An Introvert-Friendly Guide to Online Collaboration: Business Friends and Where to Find Them
My idea of a Friday night party?
Being at home, just my dogs and me, drinking tea, and listening to an audiobook.
My idea of a wild Friday night party?
Inviting my sister and her cat.
Okay, so now I think you can guess where I fall on the introvert – extrovert spectrum.
I’m only telling you in case you’re wired like me, and the “solo” part is your favorite thing about being a solopreneur. In today’s post, which is the first part of my summer Online Collaboration series, I’d like to show you that you need online friends, no matter how shy, introverted, or I’d-rather-do-it-all-alone-kind-of-person you are.
Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean you have to, or should, fly solo. In fact, doing things on your own is kind of crazy.
Why collaboration is necessary
One of the main reasons why online teachers and coaches struggle to connect with, entertain, engage, and sell to their audiences isn’t that they suck at writing/presentation or that their content isn’t valuable. No. It’s because they’re blinded by their knowledge and their passion for the subject.
As a passion-driven entrepreneur, you’re so much involved in your ideas that you can’t see them from the outside. That’s why, if nothing else, you need someone who isn’t you to help you map the blind spots in your copy, content, marketing strategy, and everywhere else.
What else online friends can do for you
★ They help you do a better job
Friends give you a new perspective, help you come up with new ideas, and provide invaluable feedback. Also, when you know that there’s someone out there who cares about your work and believes in you, you try harder.
★ They hold you accountable
When you set your own deadlines, it’s way too easy to ignore them. That’s why so many people are stuck in the wannabe phase, and they never ship. Having someone who knows what you’re working on makes a huge difference.
★ They help you find your superpower
We’re blind to what we’re good at because it comes naturally to us. You need another person to tell you what’s unique about your work so you can stop concentrating on your weaknesses and start playing on your strengths – which will always take you further.
★ They don’t let you give up
Your friends hold you to higher standards than you hold yourself. Giving up is easy when the only person you have to let down is you. But letting down someone who trusts you is much, much harder.
★ They make you more trustworthy
When you’re an island entire of itself somewhere in the Internet ocean, people will find it hard to trust you. It’s we don’t trust people unless we see that other people trust them.
★ And yes, they also help you make money
By doing all the things above, they help you make a bigger impact and do a better job. This itself makes you more profitable.
But on top of that: They refer their friends to you and help you promote your content and your products or services (whether you’re in an affiliate relationship or not). Needless to say, a word of mouth recommendation is way more effective than any paid ad.
And, the best part – they can hire you and you can hire them. The thing is, online business is just friends hiring each other. In other words, once you have enough friends, it’s much easier for you to get hired and to hire people to help you (so you can make more $$$).
Where to find business friends
Here are some obvious and not so obvious places where you can look for like-minded people to connect with:
★ Online communities, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Slack groups. You can create your own community, or you can join one. Don’t choose randomly, but based on the owner of the group (do you know, like, and trust that person? Chances are high that you’ll find like-minded people there), current members, and how the group works.
Collaboration and “share for share” threads aren’t an indicator that the group is a good place for making friends. From my own experience, in the groups where I like hanging out, friendships and collaborations happen naturally.
If you’re looking for a community for creative online teachers and coaches, my friend Lena Mutonono runs one — and it’s been a birthplace of many friendships.
★ Mastermind groups. Masterminds are more focused than communities; they have fewer members who usually work towards a specific goal. You can ask a few people from online communities you hang out in to form a mastermind group with you, or you can join a group that’s already up and running.
★ Conferences, summits, and retreats. I know! No introvert ever is excited about the idea of going to a conference. Sounds like a lot of small talk with a lot of unknown people – argh.
But you know what? A lot, maybe even a majority, of online entrepreneurs are introverts, too. I’m pretty sure you can find something like a yoga + writing retreat for creative entrepreneurs. Limited spots. No small talk required. (And when you do, and it’s in Europe, please let me know.)
★ Your inbox. You know how sometimes people whose lists you’re subscribed to tell you to hit reply? They actually mean it. That’s how you can become friends with someone you admire, and if not, at least it’s good training for your shyness. The more you do it, the less awkward it becomes.
★ Your mailing list. Talking about emails, why don’t you encourage your subscribers to reply to you? Most people won’t reply – which is kind of a good thing because you don’t have to worry about that so much – but what if there is someone somewhere just like you, waiting for a little, gentle push? (Read, a specific question that’s not so hard to answer + call to action.)
Here’s your homework:
✦ Reply to one email or contact one person you admire but don’t know personally. Do not offer collaboration or anything like that, just reply to their email or tell them why you like them and how they helped you.
✦ If you have an email list: Ask your subscribers a question they can easily answer and tell them to reply. You can do it just with a segment of your list – people who open and read your emails. Alternatively, if your list is small, you can reach out to people directly – people you kind of know, but haven’t really talked to yet.
✦ Reach out to one person from an online community you’re a member of. Don’t offer collaboration (yet), just start talking to the person.