We’re Better When We Work Together

We're Better When We Work Together

The feedback on last week’s post about how I slowly grew my blog my own way was overwhelming. I’m grateful for all the kind words, and also glad it seemed to come at the perfect time for some of you. Since hitting publish and watching some of the comments come in, however, I realized there were a few “rules” I forgot to add (you can find them in the comments). I also knew I wanted to write a quick follow-up post to drive one point home, and that is the importance of community over competition.

Before diving in, let me first say that I have not always been great at this. I think my perfectionist tendencies are partially to blame for that. Growing up, I wasn’t good at much. I shared stories and details about what that meant for me in this post, but what I failed to mention is that not feeling like I was good at much also meant occasionally feeling jealous of people who were better than me. Team sports are about competition, after all. I wasn’t good at them and, therefore, I felt competitive with people who were better than me.

Looking back on that, this doesn’t even make sense. We are all good at different things, and bring unique skills into every situation—and we can’t all be good at everything! We just can’t and that’s ok. But feeling like I wasn’t good at much put a sort of chip on my shoulder. It was me against the world. And for many years, anytime someone even made so much as a suggestion for how I could do something better, I rolled my eyes, was rude or ignored them. (Just ask my parents. I didn’t take advice from anyone!)

It’s interesting for me to think back to that and then look at where I am now. Working with one partner on a podcast and with another partner on Rockstar Finance. Meeting with a mastermind group every two weeks, and with two other blogger and freelancer friends separately every two weeks, too. Chatting with even more blogger and freelancer friends on Skype, Google Hangouts, the phone, etc. whenever we can squeeze it in. Helping people, asking for help and letting people help me. We are a community—not competition—and I am better for it.

I can’t say exactly when things shifted for me and I finally started asking for/accepting help, but I do know I have the personal finance community to thank for this progression. It started the minute I launched this blog (the second time) and waved my white flag to say I was giving up on my old ways and ready to make a change. In the early years, I wasn’t always receptive to the financial advice people gave me (remember that whole chip on the shoulder thing). But as time went on, I realized people just wanted to help.

This is in our nature: wanting to help and be helpful. All we want is to share what we’ve learned in the hopes that we can help someone else succeed. And this applies to some of my blogging rules: specifically, support other bloggers, put people over profit, and always be gracious and grateful. It’s also something I’ve come to believe about all topics, but especially personal finance: that the more we share, the better off we’ll all be. So eventually, I let people help. I pushed the chip off my shoulder and listened to all the advice people gave me.

It came in all different forms. Sometimes, I would put questions at the bottom of my posts and ask for help. Other times, I would sit across from friends in the personal finance space and ask a hundred questions about blogging, banking, investing, etc. The investing conversation was a big one for me. I was so worried that every question coming out of my mouth made me sound like an idiot. But my friend never made me feel that way and, instead, seemed genuinely happy to share what he knew. Probably because he knew:

This rule has helped me learn more and share what I know about personal finance, which is great. But it has also helped me with blogging and freelancing—and that’s where it still seems like more work needs to be done. It’s easy to see other bloggers and freelancers as your competitors, but I promise you that’s not true. There are enough readers and enough clients, and there is enough money, to go around. On that last point, it’s also true that the more we share, the more we can all earn. Want proof?

Here are a few of the ways my community has helped me earn more/succeed:

  • Courtney asked me to be part of A Simple Year for the third year in a row, which is a group-led course where we combine our unique skills (and all 14 of us earn some money for partnering up).
  • My first mastermind group reviewed the original Mindful Budgeting, gave me feedback and even told me how much I should charge for it.
  • Erin took time out of her schedule to share what she learned from her book launch for Broke Millennial and give me tips for what to do for mine.
  • Both Jess and Paul shared their podcast sponsorship rates + download stats, so Carrie and I could figure out what to charge for ours.
  • And countless freelance writers have shared their strategies and rates, too.

You’ll notice these points also reflect some of my rules in last week’s post, specifically the one about putting people over profit and doing things my own way. These are more examples of how I opted to ignore all the expert advice and make money my own way. Freelance work, the podcast, online courses and the book. And none of these people had to help me earn it. They did it because they know it’s as easy as reaching your hand out and helping someone on a steep or difficult hike. They did it because they know the truth:

Forever-inspired by my friends, here are some of the ways I try to help my community succeed too:

  • I’ve been a member of three mastermind groups (and I’ll explain more about how to start one below).
  • I’ve made introductions between freelance writers + clients, as well as podcasters + potential sponsors, because I know there is enough money to go around.
  • I’ll share the rates I charge for things when people ask, because I think we can all earn more if we’re transparent about this stuff. (And hello, making money online is like working in the Wild West. It’s hard to navigate, if you’re riding solo!)
  • I encourage people to increase their rates, when I know they are worth more. (This includes my designer who I will continue to encourage until she doubles her rate. You are worth it, friend.)
  • And I try to support other bloggers, either by leaving comments, replying to emails, having conversations, or sharing their content here or on Rockstar.

