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Running a Business When Your Co-Founder is on Another Continent

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My name is Sophie and I’m one of the founders of Good Egg Digital Marketing. With my co-founder, Holly, we provide web development, copywriting, and digital strategy services to small businesses and solopreneurs. 

Nothing out of the ordinary there, right? 

Well, what if I told you that since we set up our business two years ago, we’ve only been on the same continent a grand total of four times. See, despite Holly and I both hailing from the north of England, we’re digital nomads and rarely stay in one place for long. And with thousands of miles and multiple time zones between us, running a business together has been interesting, to say the least.

Platonic Love and Polka Dot Jumpsuits

The two eggs of Good Egg Digital Marketing

I first met Holly in Da Nang, Vietnam in February 2020. We were there separately working remotely and both happened to find ourselves at a women’s meet-up event, hosted by none other than the founder of A Way Abroad, Kat. For me, it was platonic love at first sight the moment I clocked Hol’s northern English accent and polka dot jumpsuit (a heady combination). Those feelings turned out to be mutual and later that night, we toasted our new friendship over supermarket beers. 

This lovely little meet-cute was just a week or two before Vietnam went into covid lockdown and we were understandably nervous about being so far from home during those first terrifying weeks of the pandemic. Together, we made a decision to stay put rather than risk a multiple-flight journey home. 

All Work and No Fun

One of the main things that kept me occupied during lockdowns was work. The previous year I’d launched my Normal Bodies project so I spent a lot of time working on my website and making plans to launch my first book. I also started thinking about my future plans for my writing business. At that point, I’d been creating content and writing copy as a full-time freelancer for two years and was trying to figure out how to level up my offering to reach more clients. 

I decided to rebrand as a copywriting business and settled on the name Good Egg (if you’re not familiar with this term, a ‘good egg’ is a likeable, trustworthy person).

I told Holly, who works as a freelance web developer, my plan and she suggested we partner up to offer a more comprehensive service to clients. And, since Holly is basically the smartest woman I’ve ever met, I was like “YES PLEASE”. Before we knew it, we’d set up our business and two good eggs had become one.

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Two Girls, Four Time Zones

In the end, we were both in Vietnam for around 18 months which was 15 months longer than either of us had planned. Once we went our separate ways, we could no longer physically work together so we settled for regular video calls to grow our business.

Newsflash: it’s massively challenging to run a business when founders are moving around so frequently.

During the past two years, we’ve individually spent time in the UK, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Mexico. Holly’s now back in Vietnam and I’m planning to spend spring/summer in Europe, so that’s a lot of different time zones to deal with. It can be tricky at times and we definitely miss being in the same office while we’re working on our business.

But we make it work. Here’s how:

  • We schedule regular calls in advance at times that fit both our time zones. We accept that sometimes that means an early morning or a late night for one of us, and we share that inconvenience equally.
  • We’ve divided ‘business admin’ jobs so we each have tasks that don’t require the attention of the other person. This means we always know this important admin is in hand without having to check in.
  • We are hyper-organised with our filing system and task management. We know that we can’t always ask each other where a document has been filed because the time zones mean they might be in bed, so we’ve learned to be tidy.
  • We have two Whatsapp chats: one for business and one for friendship. This sets great boundaries and means that there’s no pressure to answer work texts when it’s nighttime for one of us.

A Steep Learning Curve

Photo by Bonnie Kittle

Of course, we haven’t always been good at running a business remotely. There have been plenty of times when one or both of us has been frustrated, and I’ve definitely had days when I’ve thought it’s just not worth the hassle. It is worth the ‘hassle’, though, we just needed to adjust a couple of things along the way.

Here’s what we learned on our steep learning curve (so hopefully yours might not be quite as steep):

Make sure you’re doing work you love

The first iteration of our Good Egg business offered social media and outbound sales support because we felt like we needed to offer all the marketing services we could think of. This led to us both feeling stressed because we actually hate performing those services but didn’t want to admit it.

Lesson learned: if you’re building a business, be honest and make sure it’s doing something you actually enjoy.

Avoid ‘the whelm’

The whelm is when you feel completely overwhelmed by work. There were times in the early days when we both felt the whelm but didn’t tell one other for fear of letting each other down. This led to burnout, which essentially stalled the development of our business because neither of us was enjoying working on it.

Now, if we have a lot going on and need to take a step back, we communicate that and set realistic expectations for our output. This leads me to…

Be realistic about your expectations

Slow progress is still progress and you haven’t failed if you’re not immediately hitting $10k within months of launching. It’s also ok if you never have a $10k month! In the beginning, we were racing through tasks as if everything needed to be done immediately. Then, we realised that wasn’t a realistic way to run a business and we slowed down to a pace that suits us. We still regularly hit business goals that we’ve set for ourselves, and we’re seeing steady growth.

The only difference is that we now have the time to enjoy that success instead of immediately moving on to the next goal.

Pick the right business partner

It’s not always easy to know if someone is the right person to go into business with. And, like all relationships, it can take some work to make it a success. However, it shouldn’t take lots of work and if it feels too difficult then it’s probably not a good fit. Holly and I have said many times that it feels easy to run a business together, and that’s the goal.

We know that our success lies in our ability to communicate clearly and openly with one another, and two years in, we know we picked the right person to team up with.

Long Distance Work Wives

Photo by Georgia de Lotz

It’s not all trouble and strife to co-run a business across multiple time zones; there are also some huge benefits to our business-focused long-distance relationship. Different time zones mean that for a huge portion of any given day, one of us will be online. This allows us to efficiently work with clients from a much larger geographical area rather than focusing only on UK customers.

The fact that we both move around a lot also means that our networks are constantly growing, which creates leads and helps us forge relationships with other marketers that we can collaborate with.

Co-running a business as a digital nomad certainly has its challenges and frustrations, and it probably isn’t something that everyone will want to try. But if you can make it work for you, the benefits are well worth the minor inconveniences.

Hero photo by Domenico Loia.

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