The world of self employment used to be a fairly closed “old boys club”. Everyone kept their secrets close to the chest for fear that their competition would steal or sabotage what they’d worked so hard to achieve. There was an impenetrable hierarchy based on income and seniority—newbies had to work hard to find—or even pay for—a mentor. The market was smaller, finding your audience more difficult.
We are now witnessing a shift from isolationism to community in the self-employment world. There are thousands of online groups where members can ask their peers for advice. We are seeing a growing popularity in masterminds and summits so we can learn learn from other great thinkers. Solopreneurs are able to reach out and make likeminded friends all over the globe.
If you are self-employed, reaching out and sharing resources amongst your fellow business owner friends can be an underused way to save money and profit. Here are 4 ways that collaboration can save you money as a business owner:
Sharing bulk purchases
From printer ink to furniture, there are inevitable costs to operating any kind of business. Purchasing in bulk and storing extra items for future use is often much cheaper than buying single items as you need them. However, for many small business owners, buying in bulk just isn’t practical. You probably don’t want to buy (and then store) 1000 pens, even if you’re getting a great deal at 8¢ per pen. You may also run into the issue of buying items you don’t actually need, just to take advantage of minimum-spend discounts such as free delivery or promotional gifts.
The solution? Bulk-buy with a business bestie. Doubling up on your orders once or twice a year means you can take advantage of promotions and share one delivery slot (which is also more environmentally friendly). This can also be a good strategy if you’re collecting points or Air Miles, or building business credit.
Sharing marketing and promotion
If you’re friendly with another small business owner, brainstorm ways in which you can go in together on a new marketing strategy or one-time promotion. Not only will you be able to mutually benefit from your shared marketing budget, social media reach, personnel, and expertise, but you can both give your clients a better overall experience.
For example, you can:
- offer a combined package for complimentary services
- create a referral program with another business owner you trust—when you’re swamped with work or feeling ill, you send inquiries their way and vice versa
- use your friend’s products as client gifts
- promote your partner’s business in return for a service or product
Many suppliers offer business subscriptions, where owners can take advantage of a greater service menu at a discounted price. However, the key to getting a good deal is to ensure that you are either able to make the additional expense pay for itself, or you’re happy enough with the service to eat the extra cost of the higher-tier subscription.
When possible, sharing a subscription with a fellow business owner can save you both a lot of money. For example, you can try sharing a monthly pass to a learning platform you both need but only use once or twice a month, a streaming site that offers a family or business plan, or licensing for a new software that lets you register multiple devices. Whatever you find you’re spending regularly on, see if there’s another business owner in your circle who also wants in on the deal.
We all dream of a perfect office to work from. Mine has lots of light, a beautiful desk, really fast wifi, and endless hot drinks. Most of us make do with whatever free space we can find in our homes. However there are benefits to having an outside office space, especially for those of us who can’t handle the loneliness that comes with working in isolation.
Why not find a way to share office premises with another business owner? You can try:
- leasing a space together
- inviting them to work in your home office a few days a week
- using a free spot in their brick-and-mortar business
- taking advantage of whatever member benefits you already have—e.g. if your friend has a co-working membership, have them bring you to their next free “bring-a-friend” day; if you have access to your local University library, rent out a study room where you and your business besties can meet to work
There is great power in collaborating. Pooling resources can bring you closer to your goals and also make the road to success less lonely. Connect with your community and discover how you can profit.