Don’t do it alone. Find yourself support.

Paul Boag

Whether we you are a freelancer, owner of a small agency or run a website single handedly, too many of us work alone.

This post was first published in June 2010 but is even more relevant today.

The downside of the digital revolution is isolation. The web allows us to do alone what would have previously taken a team of people. It also frees us from the constraints of geography letting us work from home. However, although these can appear to be benefits they also leave us isolated in our endeavours.

The dangers of isolation

Over time working in isolation (even if you work as part of a greater team) can prove harmful to your mental health, business and website.

In fact even if there are other people working on the project, if they are junior to you then you can still feel isolated.

If you don’t find a peer with whom you can share ideas and discuss your business/project you face a number of danger…

  • Becoming creatively dry – Creativity is born out of interaction. It is hard to be consistently creative on your own. The best ideas come from people brainstorming together and one great idea leading to another. Without somebody with whom you can bounce ideas around with, your business or project will lack a creative spark.
  • Loss of confidence – Overtime we can begin to lose confidence in our abilities or our project/business. This is especially true when we make mistakes and things go wrong. Without somebody to encourage and reassure us we can begin to second guess our decisions.
  • Being over confident – While some suffer from a lack of confidence others are overconfident and need to be challenged and questioned. Without people like this it would be easy to push your project or business in entirely the wrong direction.
  • Reaching the limits of your knowledge – We can’t all be experts at everything and yet both running a website and running a business require a broad range of skills. When working in isolation it is easy to reach the limits of your expertise and flounder when trying to tackle problems outside of your comfort zone.
  • Having a blinkered perspective – Another problem with working alone is that you only have a single perspective of the work you do. By adding another set of eyes to the problem you are given a broader vision and may approach the challenges involved from a different angle.
  • Feeling overwhelmed – Running a business or even a business critical website can feel like a weight. You can often be required to make some big decisions especially in terms of hiring and expenditure. Making these decisions alone is a big responsibility and can be extremely scary. Having somebody to share that with makes an enormous difference.

So can you associate with any of those? If not I suggest you read the over confident one again! I don’t believe there is a single website owner or entrepreneur who couldn’t do with an outside perspective.

The question is, how can you find somebody?

Getting an outside perspective

The most obvious solution to that question is to partner with somebody from the outset. Whether working with somebody on your website or forming a business with somebody else, partnerships can be very beneficial. That is what I did when I founded an agency and have never regretted it for a minute. I would have lost without my two co-founders.

I know that not everybody’s experiences have been so rosy. Also by the time you are reading this the opportunity for this kind of partnership has already passed.

What then can you do? What other options are available for those seeking an outside perspective and somebody to bounce ideas around with?

Here are some options…

  • A sleeping partner – This is the approach we took at our agency. We had a non executive director called Brian who works with a number of companies and kept us on our toes. He has a radically different view on business and constantly challenged us. In return he had a small stake in the business. He was worth every penny.
  • Paid consultant – If you don’t fancy having somebody else that entrenched in your business why not consider an external consultant who you speak to on an ongoing basis. Admittedly these kinds of consultants can be pricey but they do bring an outside perspective to the table.
  • Find a mentor – Another option is to approach a web designer or website owner you admire and ask them to mentor you. Obviously these people may well be busy with their own businesses or websites but if you are willing to pay for their time you can get some valuable advice. This is exactly the service I offer through my digital mentorship program. Most of the time you only need an hour once a month to keep you on the right track.
  • Find a ‘buddy’ – A cheaper option would be to find a buddy, somebody else in a similar situation to you. The two of you can agree to talk regularly and share the challenges you face as a business or website owner. You can discuss different approaches and ideas together providing you with somebody to bounce ideas around with.
  • Join a community – The final option is not to look for a single consultant, mentor or buddy but to find a supportive online community instead. There are loads of these around but be sure it is not too big. You want people to know you and to remember your particular circumstances.

How you choose to do it is entirely up to you. The point is that if you want to really see the potential of your website or business you need the help and encouragement of others.

Humans by their nature are best in social groups and you are no exception. We are not meant to do anything alone!