Finding the Right Partner for Your Next Side Project

by in Articles on 10th Jan 2013 · Comments

Personal or side projects can be a great way to do something related to what you really love in this field. It's also nice creating something without the limitations of a client's needs, but rather, with only the limitations of your creativity and abilities.

Finding the Right Partner for Your Next Side Project

While some side projects may be just for fun, many of us have ideas that we have serious plans for, but without the time, effort, or perhaps knowledge to get it done.

This is where teaming up with a like-minded individual can really help out — team up with someone who also shares an interest in your side project, and it could have some real potential. After all, two minds are always better than one.

Finding the Right Partner for Your Next Side Project

Finding the right partner can be tricky though. Plus, we don't always want to give up our ideas or the creative freedom that comes along with a side project. This is why it's very important to pick the right person to team up with; you need to find someone who will compliment and improve on your vision, not hinder it.

Let's now look into a few things to think about when considering finding a partner to team up with.

Define Your Goals

What do you want to get out of this side project? Do you want to create a new community or resource that you feel is lacking? Or, do you need to grow a method of passive income? We all have great ideas, but what's most important when trying to implement those ideas is to come up with a solid set of goals that align with following through with the idea.

Goals

If you have a new idea for a website that you want to eventually monetize, you wouldn't want to find a partner that thinks your idea is great, but only as a free resource; or a partner who thinks your idea is great, but offers no insight or ideas themselves that align with your goal to monetize it.

Likewise, perhaps your idea is to use a new streamlined way of providing a service or providing a whole new type of service entirely. Will a potential partner want to change your way of doing things, so much that it doesn't align with your original goal(s) at all?

Define Your Greatest Weakness

For me, my greatest weakness is working with clients and selling. I have decent design and strong development skills. So, for me teaming up with someone who excels in project management and working with clients would be to my greatest benefit.

Weakness

The most common situation we in this industry find ourselves in is designers who want to team up with a developer, and vice versa. This is a great partnership, but it's also important to consider goals and skills in this area too. Does the partner have the right skills to really implement the idea you have? Think not only in terms of technical skills, but also in terms of idea generation and interests.

Don't be afraid of more than two-person partnerships as well. For designers, there's nothing wrong with teaming up with both a developer and a project manager. Define your strengths and what you can offer, and define your weaknesses and what you need.

Don't Be Selfish

Even if you think you have a great idea, other people aren't automatically invested. What's in it for them? You already know what's in it for you, you get some "free" help on the project that's been sitting on the backburner for a while. However, if it offers no genuine value for potential partners, you're going to have a hard time finding someone to not only jump on board, but to stay on as well.

Gift

Here's what people want and need if they're going to exchange their valuable time for you/your project:

  • Creative enjoyment - if they have a genuine interest in it, it won't really be work. Don't try to find someone what will hate the type of work they'll be contributing.
  • Needs met - if this project will take up all of their time so that they can't support themselves either creatively, financially, or otherwise, then they'll soon lose motivation. If it zaps all they're energy or motivation in any other way, then that can also be very unappealing.
  • Recognition - if a partner seems to be interested, let them know why you need their skill set. Recognize them for any work you would need from them, now and in the future. Recognition should also come in other forms. How will they're hard work pay off for their personal or professional reputation?
  • The ultimate payoff - could the idea generate passive income in the future for them as well? Will the project grow into something that will ultimately align with their bigger goals too?

If you only think about the benefits this partnership will provide to you, you won't get very far with your side project — unless you do it all yourself, of course. Good quality only comes from the minds of those who generally care, and this needs to include yourself and any partners you choose to take on.

Don't Do All The Planning

It can be hard to give up our ideas, but with the right partner, letting go a bit can be really beneficial. If you do all the planning and creative thinking portion of the project, that's a sure-fire sign your partner is not going to feel emotionally invested in the project for themselves. If you need help on a project you've already started, either get someone involved to begin a revamp, come up with new ideas, or get rid of bad ones. At any rate, be ready for change.

Planning

It would be ideal if you haven't started the side project yet, and you can pull in a partner to help with the strategizing, planning, and then the implementation. If both of you do the creative work, it will feel like both of your project, leading to greater investment and better output for the final product.

However, if it seems you just need some extra help but don't feel like bending away from your own ideas, that's when you simply need to hire and pay a contractor to get the work done. Nobody will work "for free" if there's no benefit for them, and no emotional investment in a project.

Great Partnerships in Action

Forming partnerships is nothing new, and it has taken the following people very far in the web community. Here are a few examples of great partnerships within the industry.

Digging into WordPress
Chris Coyier and Jeff Star, Digging into WordPress — What started out as a tell-all eBook on WordPress development for beginners, has grown into a full-fledged blog, printed book, and community. With the right partnership, this book with humble beginnings has become one of the most sought after readings for those getting into WordPress development.

Digging into WordPress

One Mighty Roar Network
A few years back brothers Zach and Sam Dunn decided to team up and build upon their shared passion: web development. They did so by starting the popular web development blog, Build Internet!, and then soon after, started their own agency One Mighty Roar (which is still thriving). Since then, they've released many side projects together, alongside the team they've built throughout the way. Two of these projects include Supersized jQuery plugin and You Rather.

One Mighty Roar

Viewport Industries
Elliot Jay Stocks and Keir Whitaker have teamed up to create a few different side projects together, and in late 2011 they formed a brand to pull it all together, Viewport Industries. Their three side projects thus far include Insites, a book of interviews from industry leaders, Digest, a lifestyle newsletter, and the popular Starkers WordPress theme framework.

Viewport Industries

WooThemes
Back in 2008, three different designers, Adii Pienaar, Magnus Jepson and Mark Forrester, got together from three different parts of the world to create the popular WooThemes. Premium WordPress themes were just getting started, although seemingly still already taking over the market. These three used their combined skills, from design, development, WordPress, and business to create one of the leading theme marketplaces.

WooThemes

Envato
Envato — In 2006, Collis and Cyan Ta'eed decided to create their startup website, FreelanceSwitch, in hopes of adding more freedom to their work schedules while helping others do the same with a freelance lifestyle. Soon after, Collis' long-time friend Jun Rung, joined in as a director. Through their trio, Envato grew and they now have an entire network of related blogs, marketplaces, and more - along with a hefty list of team members that have joined them since.

Envato

Conclusion

Finding a good partnership can lead to great things, from your next project, and well into the future with many more projects or collaborations. Finding the right one is the key to success. Be sure they line up with what you want to get out of this extra work, and share your same passion.

Part one is always finding a great partner, and the second part is keeping a great partner. If you seem to find a great match, be sure to balance the workload, share recognition, and always communicate goals and concerns to ultimately create the best end projects for everyone involved.

Kayla Knight is freelance web designer and developer with several years of experience. In her spare time she enjoys the busy college life, and writes for some top design blogs.