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Collaboration is a monumentally powerful thing to do. How many artists and creatives do you know who actively collaborate? Do you seek out and find other artists, even in other genres, who you can create something beautiful with? Do you have exhibitions or perform together? Do you create blended art and cross-boundaries? Do you want to?
If you want to work with awesome people on awesome projects, you probably want some confidence on how to approach them. Well, good thing it’s pretty easy, and the following tips will give you a solid foundation.
Collaborating is a skill and you’ll know whether you’re good at it, and if perhaps you could use some improvement. A good starting point is connecting.
Let’s say there’s someone you’re truly interested in connecting with. Maybe it`s a local hero, a world celebrity, or even another blogger, Got them in mind? Sweet. Read on for some foundational tips that help things go smooth.
I remember when I approached Tad Hargrave at Marketing For Hippies. Tad’s a truly amazing guy, who made time in his life to help me out. When I approached him, I had less money than I’d ever had in my entire life, I was clueless about marketing, all my websites were down with malware, and it looked like I had no real clear value to offer him in exchange for his help.
The only thing I had was whatever value I could pack into my approach. The thing is, the approach can be all you need to connect with someone awesome. My approach was a bit wild at the time, but it had the right ingredients, even if it wasn’t polished.
I poured out my heart to the man, and he reached out and helped me. We had a fantastic e-mail exchange and he changed my life. Why did he do this? Well, yes, he’s an amazing guy, but every relationship has more than one party involved. It wasn’t just him. I had a part in it too, and it was important. How many e-mails does Tad get asking for help? How do I stand out and invite a response? How did I get 12 high-value emails back and forth from him? What was my part in it, and did I do it more successfully than the average joe?
Well, for one thing, I did step 2.
With each email we exchanged, I was writing the lion’s share. I gave him all the background and resources I could, and he offered a few precise ounces of wisdom in reply. A sentence here, a smart question there, and also homework assignments. Stuff to look at, explore, research and answer. He got me on the right track, and I deeply valued every word he gave me. I valued it so much that as soon as he gave me a nugget of wisdom or a hint of direction, I felt inspired to make a piece of art out of it, which I sent it back to him to use on his site, with no name or credit to myself.
When he gave me a series of questions, I answered them to the best of my ability, period. If I didn`t know something, I googled it rather than harassing him again. I read everything I could on his site, testimonials, case studies, articles, guest posts.
I don`t have his personal view on this, but his last message to me was "jason. you are so kind for that image. i will make use of it. yes
indeed. best of luck ", which to me is ‘success’. I went the extra mile (and so did he).
This is related to above, but it basically means make every sentence count. When I first wrote Tad, my email started out appreciating him and his work deeply. I decided not to follow this tip in this particular case, and I did not offer whatever value or benefits I could think of next, but it is highly recommended. For whatever reason, he saw potential in me, and I was able to give artwork and testimonials, post relevant comments on his facebook, and most importantly a deep and profound respect. I also corrected some broken links on his friend’s site. Tad does good things, and I made it clear that I was aware and appreciative of them. Even this article is a kind of tribute to him. He sent me a few brief emails, but I truly value them, and that is reflected.
Let your collaborator know that you’re providing quite a bit of value, and eager to provide more. Whether that’s new audiences for them, a thrilling working-relationship, revenue, services, praise, etc.
Thank you, thank you, and thank you again.
If you get bored of thank yous, say "I appreciate…", if that runs out send a smiley. Stay positive and be thankful for any communication you receive, or expect the collaboration to stop. If the person starts expressing some discomfort, be sensitive, aim to soothe any concerns. Remember, you are approaching them, they have their own life and if something’s not gelling and you can sense it, aim for solutions.
"I’m on it."
"I’ve got this!"
That`s the attitude, no matter what. Two people will have trouble relating if one is always insecure. Tad asked me what my niche market was, and I originally gave him an unclear answer. He fired back, "ok. here’s a core problem. this [answer] is your DIAGNOSIS of what they need."
I could’ve got upset. I could’ve got defensive. I could’ve said anything negative. But he was right, and he was educating me. I said "I’m on it" and then I delivered a better answer. I knew I could figure it out, and if I couldn’t, I knew I could Google it.
I gave other unclear answers, which he called me out on as well. So I took that in, went back to the drawing board, did more work, and replied with more specifics. It helped a lot.
This follows from the last point, and is a heads up to improv. I met Lauren Stein (the founder of Laurentina’s Improv Club) at an artshow recently, and we had a chat about a key rule of improv: Always Say Yes. If you don’t say ‘yes,’ it stops the creative flow of the scene, and actors involved become flustered or put off. This next tip is a nod to her.
"I hear what you’re saying, and I’d like to add…"
"If I’m understanding you correctly…"
"I definitely get your point, I could totally do that…"
As ideas are passed back and forth for collaboration, a sure way to get along with your teammate is to always say something positive and acknowledging to every separate concept they put forth – if not directly then indirectly. It helps them feel valued and respected, and that they’re not talking to a wall or having what they feel are good ideas falling on deaf ears.
Maybe you’re intimidated. Maybe you don’t now what to say. You won’t know until you try, and people aren’t as fragile as everybody thinks. If you screw it up, its not like they are never working with you for life, and if they’re as cool as you think, they’ll never close the door completely on communication.
Last but not least, be comfortable and at piece with the fact that for whatever reason, they may not be interested/ready in continuing the collaboration. It’s ok. It’s fine. It’s not the end of the world. If you can let the issue drop with a "I hope to work with you again soon" or "I’m looking forward to when the time’s right for us," you may make a friend for life, or even start up the connection again, just like that!
Whatever the case, I intend for your success, and hopefully this helps anybody trying to connect and collaborate with anyone else.
Got any collaboration stories? Share ‘em in the comments!
*Note: This post was inspired in part by the oh-so-awesome Lindsey over at EatBreatheBlog.com, she’s passionate about improving ourselves through digital learning, check her out.