Starting, managing and maintaining a new business, either as a freelancer or an organised startup, comes with its own set of challenges, and can seem daunting to many. Fortunately, most startups and freelancers face similar challenges, and, in a collaborative environment such as betahaus, need not face them alone.
Samsarah Lilja, a freelance corporate designer, is one of the initiators of Business4Betas, and answers some basic questions about the meetings here.
1. What exactly takes place at a Business4Betas meeting?
We started holding Business4Betas meetings in November 2011, with the intention of holding frequent meetings where members could exchange questions and insights on issues surrounding the creation, promotion, and maintenance of their business. At the moment, there is no set framework for our meetings – at the first meeting, we asked everyone for their input on what our format should be in the future. It’s still very much a work in progress. So far, what we’ve decided is to start each meeting with a round of elevator pitches, that is, a short speech by each attendee describing and selling their brand or idea. As for what is discussed, we usually post a list of topics on Facebook, on which participants can vote in advance, and we discuss the ones that receive the most votes. Then, depending on the number of attendees, we may split up into smaller groups to discuss the issues, and then share our insights together.
2. Based on both your own experience as a freelancer, as well as those of other betahaus members, what do you feel are some of the most common challenges faced by startup founders and freelancers?
The challenges faced by startup founders and freelancers are quite different. But one common challenge that we all face is that we all have to define our identities and brands, and what we can do for people. These are the kinds of questions that come up every time – how much am I willing to spend, how can I get the clients I want, who do I want to sell myself to – all these questions of getting an identity, sticking to it, and selling it. I am a freelancer, and I feel that, in general, startups, at least the well-structured ones, have an easier time with this, as they usually begin with a solid business plan. But freelancers can also overcome this challenge – usually even without a business plan.
3. How do you think Business4Betas will help overcome these challenges?
One thing that I also find really helpful is how open everyone is with each other, as we are all in the same situation. Too often we think we’re the only ones facing a certain challenge. But we talk openly – it’s really about not holding back. You also gain a lot of insight by hearing everyone’s individual approach, which may be completely different from your own, yet may end up working for you.
4. Have these meetings been effective in overcoming these challenges so far?
It’s hard to say, since we’ve only had 4 meetings so far. Speaking for myself – and in these meetings I feel I’m really no different from anyone else – I find it really interesting to hear the different ideas from freelancers and startup founders, and to hear different perspectives on these common problems we all face, and I feel it helpful to hear approaches that may be completely different from what I would have thought of.