The vast majority of websites, blogs, and forums, are started by individuals. As the website grows, the owner usually starts bringing in other people to help the website grow. That is how I started doing business online many years ago and it is how I continue to do business today, however I do need to work with others.
Once I have established a website, I always seek help from others to help me run it, whether it be forum members to help me run a forum, or bloggers to help me run a blog. The fact is, there is only one of me, so to develop websites the way I want to, I need to hire people to help me. Generally speaking, I would rather take a huge cut in profits if it meant spending less time running a website.
My Past Projects with Partners
My lack of partners with websites is partly due to the lifestyle I enjoy having. I love travelling, I love being my own boss, and I love working hard when I need to so that I can enjoy time off.
There is only a handful of occasions in the past where I have launched a website with someone else. One of my first joint-projects was an eCommerce website in 2008 with my friend Eddie in which we sold iPhone and MP3 accessories. We spent a lot of time building a professional looking online shop, but in the end, all of our sales came through eBay. We had hoped that return customers would purchase items through our shop instead, however they just returned to our eBay page to buy items.
It had mixed success. I believe we could have built a long term business through it. It was not a difficult business to run, however it did get quite boring. We had to spend an hour or so every day packing up items and then had to take a trip to the post office to send them. Looking back, our hearts weren’t in it. I was still maintaining my own websites so I never threw myself into the project 100%.
It was the only time that I have developed a website from the beginning with a person I did not know in real life. Everything was split down the line 50/50. My partner, Sarah, was a joy to work with. I handled the promotional side of things and she did most of the technical work.
Although the websites I started with others did not turn into profitable projects long term, they were all positive experiences. In both the above projects I learned a lot about something in particular. In the former, I learned more about running an eCommerce website (we used CS-Cart). In the latter, I gained experience of running a membership website that was not a discussion forum (we used s2Member).
Working with a Partner
I have discussed the notion of creating a website with my friends Kevin Mackay and Sam Sinton many times. Kevin and Sam work together on projects 75% of the time so they are used to working together and splitting everything down the middle.
We talked about launching blogs, forums, and other types of websites. Unfortunately, we have never gotten to the point of us actually sitting down and planning a website launch seriously.
This is partly due to us all doing our own thing online. We all have similar skills. They know a little more than me about SEO and I have more experience than them with blogging; however, our skill sets are very similar. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, per say, though it does mean that we need to think more about what our responsibilities would be if we launched a website together.
With my friend Eddie, we met each other to work on our online shop every day. So we both worked together on everything. It was easy for me and Sarah to agree our responsibilities with Blog Themes Club. I had a successful blog to launch the site from and I had more experience in writing content. She was a plugin developer, therefore she could edit themes and plugins (something I could not do).
If I am to work with Kevin and Sam on a project in the future, we need to agree upon our responsibilities. It is not as straightforward as you think. If one was a writer, one was a designer, and one was a coder; it would be easy to work out who does what.
What happens when you bring together three blogger/affiliate-marketers together to launch a project? Most technical tasks would be outsourced, therefore we would likely be doing similar jobs. My concern with this was that complications could easily arise. What happens if one or more of the partners do not put the work in that is necessary? Worst case scenario, the website would be sold, but how are the profits of a joint project divided if one person never pulled their weight throughout?
This is why I believe that a contract is necessary for any website you start with a partner. The contract needs to specify who does what, how many hours people work, how much people are paid, what happens if the website fails etc?
Asking for a contract to be signed is enough to scare some people away from a project though a person who does not want to sign a contract may not be that serious about the website. If that is the case, why would you want to start a website with them in the first place? Would it not be better to start the website yourself?
It has always suited me to start websites on my own in the past. If I was a little more settled, I could see myself wanting to launch a website with a friend. It would be good to share the workload and the burden of developing a website.
The internet makes it possible for anyone to launch an online business together remotely. Many successful websites, such as SitePoint, started this way. If I was going to launch a website with partners, I would prefer to live close to them so that we could work together on the website at least a few times a week. It would be a much more enjoyable way to work.
All things going as planned, I am hoping to develop a website with someone else this year. One thing is certain, the responsibilities of each partner will clearly be defined from the start.
I would love to hear of your experiences of developing websites with friends and business partners. Was it a success? Did you run into any problems along the way? Please leave a comment and share your story :)