We are a community—not competition. And the more we share, the better off we’ll all be. I think I’ve said enough to drive that point home now, but I wanted to make sure the words sunk in. Like I said, I haven’t always understood this myself. But I know I am better for it because, like anything else in life, we aren’t born with all of this knowledge or these skills. We have unique backgrounds and abilities and information—and we can go a lot further when we compile it all and work together, rather than treat each other like competitors.


How to Start a Mastermind Group

In the past four years, I have been a member of three different mastermind groups. The first two were started by blogging friends, and then I formed the one I’m currently in. A handful of people have asked me to write a post about how to start a mastermind group, but it seemed more fitting to add that information to the bottom of this post, because mastermind groups are the essence of community over competition.

  1. Start by deciding why you want to be part of a mastermind group. Traditionally, they are meant for business owners to connect and help each other grow. But honestly, you could start a mastermind group for any purpose. You could start one to connect with people who want to learn more about personal finance (get out of debt, share info about banking, learn more about investing, etc.). You could start one for people who have full-time jobs but who want to start side hustles. You could start one for authors who want to talk about book writing, launches, etc. It’s up to you. Just start with why.
  2. Find 3-4 other people who are working towards similar things. It’s important to have different backgrounds and experiences, so you can bring unique ideas to the table and learn from each other. But it’s helpful if you’re all working towards at least somewhat similar things, otherwise it usually ends up that one or two members are learning a lot and the other members are doing all the teaching. While that’s great for the community aspect, the point of a mastermind group is to tap into each other’s knowledge and learn from each other. Find people you can work with and learn from.
  3. Together, decide how you want to format your meetings. First, how often do you want to meet? Some groups meet weekly, others meet bi-weekly or even monthly. I would say that it all depends on how formal/informal you want it to be. If you want more accountability, meet more often. If you simply want to connect and brainstorm together, meet less often. After you make that decision, decide how you will meet (online, in-person) and what the agenda of each meeting will look like. Mine have all been an hour long and typically looked like this:
    1. First 20 minutes: Everyone gives a brief update + shares wins with the group.
    2. Next 30-40 minutes: We talk about one topic. Either someone takes the “hot seat” and asks for help from the group, or we bring one topic to the table that we all need a little help with.
    3. If there’s time: Everyone gives a brief rundown of what they will be working on.
  4. Together, decide how you want to communicate outside of meetings. Some mastermind groups have private Facebook groups or Slack channels. Others connect via email when they need to. And others don’t talk much outside of meetings. It’s also ok to try one thing and see how the group likes it, and then try something else if it’s not working. My first mastermind group had a private Facebook group and the one I’m in now sends out group emails whenever we need to (which is maybe twice/month). Both of those options work(ed) for that particular group and everyone was happy about it.
  5. Put it in the calendar and show up! This might be the last point but it’s probably the most important. You have to be willing to put these regular meetings into your calendar and actually show up for them. Treat it like an extension of your life and make it a priority. Your group will plan their lives around these meetings. If you have to miss a meeting for some reason, that’s ok, but give your group notice so you’re not letting anyone down. The group only works if everyone is an active member of it. So just keep that in mind, before you commit to joining one. :)

In my experience, every mastermind group you join will serve a purpose—and you can either leave or dissolve the group, when that purpose has been served. So this isn’t something you need to commit to forever, but it is something that can absolutely help the small group of people who commit to it for a period of time. Find your people, help each other, learn from each other and make some great things happen!

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  • Wow so many good advice.

    I never thought about participating in a blogging mastermind group before. That’s def something to consider, I can see the benefits.

    And I agree, it should be community over competition.

    Btw, maybe you can write a post about the rates you charge? I’m sure plenty of your readers (including me 😊) would be interested in that.

  • I’m relatively new to the “mastermind group” language, but it definitely sounds like something that would be beneficial for me, even just for keeping me accountable to my own goals. Plus, knowing more awesome people and helping them succeed is rewarding in and of itself!

