Let’s assemble like the Avengers and... do work

It’s been two years since I launched my second book, Mastering Freelance, which, in turn, was launched two years after my first book, User Experiences that Matter. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math and understand why I’ve lately been considering my next venture outside of my normal work. Truth be told, I even have an outline of what my next book could be. However, I have a sneaky feeling that a third book is not what I am aiming to do at this point. I’m sure a third book will come one day, not just now.

I’ve been trying to get back into more reading lately and while I was reading Paul Jarvis’ book, Company of One, an idea started to form… but first, let me give you some context.

I’ve been a consultant for more than 10 years. I’ve been successful at it and love the freedom it gives me. I can’t ever see myself taking a full-time role again as I love running my own business too much. But does that mean there’s no other way? Something in Paul’s book sparked an idea in me, that maybe it’s not either/or. Perhaps it’s about choosing your own path.

Ever since starting MailChimp 18 years ago, I’ve always been told that my way was wrong. My way has never been to “be big.” My way was always to “be useful.” My company has become a global brand with millions of customers, over $525 million in annual revenue, and almost 1000 employees united by a single mission to help companies of one and entrepreneurs. Go figure. There’s not one, right way. Only your way. Paul’s book, Company of One, can help you find your way.BEN CHESTNUT, CEO AND FOUNDER OF MAILCHIMP

Just like Ben’s way was never to “be big”, neither is mine. But lately, I’ve been starting to miss being PART of something bigger. I miss having my own team. I miss working with people that are so good in their industry that I have to give 150% at all times just to keep up. I want to take on bigger projects together with other small-business owners like myself. Most of all, I want to challenge clients in their belief that “bigger is a safer bet”. My guess is that Hertz have learnt this lesson by now.

More people does not equal success

I’m always amazed at how long the idea that more people equals a better business continues to live on. But it’s always one of the first metrics that people tend to focus on - how many people work at a company? The original Super Mario Bros. was created of team of 5 people and it seems that even launching a website now requires a team of 25+. Why? Because we live with the idea that the more people we assign to something, the less likely we will fail. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked on a project that benefitted from just having more people… a project benefits from making sure it’s the right people.

“Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.”Seth Godin

The Endgame

I think a lot of freelancers share these same feelings - wanting to be part of a collective, while remaining independent. Wanting to have access to vetted talent to support them in projects while not being locked in to a structure. Wanting to have colleagues and water-cooler chitchats while still having the option of their own office. So my humble idea is looking something like this: Let’s form the Avengers.

Spiderman, Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel all have their own characters and their own movies. But when they need to fight Thanos, it’s pretty sweet to be able to team up. And, like the Avengers, it’s sometimes necessary to have that extra support to have a successful outcome. It takes the whole team to get the job done. Honestly, there’s no “one way” of running businesses and I strongly believe that clients will find a solution like this “useful” if not necessarily “big” (I don’t think it should be more than 15 people ever).

Here’s how my friend Dan describes Superfriend.ly, a similar setup (which I’m proud to be working with now!):

“When filmmakers make films, they pick the people who best embody the role. David Fincher doesn’t always use Brad Pitt, even though he was fantastic in Fight Club and Se7en. Christopher Nolan doesn’t always use the same lead actor either. Leonardo DiCaprio was awesome in Inception, as was Guy Pearce in Memento, as was Christian Bale in the Batman movies, but you couldn’t interchange them because of how well they were cast. Leo as the Dark Knight? “I’m the king of the world, Alfred!” Too weird.”Superfriend.ly

Making a commitment

I don’t have a timeline for this venture and I certainly don’t have a deadline. But I shared some of this on social media last week and it spurred some interest and sharing it even more publicly will force me to act on it. It also gives YOU the option to reach out and talk to me - be it as a potential collaborator or as a client. As a potential client, I’m particularly interested in knowing more about what pain points (second Mario Bros reference of this post!) you’re currently experiencing working with agencies.

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