An interesting new way of conducting business partnerships has arisen in the last couple of years: online partnering. Rather than using the web as a tool to communicate and share between familiar partners, people who have never met in person are going into business ventures together. Often they don't meet face to face for years, if ever.
What makes this such an incredible phenomenon is not that it is happening, but that is works. A number of successful partnerships happen this way. Physical location is not a necessary factor in finding someone to work with.
But you have a greater burden of verification when you do this. Anyone can be hiding behind a screen, and making sure the person you are trusting with your reputation deserves it should be your primary concern. Luckily, there are ways to do that online.
1. Google Them
Your most obvious option, and one of the more extensive means of checking someone out. You would be amazed by what can come up through searching someone's name, former companies, or email address. There are many ways to use Google creatively
Tip: Try searching by both enabling and disabling personalized results. Also, be sure if you are searching for names you use "" around them to narrow down your search. You may also want to try shortened first names, for example "Bill" as well as "Richard".
2. Use People Search Engines
3. Check Their Past Work
Get a thorough rundown of former work experience from your would-be partner, including portfolios if it is a creative niche. Then do a check to make sure they have the experience they say, and their work belongs to them. One of the most common scams found in online partnership is padded resumes.
Especially in creative fields where they might pilfer other people's work to claim as their own in their portfolios, or claim credit as a ghostwriter on work they can't provide reference verification for.
Related: How to Avoid Hiring Monsters
4. Look At Their Last Business
Did they run a business before this, maybe an LLC? How has it done? Just not taking off isn't a reason to discount their abilities; even the most successful entrepreneurs have had a couple of bombed ventures under their belt.
But if they have been investigated for fraud, cited for tax problems, fired from another company with or without provided explanation, or refuse to give you references, further investigation or discussion is necessary. If there are any red flags about integrity, make sure you clear them before you sign on the dotted line.
5. Do A Background Check
A full background check should be mandatory before becoming partners, and you should expect them to be doing the same thing to you. All companies run one before they hire on a new employee, so why wouldn't you have the same standards? Criminal, tax and personal backgrounds should all be included, through a reputable agency.
6. Verify Their Licensing
A lot of people will claim to have credentials on the Internet, but when you check that turns out to be a lie. Or else you find out their credentials are in a completely different industry. Verify their licensing with a database, such as licensedirect.com or government resources. It is a very quick and simple way to make sure they have the licenses they claim to. All it takes is a search, which can be based on name, licensing number, location, or profession type.
Have you found a partner online? How did it work out? Let us know in the comments.