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How to Make Creative Collaborations Work

Business trends are always changing. Platforms are constantly in motion to be the next big thing. And the name of the game has been “evolve, evolve, evolve” for as long as I can remember. But there’s been one thing that remains constant. One thing that has been unchanged by time.

And that one thing is the importance of collaboration as a business owner.

Creative collaborations will generally fall into one of two categories: paid and unpaid. I know, you’re not surprised. But what is surprising is that the path you take for both types of collaborations is pretty much the same. Yep, it’s not as simple as strapping on your collab boots and making things happen. You actually have to plan to create a collaboration that will be both impactful and mutually beneficial.

We’ve all heard about those collaborations gone awry, where things just don’t pan out the way the group thought they would. Or where one person is shouldered with all the responsibility and none of the reward. This is why planning is such an important part of the collaborative process. So as much as you may admire someone and think working with them might be amazing, you have to create a solid foundation before you send that email or say yes to the partnership.

Luckily, getting your creative collaboration off on the right foot isn’t a tedious task. In fact, we can sum it up in a few simple steps.


Be Clear on your Goals

You know you want to take part in a collaborative effort. I mean, it sounds like so much fun, so why wouldn’t you? But you have to ask yourself, what do you really hope to gain from it?

As fun as collaborations are, you need to have a motivating reason to invest the time into them. Time is your most precious commodity, so you want to guard it! Make sure that any collaborative effort you choose to spend time on will somehow benefit you.

However, this doesn’t always mean monetary compensation. Sometimes the benefit is growing your email list or social media following. Sometimes it is for the simple pleasure of networking with someone you admire. Connections are important in business, so that’s a completely valid reason to collaborate. The most important thing is that you have a reason, and that you’re not saying yes to something because you think you should or feel guilty.


Know What You Want the Collaboration to Look Like

Far too often projects fail because the vision wasn’t clear enough. When you’re making the decision to work with someone, be sure that you know how you want it to work. As a business owner, you’ve undoubtedly been told countless times about how important boundaries are. This is very much the same thing.

Outline how you want the project to look and work from beginning to end. This isn’t just for your benefit to prepare and plan—it’s also for your potential partner. The last thing you want to do is approach someone in hopes that they’ll work with you without a plan in place. You want to be able to provide them with some foundational information.

You can then solidify your expectations and ensure they’re met by drawing up an actual agreement that you and your partner both sign.



Set Realistic Expectations

Want to make sure you’re not disappointed? Set realistic expectations about your collaboration. Not just about the results, but the moving parts of it as well. When you’re working with your partner, make sure that you are planning a project that you can reasonably handle, that you’re asking for as much as you’re giving, and that you don’t hang your entire business success on this one project.

It can be very easy to get carried away when you work on such magical projects, but keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. That way, you can make the most of each collaboration that comes your way.


Go Above and Beyond

Here’s the thing: collaborations are about more than building your numbers, no matter what numbers they are. They’re about forming relationships with others in your industry. They’re about building connections and “know-like-trust” amongst your colleagues.

This means you need to go above and beyond. Promote your collaboration partner. Make this an amazingly positive experience. Be ready to tackle any issues that may arise. And remember to expect the same in return.

Because collaborations aren’t just a one-way street!


Finally, Set a Deadline

Ahh, yes—all good things must come to an end. And so must your collaboration. Right from the start, set a deadline and have an end to your contract.

Setting a deadline allows you to move on guilt-free when a collaboration is over. It gives you permission to let a project go and continue on with what’s best for your business, no matter the outcome of the collaboration. And more importantly, it provides you with a real time frame to get stuff done. Nothing is quite as frustrating as having a project laid out without any time frame. Because when those projects arise, they can linger and never get done.

Use your deadline as a time to connect with your partner, ensure that their experience with you was a positive one, and further the personal connection with them if it was a positive experience for you.

Collaborating isn’t meant to be a challenge, but an opportunity for growth and connection. And friend, I want to see you rise to that occasion, make those connections, and make magic happen.

You’ve got this.

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