Sign that says 'team'Working with other freelancers can help you bid on projects too big for one person. It’s a growth strategy when you can’t fit any more work into your day. And sometimes, it’s simply a way to work with people you enjoy.

Here are some tips for collaboration, as discussed by a panel put on by IABC/Toronto’s Professional Independent Communicators last week:

How to find and work with other communicators

  • Look for people with complementary skills (graphic designers and writers are a great match!).
  • Start small and check the relationship over time.
  • What are your goals? If it’s to win awards, for example, you might partner with someone whose expertise in a particular area is likely to earn an award.
  • It can be as easy as meeting others, enjoying their company and suggesting you work together. Graphic designer Deana De Ciccio met a group of fun people from IABC/BC at a World Conference, and one year later was spending 80% of her time working with them.
  • “Only work with people you like,” the group stressed in a handout that was – what else – a collaboration between the panelists.

What kind of projects cry out for collaboration?

  • As part owner of a project management company, Greg Ioannou joined forces with five other companies that each took a piece of the writing, training and other services required for a plain language project. “We would not have had a prayer of getting the job without each other,” he said.
  • Alix Edmiston, ABC, recommends partnering with others for a bigger or different project. “When you join up with someone else, you can change the world,” she told the group.
  • Web designer Avery Swartz uses collaboration as a growth strategy, teaming up with others for interesting or juicy challenges.

Things to watch out for

  • Trust, honesty, integrity.
  • Do you smile or cringe when you see your partner’s name/phone number on call display?
  • Do your goals align?
  • Check your math when adding up the various pieces of your proposal. (Ask Greg how forgetting this can go wrong!)
  • Consider Avery’s “pause clause.” That’s when the client delays the schedule and you pause the project. Avery’s clause kicks in when there’s no feedback or communication for 15 days, and she notes that the project will resume subject to her availability.
  • Protect yourself. Decide if you need contracts, non-disclosure agreements, errors and omissions insurance. At the very least, have a detailed proposal covering what you will each deliver.

Of course, there’s no requirement to go bigger. As Greg said, sometimes being crazy busy with work means you should go smaller (maybe fire a client) rather than expand. “‘No’ is a complete sentence,” as Avery put it.

Recommended reading:
The Partnership Charter: How To Start Out Right With Your New Business Partnership (or Fix The One You’re In), by David Gage