Tell Me All! {series}- Collaborations, Part 1

Candy Spaghetti

One of the things I'm fascinated by, is the behind-the-scenes truths of running your own business, particularly creative businesses. It's easy to think of all the pro's- make your own schedule! do something you love! you da boss!- but the reality is, there's so much to do and often not a lot of guidance out there on how to accomplish it. It can quickly turn into a lonely road of "figuring it out as you go"! I've loved reading some of the interview series of my friends (Bianca of WildHumm and her "Makers to Know" Series is a great one) and soaking up podcasts that explore this topic (Jess Lively of "The Lively Show" is an all-time fave). After almost a year of building my own small business, I thought it would be fun to pull together some of my own (humble) learnings + experiences, along with some of my creative friends, into a new series- "Tell me all!".

This week's topic is collaboration- the art of working with others to achieve a shared goal. Collaborations are such great way of expanding beyond your own skill set with a project, especially in the creative world, but can bring with them their own set of challenges. When I first started to share my art and my work, the thought of approaching another artist/creative to work together sounded so intimidating- what if they didn't like what I did? What if they were too busy? What was I even supposed to ask? And even once you've successfully established that you and another person want to work together- how do you split up the workload? What about potential profits? Below is part one of this two-part topic... I've tapped of few of my friends to share their input as well- I love the variety of advice and experience and I hope it can help you with some pointers, wherever you are in the creative journey! {If you have any specific questions, I would love to hear them! And of course, I would love to hear any comments or experiences of your own in the comments below.}

1. SO YOU WANNA COLLAB...

I like to start by thinking- "why do I want to work with this person?" I think it's important to think about how your styles/brands mesh together, and if they would be mutually beneficial. For example, if I am just starting out and don't have a very clear style/aesthetic yet, it may be hard for another more-established artist/brand to understand what I'm all about, and therefore want to work with me. Or if I'm all about bright colors and whimsical images (p.s. I am), an artist/brand with a more minimalist palette and serious vibe may not feel like we're a good match. (If done well, sometimes odd pairings can be a beautiful thing, but in that case it's important to approach them with a concept... so see #2.)

"I always say why I think we would work well together, and a few options of solid collab plans. I also love being approached this way- if the person has a reason why they want to work with you and an actual direction, I'll usually consider it!"- Bianca, WildHumm

"Reach out to brands that you believe in and personally love... you never know unless you try! The worst that can happen is that a brand may say 'no'."- Amanda, All Things Pretty Blog

As tempting as it can be to want to work with a "big" brand or someone who seems to have a lot of followers, if you don't truly have a similar customer base or a similar aesthetic, it's probably not the best fit. Sometimes, I like to give it the "what if" test- What if this person/brand was totally unknown, would I still be excited about their work? If the answer is yes, and your work seems to complement each other, then maybe it's time to start thinking of collab-ideas...

2. WHAT'S THE PLAN, STAN?

This may be one of the most key pieces- while it's great to tell them what you love about their work, it's important to have some ideas of what you would do together. You don't need a fully-developed plan (in fact, it's better that you don't so that you can create some of that together) but sharing some ideas of how your two brands can collaborate shows actual thought, vs. just being a big fangirl. While most people appreciate authentic compliments, it can be a turn-off to just gush endlessly about someone else. For example, let's say you make jewelry and you want to work with a particular blogger whose style reflects the vibe you're going for- put together some ideas of what the two of you would create (maybe you make a set of bracelets with colors you pick together and she styles them with an outfit on her blog), and still leave it open-ended enough that they have room to come back with some of their own ideas (i.e. you probably wouldn't want to say "This is what I want to make, do you wanna do it with me?")- a collaboration is two of you working together. 

"I think they work best when both people discuss the goals they're hoping for, right in the beginning... Once you are both on the same page, you can really let the creative juices flow."- Paige, PaigePoppe.com

"Be open-minded... two heads are definitely better than one!"- Amanda, All Things Pretty Blog

"I really like when people have a plan. It shows they're actually interested in your work and care about what you do."- Bianca, WildHumm

If you can think of multiple ways to collaborate, pitch more than one! I've reached out to other creatives with my primary idea, along with a second option, and they ended up loving the second idea. Had I just asked about the first thing I came up with, they probably would have turned me down. Also, it helps to be open to how your ideas may morph with their input. Being flexible shows you value what you each bring to the table, and is a good indicator that you will work well together.

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  • Coming Soon, Part 2... Where we'll discuss how to make the collaboration successful + pain-points to avoid... Don't forget to leave me your questions/comments below! :)  

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