How to Collaborate with a Fellow Independent Business

The do's and dont's of the creative collaborative process

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Posted on 15th March 2021

I’m a HUGE fan of collaborating with fellow indies. Over the years this has enriched my business life and beyond from inspiring my creative process to making life long friends. If you are intrigued about the process of collaboration and would like to weave it into your business, here are my thoughts on how the process works:

 

Your Why

Why do you want to collaborate? Write down all the reasons you want to connect with another Indie Biz owner to bring a project to life.

5 reasons business owners collaborate include, to:

⚡️ Feel inspired and connect with another human in the creative process.

⚡️ Combine skill sets to create a unique product or meet a marketing objective.

⚡️ Share and reach new relevant audiences.

⚡️ Create a super fun revenue stream.

⚡️ Build a creative network and feel less alone.

Whatever your drivers are, please remember that collaboration is a two-way street and for it to be a success both parties need to feel the partnership is 50/50.

 

Reach Out With Vision

You might feel attracted to working with someone in your current network. If you already have an established relationship then your first port of call is a short DM. Ask if they are open to the idea of collaboration and can you email with a bit more info.

If they give you the green light – and no worries if they don’t because it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – pop them an email within 3 days sharing your spark of an idea. It’s OK if it’s not fully formed, in fact that’s just perfect because collaboration is a meeting of creative minds. Just ensure you have some kind of idea because there’s nothing worse than receiving that message ‘Let’s collaborate!’ with no idea behind it. Feels unthoughtful, huh?

If you don’t know anyone you’d like to collaborate with then check out all the Indie Rollers who are open to collaboration HERE. Give them a follow on Instagram, get to know them and if you have similar values and vision then reach out with the spark of an idea or two.

 

Communication & Responsibilities

Once a few emails have been exchanged, it’s time for a Zoom coffee – other video software and hot drinks are available!

Talking through your ideas ‘face-to-face’ as it were will enable you to connect on a much deeper level. Just be open, honest and have fun getting to know a new creative buddy. If this means stepping out of your comfort zone then what a brilliant opportunity for personal AND business growth.

In this conversation, the aim is:

✔️  Agree on your core objective.

✔️  Decide who is going to do what and assign ownership of tasks.

✔️  Discuss money.

✔️  Brainstorm marketing ideas.

✔️  Set launch date and create a timeline with deadlines.

After the video call, agree who is going to send a follow-up email with a write-up on everything you have agreed. This creates your contract. It can sit in the body of an email or why not type it up on a blank document with both your logos.

This is your moment to truly commit to the project. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or seeing any red flags now is the time to speak up because ignoring it won’t make it go away.  Successful collaboration is always based on truthful and clear communication.  Don’t assume anything and don’t allow any ‘grey areas’. Simply say ‘I’m unsure how X will work – what are your thoughts?’

 

Money

Don’t avoid talking about the financials; have this conversation as early on as possible so you’re both singing from the same karaoke video. There is no ‘one way’ to agree on the money, here are some options:

😍 Everything is shared 50/50 including buying and selling responsibilities.

😍 The financials are set up based on the skills/contacts each party is bringing to the table. For example: you might have an established relationship with a supplier and you purchase the products and your collaboration partner is skilled in an area of the creation process and creates the artwork. Or one party makes and the other party sells.

😍 No money is involved. Yes this is possible! In fact, this is a great way to approach collaboration for the first time. Why not collaborate on a marketing objective like creating a video or some lifestyle photography.

However you decide to divide the money, be sure to account for the design process, making process, selling process, packing, shipping and customer service process.

You’ll know you’ve got it ‘right’ because you will both feel good with your agreed choices. Keep negotiating until you find that sweet spot and let each other know exactly what you’re thinking.

 

Marketing

Visibility is key when launching and selling. Pool your social media, email lists and digital marketing channels and create your assets utilising photography, video and lives. You might not have approached your content creation like this before and done it more on the fly so this is a great opportunity for a more planned approach with strategy and intention.

An effective marketing device available to you is sharing your process as you go along. There are so many exciting announcements you can make from the moment you decide to collaborate and all through the creation process. You can hold joint Q&A sessions on eachothers channels and share plenty of behind-the-scenes action!

 

Timeline & Deadlines

Set the launch date and work backwards. However long you think the project will take to unfold – double it. Then pick a date in the calendar that makes sense for whatever you’re doing. Think seasonally or align with an important date for your target audience or just pick a date and do it.

Once the launch date is agreed, mark some deadlines on the calendar between now and then. Deadlines could include:

✏️ Rough artwork deadline.

✏️ Finished artwork due date.

✏️ Sample created by / signed off by.

✏️ Materials ordered by.

✏️ Marketing: asset creation, Instagram timeline, emails.

✏️ Stock made by.

✏️ Earlybird email offer.

✏️ Financial deadlines: when will money exchange hands.

 

Start Small and Build Long-Term Relationships

I hope your collaborative creative juices are already flowing and you can see how clear communication is the most important part of the process. Don’t forget to check in with all the Rollers who are up for collaborating HERE.

A smart decision is to start small.

Don’t overwhelm yourselves with too much work or stock to start with. Test the waters with a small batch, gain customer feedback, tweak and launch again. The art of business collaboration is about building long-term relationships that enable on-going revenue streams and the process is much loved by you, your collaborator (who is now a good pal) and your customers.

Have fun!

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