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For many years I worked as a traditional “freelancer,” all by myself at my desk, with no one around except my dogs. I sort of prided myself on this “lone wolf” status after years of working for large public organizations. I could get so much more done by myself, all alone than I ever could in a complicated, top-heavy organization. It sort of felt like magic.
But then the business grew in a way I didn’t expect, and the stars aligned and I was able to hire my husband to work for the company, and shortly thereafter I met Kath (on Instagram, of all places) and she quickly became a crucial part of our workflow, moving quickly from a Q/A and production role to collaborator. We also started teaming up with other professionals as needed. We found a couple of awesome brand experts, a few developers, editors, you get the picture.
All the sudden, I had people I could call upon for help, advice, and expertise.
I was reminded of this when Kath and I were working on our Design in a Day™ for an amazing Denver nonprofit (we’ll share the link soon, promise). This was our first Squarespace 7.1 project (it’s now the default version for Squarespace) and I hit the wall of frustration. My years of experience first as a beta tester for the previous version of the platform and then as an official Specialist didn’t translate very elegantly to Squarespace 7.1. None of the code I’d spent years compiling and organizing worked. The nifty extension I use for so many things still doesn’t quite translate.
The whole point of Design in a Day™ is that we work quickly and efficiently, using our systems and tools we’ve spent loads of time establishing. And none of this was falling in place.
Real talk? I was almost in tears, thinking that I’d failed our client.
Kath and I email nonstop (usually our threads are around 100 emails) on our Design Days, and this was no different. (Yes, I realize the cool kids use Slack. We are not the cool kids.)
At one point Kath shot me a message, “Want to talk?”
So, we hopped online, and I honestly couldn’t tell you want we discussed, but she talked me down from my tizzy and negative thinking, and we got the work done and it’s excellent. (Which is my standard, excellent.)
If I’d been by myself, old Lone Wolf Sarah, I probably would’ve gotten it done too. But I would have been frustrated and disheartened.
With a team member, I felt supported and that we’d really come together when things were tough.
This doesn’t mean you need to collaborate on every project if that’s not your working style. What’s important is that you have something that’s a team to you.
I have all kinds of people I can bounce ideas off of, troubleshoot problems with, etc. I run a Facebook group for designers and every day I see people seeking and providing advice. When I have an idea for a new service, I always WhatsApp my friend Mark, a brilliant business consultant based in Sydney, to get his thoughts on my concept. I have my friend and client Laura read anything I write that I feel uneasy about. And I turn around and do the same for them and others.
I know people who try to run businesses or organizations completely alone, in a bubble and—frankly—they’re some of the most stressed out folks I talk to. I understand the compulsion, that then you have complete control, that you’re not having to manage people. However, that mindset also means that you’re missing out on wisdom, insights and that intangible but of so wonderful feeling of community that comes with it.
You need a team.