    FinCon will be a great place to make more connections and form a group. ^_^

    • Yes yes yes! My first group formed after spending time together at FinCon, and my current one is definitely a result of getting more face time together at FinCon too. One week to go! :)

  • Another very generous and positive post for the freelance community that follows you Cait. You recieved help and inspiration of which you are now paying forward. Thanks for the continued tips and ideas, I know I have benefited from reaching out to you and being able to call you a friend.
    Cheers :)

  • Aah, this makes me sad that I took a blogging hiatus! I agree — the best part of blogging is learning and connecting with people in lots of different ways. Thanks for this inspirational post. :)

    • Hey, breaks are one of the rules I forgot to add! It’s so important to set your own schedule and take breaks when you need to. But obviously, we are glad you’re back. :)

  • Hi Cait, thanks again for the tips! As someone who has been following you for a while, you have been a great role model and inspired me to start my own blog.

    I agree with the comment on freelance rates. I think it will be very helpful for young freelancers just starting out to learn about what rates they should set. If you can offer some of your insight on it that will be greatly appreciated!

  • This is a great community indeed. I’m sickened by the amount of competition and backstabbing I see out there in the professional world and I think it’s why I’ve been so attracted to freelancing and writing much more. I refuse to believe that humans are competitive by nature. I think we can just as easily be cooperative, loving, and sharing beings. You continue to inspire me and show me ways I can help others and remain financially awesome.

    • I think it’s normal to compare ourselves to others, but we certainly don’t have to be competitive. There’s no point. Because there really are enough readers, clients and money to go around. :)

  • Oh shoot, I just realized I might be in several impromptu mastermind groups already according to that definition?! Sweeeeet! I mean none of us are very big and we’re not exactly masterminds with globs of followers but that’s more reason why you need a community for support. Who else is going to understand the pain of the post you’ve worked 6 hours on only getting 34 pageviews.

    • Hahaha, amen to that. My first group formed in 2013 when I still didn’t have that many readers. Having friends to listen/help you at every step is a gift. :)

  • Hey Cait – great post and it highlights the positive attitude and helpful nature that make you an inspiration to us all. The world – and this narrow niche of it – can seem mercenary at times, so it’s truly uplifting when you have such great examples of people helping each other out just because. Thanks for the reminder that we should work together!

    • Being in the personal finance space—where we are all talking about money AND talking about making it—definitely puts us in a weirder bubble than most blogging niches. But I think that gives us even more of an opportunity to be open, honest and helpful!

  • I am a ‘recovering perfectionist’ and someone, who still struggles with asking for help,
    I really needed to read this article – thank you very much for articulating so well what has been on my mind lately.
    In a society, where scarcity and power seem to be the current drivers, talking about communities and sharing concepts is so important and more relevant than ever. Bravo and thanks again!

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on groups. Of the groups you’ve been in, has it been more or less helpful to have other PF bloggers in the same group? I’m wondering if I should look to expand my horizon and group up with non-PF folk. I’m in a group now with all PF’rs, and I’ve enjoyed it, just curious what your mix has been, and what you find most important, maybe it’s not the industry mix at all.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on freelance rates. I tutor and do IT consulting. Have some services listed on my site I’d love to hear yours or anyone else’s thoughts/feedback.

  • Perfection, that’s all. When I got up this morning, I’d never even heard the phrase mastermind group, and now? I kinda want one. Last week I was totally deciding I did not want to blog, but after some very cool thinking/decisions about my future, and reading a very cool blog post about doing things Your Own Way : ) (Who knew that was a thing?!) I’m thinking again..
    I grew up in much the same way you did. I wonder if that’s what a lot of us who love to write experienced. Gym was bad, library was good, reading was excellent, etc.
    Mostly I’m still grateful for your bravery in using your voice because it’s changed my life. That’s all.
    I love the community versus competition; I’d never thought about that either. You sound like Instagram, and that makes me proud that I’m attracting that kind of ‘let’s-work-together-and-ask-for-help’ energy because I wouldn’t have expected that either. And I love the little abundance parts of this post, because I need more of that.
    So. Comment, compliment, please do more abundance stuff, and a whole lot of me being vulnerable all in one place. Thanks, as always, Cait.

  • I had never even thought of having a mastermind group for something that wasn’t related to business! Maybe I could start a writer’s group!
    Someone once told me that one of the most generous things you can do is to allow someone to help you. Realizing that they want to help and accepting that help. So sometimes now, when someone offers help, I catch myself before I can say, “No, I’m okay.” If I can truly use their help, I say thank you and mean it.
    And you’re right. Community is so important. Thank you for creating this community. You inspire me in so many ways, Cait. Thank you.