Thoughts on the Competition Paradox

Originally published Monday, June 8, 2015 in The Times, Ottawa, IL.

I launched a business, a 3-D visualization studio, less than two months ago. In my line of work, I've discovered a paradox. Somehow, I have all the competition in the world, and yet none at all.

Before Fox River Rendering, I worked as myself, finding jobs on websites such as oDesk and Elance. If you're unfamiliar with the nature of these sites, they cater to both freelancers (designers, writers, assistants and the like who offer their services remotely) and employers looking to hire talented professionals to work on individual projects.

The beauty of these sites is you can work from anywhere with an Internet connection. You can bid on the type of jobs that appeal to you and can part ways with an employer as easily as starting a long-lasting relationship.

The downside is you're competing with freelancers from around the world. Not only are some of those professionals more talented, or more experienced, but many can charge a fraction of what you'll be asking, and still make a good income in their own economies. This has led employers to count on getting good work for low prices.

This, I thought, was the nature of what I wanted to do. But that mindset changed this spring when I took an online course called "Running a 3D Business." Along with some valuable advice on business itself, I came away with a new perspective.

Sam Lytle, the course lecturer, was pursuing work locally. Like me, he offers three-dimensional visualization of new construction projects and other proposed designs, but he wasn't bidding on foreign jobs. He'd animated flybys of local transportation projects, created renderings of community recreational facilities and worked on municipal developments. My eyes were opened to the possibilities that were hiding just outside my door.

My days for the past month have been filled with networking and building new relationships. I've been thrilled with the excitement and enthusiasm that many have expressed after I describe what I do. Whereas before, people who knew about architectural visualization would seek out a 3-D artist, most people I meet have only heard of 3-D modeling in the briefest of contexts. The most common "aha" moment is when they ask, "Like on 'Property Brothers' ... when they show what the house is going to look like!"

Although prepared for it, the unfamiliarity to 3-D is something I'm getting used to. But the biggest difference in my new focus is my competition. The nature of today's technology is I will always be working against the entire world, but as I market myself to my local community, it's often exclaimed how new and different a service I'm offering.

The shift in my focus is a big one, but exciting. I realize finding work no longer is a matter of looking online and submitting a bid. Like the Internet, GPS or even telephones, I believe 3-D visualization is a service people don't realize at first they can use. We hear about 3-D printed prosthetic limbs and 3-D effects used in film, but it's not, by far, mainstream.

I'm excited to be a part of this growing field, but I know the journey will be an uphill battle.

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