From Smashing Magazine:

Whether freelancers, small agency founders or website owners, too many of us work alone. The downside of the digital revolution is isolation. The Web allows us to do alone what previously would have required a team of people. It also frees us from the constraints of geography, allowing us to work from home. But while these are benefits, they also leave us isolated.

[Offtopic: By the way, did you know that Smashing Magazine has a mobile version? Try it out if you have an iPhone, Blackberry or another capable device.]

The Dangers Of Isolation

Over time, working in isolation (even if you function as part of a team) can prove harmful to your mental health, business and website. In fact, even if other people are working on a project of yours, if they are junior to you, you can still feel isolated.

Dog in Web Designers, Don’t Do It Alone
lifeandlove, Shutterstock

If you don’t find a peer with whom you can share ideas and discuss your business or project, you face a number of dangers:

  • Dry up creatively
    Creativity is born of interaction. Being consistently creative on your own is hard. The best ideas come from people brainstorming together and from one great idea leading to another. Without someone to bounce ideas around with, your business or project will lack a creative spark.
  • Lose confidence
    Over time we can lose confidence in our abilities or our business. This is especially true when we make mistakes and things go wrong. Without someone to encourage and reassure us, we can begin to second-guess our decisions.
  • Become over-confident
    While some suffer from a lack of confidence, others are over-confident and need to be challenged and questioned. This is a trait I suffer from; I would happily dive headlong into disaster if my fellow directors did not constantly question my ideas. Without people like this, moving your business in entirely the wrong direction would be too easy.
  • Reach the limit of your knowledge
    We can’t all be experts at everything, and yet running a website and a business requires a broad range of skills. When working in isolation and tackling problems beyond your comfort zone, you can easily reach the limit of your expertise and flounder.
  • Have a blinkered perspective
    Another problem with working alone is that you have only a single perspective on your work. By adding another set of eyes to your problems, you gain a broader vision and can approach your challenges from a different angle.
  • Feel overwhelmed
    Running a business or a business-critical website can feel like a burden. You are often required to make big decisions, particularly with hiring and expenditures. Making these decisions alone is a big responsibility and can be really scary. Having someone to share that with would make a big difference.

So, can you identify with any of these traps? If not, then I suggest you read the one about over-confidence again! I don’t believe a single website owner or entrepreneur couldn’t benefit from an outside perspective.

The question, then, is how do you find someone?

Getting An Outside Perspective

The most obvious solution is to partner with somebody at the outset. Whether you work with someone on a website or form a business with an associate, partnerships can be very beneficial. This is what I did with our company, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. I would be lost without my two co-founders, Chris and Marcus.

That said, I know that not everyone’s experiences with partners have been rosy. Also, by the time you read this, the opportunity for this kind of partnership may have already passed.

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

Here are some options:

  • Sleeping partner
    This is the approach we took. We have a non-executive director named Brian who works with a number of companies and keeps us on our toes. He has a radically different view of business and constantly challenges us. In return, he has a small stake in the business. He is worth every penny.
  • Paid consultant
    If you don’t fancy having someone so entrenched in your business, why not consider an external consultant with whom you could speak on an ongoing basis? Admittedly, this kind of consultant can be pricey, but they do bring an outside perspective to the table.
  • Mentor
    Another option is to approach a Web designer or website owner you admire and ask them to mentor you. Obviously, these people are probably busy with their own work, but if you are willing to pay for their time, you might get some valuable advice. You’ll usually need only an hour per month to stay on the right track.
  • Buddy
    A buddy would be a cheaper option, someone in a situation similar to yours. The two of you could agree to chat regularly and share the challenges you face as business or website owners, discussing different approaches and ideas.
  • Community
    Yet another option would be to look not for a consultant, mentor or buddy, but for a supportive online community. Loads are around, but make sure the one you join is not too big. You want people to remember you and your circumstances.

Whatever you decide is entirely up to you. The point is, if you want to realize the potential of your website or business, you need the help and encouragement of others. Humans by nature work best in groups, and you are no exception. We are not meant to do it alone!

Paul Boag is the founder of UK Web design agency Headscape, author of the Website Owners Manual and host of award-winning Web design podcast Boagworld.

Web Designers, Don’t Do It Alone – Smashing Magazine.

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