assigned to him. I'm not sure why he got the jobs he did; I didn't think I was inferior in any way. (In all honestly, he could have just charged less than I did.) To make a long story short, I maintained ties with this writer, even though I was constantly watching his blogs and newsletters for nuggets of info on how he was getting hooked up with new jobs. Then, my hard work at maintaining a friendly relationship paid off. He took some time off and needed someone to fill in for him on some of his client work.
After doing a handful of assignments that were outsourced to me (with his client's permission, of course), I was able to boost my monthly income by about 20% that month. But it didn't stop there.
Two month later, that "competitor's" client came directly to me and asked if I would be interested in contributing regularly to the client's site. I now had one new client, and I owe it to my competition. (See our Competition vs. Collaboration notes for more details on working with your competitors.)
Friend or foe? Does it really matter?
Keep your dealings honest and classy, keep the doors open for new opportunities, and you will be surprised at where your new work will come from.
Do you have a story of how you used a relationship with a competitor to gain new business?