By: Stella Orange
Many people who work for themselves have grown accustomed to working alone. And for some, that is how it needs to be. You’re clear that you don’t have the personality, let alone the appetite, to deal with other people (unless you’re paying them or they’re paying you).
But for a growing number of self-employed professionals, working alone has lost its charm and efficacy. There are many reasons for this, including the zeitgeist.
As a copywriter who has run virtual teams, led projects with contributors on three continents, and now works exclusively in collaboration here at Las Peregrinas*, here are some things I’ve learned along the way. (*Have you heard? We’re about to change our name. Peregrina is Spanish for ‘one who walks.’ More on that soon.)
Know your lane. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are, and the role that is yours to play. When working alone, it’s often helpful to tell yourself you’re good at everything. This isn’t true. Work from your strengths, and hire team to do the important things needed to reach your goal that are not in your personal wheelhouse.
Develop your trust muscle. If you aren’t used to working with people as masterful in their work as you are in yours, expect it to be an adjustment. Successful collaboration requires letting go of ego and a willingness to sink into being deeply held by something that you didn’t think of or make all by yourself. Buckle up: this is both humbling and way more powerful than what you’ve done before.
Big fish focus. As in: “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” As the decision maker in your business, your ability to focus on a single top priority without diluting it with minnows (details) is vital. Not all work carries the same weight, or the same priority. That’s a beginner’s fallacy. Learn to tell the difference between what’s crucial and what doesn’t really matter. Focus on the crucial.
It should go without saying, but needs to be said: not all teams are created equal.I’ve been on many teams where the business owner is the one who makes all the decisions and calls all the shots. This makes everyone on the team dumber. Many times, they also micromanage, going so far as to be the one entering the tasks in their project management software. On the other side of the spectrum are the business owners who try to hand off leadership responsibility to their coach or assistant. I’ve personally done all of the above, at different times.
Lately here at Las Peregrinas, working with other highly talented people has reinforced my belief that I’m letting go of working alone. Not only that – I’m letting go of working with people who aren’t as good at their work as I am at mine. It’s these twin convictions that are touchstones for the future, and I share them with every person who’s made the decision to work with us.
Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.
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