Competition vs Cooperation Among Freelancers

Not long ago, I reached out to a freelancer friend to ask for an agency recruiter email address but they refused to share it with me. They apologized politely and told me that I was “the competition,” therefore couldn’t oblige. 

I completely understand this mindset, but I don’t agree with it.

My philosophy is, there’s more to be gained by a collaborative, community-based approach, where freelancers openly share contacts and references. I routinely share my contacts with other freelancers and I benefit when they return the favor. 

Not only that, when I’m contacted by an agency recruiter while I’m already booked on a gig, I always provide them with a list of names of other freelancers. And I know those freelancers will do the same.

Then, recently something happened. Another friend of mine shared a comprehensive Google doc containing dozens of agency recruiter emails, built up by a community of freelancers. It expanded my contact list by 10x and I was pretty stoked.

Now, I’m not a vindictive person, but I must admit I was very tempted to refuse to share this list with the freelancer friend who refused to share that single contact with me. 

I think my natural reaction illustrates a principle… we are hardwired to mirror the actions taken toward us. When someone is nice to us, we tend to be nice back. When we are treated poorly we become vindictive. It may not be right but we can’t help it.

So, in an effort to contradict my own human nature, and show a gesture of goodwill, I shared the list with my freelancer friend. I have not yet heard back.

Generosity can only be a good thing. Closing myself off from others only hurts me. If I make myself an island, I might end up as a castaway.