Collaborating with a fellow solopreneur is a great way to expand your business and explore new platforms or markets -- without all of the pressure of trying to figure it out on your own. But partnering up with just anyone can make for a collaboration that brings more stress than success.
When you’re on the hunt for the perfect partnership, keep these essentials in mind.
Where to find a collaborator
While you could bump into your collaboration soulmate while walking down the street, there are two places in particular I recommend looking for potential partnerships.
1. Online communities: Membership communities like One Woman Shop are a great place to connect with like-minded business owners who are open to collaborating on a business or marketing idea. This is especially powerful when the group brings together solopreneurs from various fields and areas of passion or expertise. (Editor’s note: Just look at what OWS members Jill and Julienne recently brought to life!)
If you’re not yet a member of a community like OWS, free Facebook Groups are another great place to connect with potential partners. Chances are there’s someone whose posts have caught your eye, and if you’ve felt the spark, they may be the person to ask.
2. Group courses or programs: When you’re in a group course and interacting with the rest of the students either in a private community or on group coaching calls, keep your eyes open for potential collaborators. While you and your cohorts are developing a specific skillset alongside one another in the program, you’re also sharing your individual strengths and passions, and there could be a perfect match in there for an idea you’ve had brewing.
Of course, those aren’t the only places; they just happen to be my top recommendations. Here are a few other places to meet business partners:
- Social media: Stellar Instagram shots or witty Twitter banter could lead you to a good match
- Real-life networking: Making small talk and exchanging business cards at a conference or event can lead to partnerships
- Your business community: A subscriber to your email list may impress you with their responses and engagement
- Your social circle: Friends or family could be a great fit -- just be aware that mixing business and friendship can create high stress situations
Once you’ve set your sights on a potential partner, it’s time to do a bit of research and reflection to determine if you’ll be a good fit, and if the signs are pointing to a profitable collaboration. Here are the three must-haves for a strong match:
1. Balanced skill sets: If you and your potential partner are both bringing the same skill sets to the table, your partnership is going to be rocky. While your combined expertise may trump any and all competitors, you’re going to be left with some serious skill gaps that will create extra work and stress for both of you. Your best bet is a partnership where your skills will complement one another’s. Even then, you’ll inevitably have gaps, in which case outsourcing will be key.
2. Similar styles: Branding is important, and goes beyond the color palette you use and the funky fonts on your site. It extends into your language, communication and tone -- and is designed to attract more of the clients you love working with. A collaboration will struggle when there’s a big difference between the tone of your business and your partner’s. If your presenting style is upbeat and bubbly, and you partner with someone who communicates with a brash, in-your-face tone, your audience is going to be 1) confused and 2) turned off by one or the other of you. This leads to poor sales results and frustration for both of you.
3. Aligned expectations: There is a vast variety of projects that you can collaborate on. Blog post exchanges, webinars, courses, even full-on joint ventures or new companies. So being on the same page when it comes to what the vision is for the project (World domination? A fun side gig?) as well as how each of you will be investing when it comes to time, finances and energy is important. The saying is true: You can go farther when you go together...but with the caveat that you need to have agreed on the destination ahead of time.
Picking that perfect partner
In the rush of excitement of launching a new partnership or collaboration, it can be tempting to skim over the research and reflection on whether or not you’ll be compatible. True -- some of the must-haves can be managed or massaged with clever contracts and strong communication later on, but spending some time assessing the strengths and challenges your collaboration will face ahead of time can save a lot of heartache and frustration down the road.