I'll sound like a broken record with this, but everyone will be the same as much as players allow it. Besides the possibility of unlockable advanced jobs and rare awesome equipment, characters will be alike. There's tons of room for everyone to make unique styles to their characters though. Unlike other games, one lancer, for example, can be totally different from another depending on how each person likes/wants to play. I guess we could all wait for someone to find an uber setup and fall in line to copy it, but we don't have to. Also, not everyone who gets a class to cap will be equally good at that class.
As far as crafting early being an advantage, for what? It's an advantage to those who want to craft. Not sure what you mean here, but I'd say maybe play the game for fun and not to "win."