Throughout the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of being able to work with multi-talented people from all over the world, from the UK to America to Canada to South Africa and beyond. These people from all different walks of life with different skills sets have taught me a lot about business & life in general however what I’ve learnt that I think is the most important is how to manage online projects successfully.
It’s not easy when time zones don’t match up or when an issue arises and the other person isn’t available for a face to face talk. The energy you feel when you’re in a room full of people who are all passionate about an idea is not there and when it comes to motivating yourself to put your head down and get shit done, some of the time it’s tough to do without your partner egging you on which is why I think a lot of remote based partnerships fail. Today I want to talk briefly about my personal experience working with individuals from different countries, what to avoid and how to make the partnership successful.
To me, I equate working with a partner from a different country to distance based education. If you’re not a self-motivated individual you’re simply not going to make it to the end. You need to be able to find that extra gear when things aren’t going your way and your partner isn’t available. I’ve found that whilst I have so many flaws, I’m able to motivate myself quite easily which I imagine is a throwback to my competitive & all or nothing type personality. I wanted to get into good shape last year, so I started going to the gym 5 days a week, eating healthy & doing meal prep. I begain in June last year and I’m still at it. Recently I decided I want to quit drinking and as of today it’s been over 2 months since my last drink. These are drastic examples of self-motivation however it’s a key character trait to being able to successfully work with a foreign partner. If somebody approaches me and talks about collaborating on a project, one of the first things I look for are signs that they’re a self-motivated person.
Now like most partnerships where you’re working side-by-side, both yourself and your partner need to have a complimenting skill set; I’ve realized that there isn’t really a point in being partners with someone who shares almost identical skills as me. I think this is ten times more important when you’re working with someone who doesn’t live near you. I’ve said before on Sofa Moolah and on Twitter, that I think my only skill is building shit nobody needs but eventually will want. This really summarizes what I’m best at: very limited web development & design, I can write & edit basic HTML/CSS/PHP and know my way around Photoshop and I can occasionally come up with a few good ideas and find an audience for them. There’s no point in partnering up with another ideas person; I guess that’s why Dan & I work well together. Dan, despite my unrivaled hatred for him as a person, has complimentary skills to mine. He can handle all the behind the scenes shit and when he’s focused can do pretty much everything I can’t. Know and define your roles! Don’t fall into the trap of partnering with a twin because eventually you’ll find yourself outsourcing huge parts of your project to other people which is when your vision can become distorted; you want to have full control over the outcome.
Further, if you find yourself partnering with someone whose timezones only just overlap with your own this does make things difficult but not impossible. When this happens, it’s important to have a centralized place where any & all information about your projects can be stored. Don’t rely simply on communication via Skype or Messenger, this sort of stuff gets too confusing and incredibly difficult to sort through. Have you ever tried searching through old Skype or Facebook messages? Shit’s impossible. Dan & I use Google Drive; Docs for to-do lists, any random notes or messages as well as Sheets for expenses and other shit like that. Other platforms you can check out: Slack, Basecamp, Trello. In the past partners & I have used nothing but instant messages and I would definitely not recommend it. It’s unorganized, chaotic and it’ll show when the end result looks like a pile of shit and is months overdue.
Additionally, I think it’s incredibly important to know what role this person has in your life. Dan & I are online friends, but would probably not get along when we’re not behind a monitor. I’m not entirely sure why, but it’s something that both of us can acknowledge. So with that we’re not going to interject ourselves into each others personal lives. I mean, the last thing our partnership needs is me travelling to England, staying with Dan & destroying his “relationship”, “career” & “life”. Now picture if Dan was Danielle (a thought that haunts my fucking dreams) & I visit England and things get complicated. You see where am I’m going right? Your project partners need to be just your project partners. Keep everything else out of it & focus on kicking goals.
And look, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Everyone has a life outside of projects, most have 9-5 jobs, families, relationships and other commitments that take up a lot of time and in the end working on any sort of project, let alone one where you don’t get to regularly meet with your partners & which requires a lot of dedicated time just isn’t something they can handle. It’s happened to me & I’ve also done it to other people. It’s like what I imagine Dan’s parents always say: it wasn’t planned, it just happened.