Working online is undoubtedly a career choice that lends itself well to the less sociable among us. While you can work online as part of a team and be a full-on team player if it appeals to you, when you work on a computer the option is alwaysstill there to avoid human contact and to work completely on your own should you wish to and to get in contact with others only via e-mail when you absolutely have to.

No man is an island though, and as much as you might think you can make it big online without relying on anyone else, you are always going to have to call in favours at some point and you are always ultimately going to be providing a service or a product for other people.

You can run a website then, but you won’t get very far if you don’t message other bloggers or work the social networks in order to bring people to your site. And you can get a lot more out of your work if you work more closely with others – outsourcing tasks to companies that can do a more professional job for instance, or going to networking events and conferences.

The same goes for everything else too. Sell an app on iTunes and you’re going to have to deal with customer complaints day-in and day-out (even if it’s brilliant) and eventually the time will probably come when you want to do a deal with an OEM, or find some other way of gaining exposure for your digital product.

In short then, you’re going to have to crawl out of your (digital) cave at some point no matter how hard you try to avoid it. And when you do that’s unfortunately always going to involve putting an element of trust in the hands of a complete stranger…

The Strangers You Don’t Know

When you start becoming successful online, you’re going to find that you start getting a lot of unsolicited messages if you don’t already. Some of these are going to be the usual: link exchange requests and the like, but others are going to sound more exciting. People are going to offer to build you free websites for instance, they will offer to fly you out to exotic locales for business discussions, and they’ll offer to sell your services to third parties – it will all sound very excited.

Ultimately though, all you have to go on here are those people’s words. You’ll never have met them and of course if they’ve contacted you then they’re going to be benefiting from this situation too. What’s to say that the coder you’ve hired isn’t going to take your site down for a competitor? Or that the person offering to sell your app isn’t going to sell it and keep the money?

An easy answer might be to simply ignore such unsolicited messages, but then you’d be missing a trick. While there will be a lot of time-wasters mixed in among this crowd, you will find that some of these people are genuinely offering mutually beneficial scenarios. Turning someone down when you genuinely could have a free a website built, or when they could get you thousands for your app would be a big mistake.

Playing it Safe

The best approach then is to practice a ‘cautious scepticism’ while still hearing people out. If you get messaged from someone wanting to do business, then make a point of checking out their credentials: how does their website look? Are they in any business listings? Can you find some reviews for them? Asking in webmaster forums can sometimes be a good approach here, as they will most likely have approached others like you in the past.

It’s also a good idea to speak on the phone or at least over a Skype call if possible. While this might seem like an awkward and costly waste of time, you will find that you can much more quickly get a feel for an organisation when you have actually spoken with them rather than just exchanging e-mails.

And don’t be afraid to take precautions. There are many ways you can build kill switches into your apps and websites for instance in case they get stolen, and backing up should always be a first port of call. You can even go as far as to get legal help and to get them to sign some NDAs before you start talking business.

So be optimistic, but don’t be stupid. And remember: if it seems too good to be true, then often it is