If you run your own business or if you work remotely, you can get used to working alone. There won’t be any supervisor to direct your efforts, nor will there be coworkers to constantly request meetings or work on team projects. Depending on your industry, you might never truly “need” to collaborate. But even if collaboration isn’t required, it can be massively valuable—in terms of saving you time, improving the quality of your work, and giving you more positive social interactions.
The question is, how can you invest more time in collaborating if your work doesn’t strictly require it? And why is this so valuable in the first place?
Where to Collaborate
Let’s start by exploring some of the most common places that provide opportunities for collaboration:
- Within your organization. It may seem obvious, but it’s best to start looking within your organization. If you have regular meetings, voice your opinion, and consider volunteering for collaborative projects you might otherwise handle alone. If there’s a coworker who has similar responsibilities as you, consider reaching out to them to see if they want to tackle a bigger project together. If you have employees or if you hire contractors to help with your work, consider coming up with a special project you can both contribute to.
- In a thriving downtown area. If you live in or near a thriving downtown area like the Kay-Grant listings in Phoenix, Arizona, you can take advantage of the many startups, small businesses, and independent workers who call that city their home. These urban spaces tend to be densely populated, and tend to be hotspots for entrepreneurial and business opportunities. That means there will be hundreds to thousands of people looking to work together on new and exciting initiatives. Take advantage of this.
- At a coworking space. Coworking spaces are getting more popular and more accessible, thanks to the increased number of people working from home and increased rates of entrepreneurship. You can usually get a day pass for a low rate, or purchase a monthly membership to get 24/7 access to the facility. Either way, you’ll get the chance to meet other entrepreneurs, freelancers, and ambitious professionals. After you meet them, you’ll already be in the perfect workspace to share.
- In a café or study space. Though cafés and study spaces appeal to a wide range of demographics, not just professionals, they still remain good opportunities to meet new people and work. They’re usually quiet and well-lit, with several types of caffeinated beverages to get your creative juices flowing.
- At a networking event. This one should be obvious. Networking events tend to attract people who are specifically looking for other professionals to collaborate with, whether that’s to expand their personal network, find new clients, or find partners to work on projects together. Try to find some events in your area that appeal to your industry, or expand your horizons by heading to an unfamiliar setting.
- Social media. Because meeting people in person can be slow-going, you might be better off looking for collaborators on social media. If you have a sizable network, you may be able to post a call to action, describing the project you’d like to take on and asking for volunteers or recommendations. Otherwise, you can use social media platforms to reach out to new prospective connections and simply start conversations with them. Do this enough, and sooner or later, opportunities to collaborate will arise.
- Literally anywhere. Don’t limit yourself by imagining that you can only find collaborators in specific locations. Anyone you meet could eventually turn into a collaborator, even if you just use them to bounce ideas off of, so be open to meeting new people everywhere you go.
Opportunities for Collaboration
If you want to build momentum in your new collaborative endeavors, you may need to consider the projects in which you’ll collaborate—especially if the nature of your work discourages or doesn’t allow for much collaboration in the first place.
These are some of the best avenues to consider:
- Brainstorming and idea generation. Collaboration doesn’t have to end with the development of some massive creative or professional project. Sometimes, all you need to do is spitball some ideas and evaluate their feasibility. For this, you don’t even need true “professionals.” In fact, if your business sells products to a particular type of consumer, it may be better to get the opinions of average people.
- External projects. There may not be many opportunities to work together on projects in your industry, but what about theirs? Talking to other people, you may learn that they have a professional or academic need you can help with. For example, your business expertise, programming knowledge, or creative mind could help them put the finishing touches on a project, or help them get started in the right direction on something new.
- Internships and education. You can also collaborate by teaching someone about your industry. Internships are in high demand, and plenty of professionals are actively working to broaden their skillsets. Bringing someone onto your team, even if it’s temporary, can help you teach others about the nature of your work, and open the door to making them a full-time part of your team.
- Blogging and content marketing. Most businesses can benefit from some kind of blogging and content marketing strategy, but it’s hard to produce high volumes of content on your own. Through an exchange, you could write guest posts for another business, and they could write guest posts for yours. You could also cross-promote each other’s content, building out your content marketing followings.
- Cross-promotion and comarketing. Speaking of cross-promotion, you could collaborate with another business owner to devise new marketing and advertising strategies that mutually benefit your companies. For example, you might agree to send leads to each other when they aren’t a fit for your business, but are a fit for another’s.
- New business opportunities and partnerships. Depending on the nature of your business, you may be able to partner up with another entrepreneur and create a new type of product or service together. You may also be able to combine your businesses in some unique way, or you may put together a plan to start a brand-new business together.
The Value of Collaboration
As you scout for new opportunities to collaborate and spend more time working with others, strive to focus on these main benefits of collaboration:
- New skill development. Two people collaborating will end up cross-pollinating each other’s skills. You’ll learn something from them, and they’ll learn something from you. In some cases, this can get highly technical. You may learn to work with a new programming language, or you may teach someone how to manage a marketing strategy that’s entirely new to them. Whatever the case, you both walk away with more robust resumes and more opportunities for future work.
- Mutual lead generation and sales. Depending on how you collaborate, this could open the door to better lead generation and more sales for both of your businesses. This is especially true if you launch some kind of lead exchange program, or another type of cross-promotion. It’s also true if you decide to launch a new business together, or collaborate on a new product or service that has the potential to help you both generate more revenue.
- Creative stimulation. Most jobs require at least some degree of creative input, whether you realize it or not; even if you aren’t producing inherently creative work, you may need to get creative when coming up with solutions to complex problems, or when working around some crippling limitation. Working with other people gives you creative stimulation. It encourages you to think in new and dynamic ways, and may introduce you to different types of problem solving that can help you improve your creative approach in the future.
- Bonds and networking. Working with other people simply makes you feel good, boosting your morale and giving you the opportunity to form long-term bonds with similar-minded professionals. It’s also valuable to expand your professional network. Every person you collaborate with is a new partner, a new friend, or a new contact—and that means lots of long-term opportunities for your business (as well as your personal life in some cases).
- Different perspectives. If you work alone, eventually you get used to thinking and working in the same ways—and this can be problematic for your work. Collaborating with other people necessarily exposes you to different perspectives and different modes of thinking, which can bring more diversity to your professional life and encourage you to think outside the box more often.
Even if you feel like there isn’t room for collaboration in your current job or industry, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and find new opportunities to work with other people. These projects don’t have to be large or life changing, as even the smallest instances of teamwork can have a positive impact on your psyche and your working life. Don’t underestimate the value this can have on your career.