5 Keys to Forming a Successful Creative Partnership
Most creative partnerships begin in very organic ways. You meet at a conference or bump into each other at a local co-working space and hit it off. You realize your work styles align and that your skill sets are complimentary. It’s time to pick a name for your dream agency!
Or is it? Not every freelancer wants to own an agency. There are many reasons why freelancers decide to team up. Among them,
- Specialization – A creative partnership may enable those involved to spend more time doing what they love most and do best.
- A credibility boost – Working with other respected freelancers increases your credibility as an individual.
- Greater income – Combining forces makes bigger projects possible. With those bigger projects comes the potential for significantly bigger paychecks.
But how do you get that and everything else you’re hoping to get from your new creative partnership?
1. Work together before signing papers
If you haven’t already worked on a few projects with your new partner, make sure you get at least one job completed on time together before signing up for the new joint venture. It might seem ridiculously simple advice but you’d be surprised how many freelancers hop into business bed without ever working together.
I made that mistake early on and a lot of time was wasted figuring out work preferences that might have been spent making the client stupendously happy. Everything worked out but many are not so lucky. Try to keep luck with you by doing a project, however small, with your new freelancing buddy before you sit down to discuss starting a business together.
2. Maintain your friendship outside of work
If you’re like most freelancers, you’re considering starting a creative partnership with a talented friend. Perhaps you found each other through a blog post, tweet, or a conference. No matter how things began, it’s important that you put specific effort into maintaining your friendship outside of the day-to-day business your partnership entails.
Yes, you will be friends. The amount of time you’ll be spending together (even if “together” happens over 3,000 miles via Skype) will invariably lead to conversations through which you learn about each other. Treasure those non-business moments and protect the future of your partnership by making sure you continue to have them. If you’re already accustomed to having good conversations about a variety of topics you’ll find it easier to deal with the difficult moments that invariably arise.
3. Agree on who plays point with clients
Figure out which partner is most comfortable dealing with irate customers and promoting the business. It’s wishful thinking at best to assume that you’ll be splitting the customer service and PR duties with your partner. Remember that specialization benefit I talked about a moment ago? This is a situation that will benefit greatly from the consistent focus and talent from one partner.
If you’re lucky enough to have multiple partners who are all comfortable and willing to handle clients and generate new leads, you’ll be putting more of your effort into making sure everybody is in the same page and communicating effectively. That should be easy for you though. You’re a fast-moving freelancer with an eye for the future, right?
4. Discuss money early and state terms explicitly
In short? Have a contract. Sure, you might be happy to move money back and forth by Paypal and keep track of informal invoice percentage agreements. But what happens when things go wrong? What happens when a client decides not to pay the final balance and your partner asks you to take an equal portion of the loss even though the work you did was satisfactory? A contract won’t solve every problem in a creative partnership but having basic terms of your agreement in writing will do a lot to keep you from gnawing at each other when things get tough.
Another note about money: Paying somebody else to keep your books up-to-date may just prove to be some of the best money you’ve ever spent. Do your research, get some referrals, and don’t try to get too much for too cheap. A remote assistant for a few hours per month may be all you need to keep the number-crunching hassle out of the way.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communicate via email, phone, text, Twitter, Facebook, IM, Skype, or even tin cans and string. Find out what platform works best for your partnership and never lose sight of the fact that your partnership will only ever be as good as your communication. You may be a brilliant copywriter but your genius will be wasted if your tone doesn’t match your partner’s design. You might conjure the best marketing concepts on the planet but most will be for nothing if your partner isn’t on board.
Consistent communication will provide your creative partnership with the energy it needs to flourish and develop into something great. In my experience, you’ll spend the most time talking about projects and process at the start of your partnership. Once things settle down and you’ve found a groove with your creative partner you’ll know when to talk, email, or just wait for another day. If you’re always working to listen attentively and speak clearly, good things will be yours.
If you have a question, comment, or some additional advice for those hoping to enter a creative partnership, I hope you’ll take a moment to be in touch with a comment below!