Long title, real advice.
In my last post I talked about why collaboration (working with others to achieve a goal or many goals) is the key to having real success (however you define that) online. I cannot stress how much I believe that to be true: any and all of my online "successes" have come from relationships I have established or partnerships I have formed.
However, collaboration - finding the right people that you want to support and who want to support you in turn - is not easy. It sounds like it should be easy, but it truly isn't. There will be lots of bumps in the collaboration road once you start down the path. You will meet people who you think are perfect to collaborate with and they will let you down. You will have "big breaks" that turn out to be nothing like they were sold to you. You will feel like you are putting in all the work and someone else is reaping rewards. How do I know? I've been there. Way too many times.
But here's the great thing (and this is based off my personal experiences with success and failure). If you approach collaboration correctly - as a mutually beneficial 'business' transaction - even the not so great collaborations will turn into great experiences for you that help to propel you forward toward your goals.
I guarantee there will be bumps in the road and disappointments but I also guarantee that if you continue to approach collaboration professionally and with the mindset that it needs to be mutually beneficial you will see huge rewards.
So let's get you started...
Choose a project (projects!) to collaborate on
First of all, let me ask you a question: what do you want to achieve? I'm going to challenge you to make a huge list of goals - I really love handwritten lists that allow you to put out everything (I mean reach for the stars!). Once you have that list put it away. A few days later pull it out and highlight a few items that are reasonable to achieve with a little bit of help (also known as collaboration).
Find a potential tribe
Everyone is going to go about this in a different way, but the steps are similar no matter who you are and what your goals are:
a) Determine what you want to achieve from any collaboration
b) Determine what you bring to the table
c) Determine who would help you reach your goals but also how you could help them reach theirs – this is the tricky part but is so important. SO IMPORTANT. When I have a goal, I like to start by trolling my own social media and blog. I look for who comments, who likes, who reposts, who interacts. Then I look to my existing circle. Do I have friends who blog or engage in similar social media topics as me?Do I have acquaintances that may have similar goals and interests? Put together a list (seriously, I love lists) and make it as lofty and realistic as possible!
“Date” potential collaborator(s)
Once you establish WHO you may want to collaborate with, you need to figure out if a) they are willing and b) it's a good partnership. Like any relationship (friendship or romantic), take the time to figure out if a collaborative partnership will work by being honest, open and realistic.
a) Define your expectations (will you post each other’s blogs, retweet each other, reach out only when you need assistance, create vlogs together? Be very clear on what you hope to achieve together.)
b) Define your parameters (what is NOT ok with you? what is NOT ok with them? What are your deal breakers?)
c) Work on a non-essential project together (create a link up, a topic you both blog on and share, etc.). Do something that doesn't necessarily have money attached to it to make sure you are comfortable and work well together.
d) Establish trust and honesty
Create your “tribe”
Once you've found your collaborator (or group - don't rule out a team of people that support
and lift up each other!), make it work for both of you.
a) Clarify “ground rules” for your tribe- use your previously established expectations (which you've already done by now) and clarify what is expected from any collaborator. Is this on a project by project basis? Will there be an expectation around sharing each other’s work? Will there be multiple people included in this “tribe” or is it limited to one or two partners? Be especially clear and specific on what you need and want but also be open to changing and shifting expectations as necessary!
b) Establish a space for your tribe- use a closed or private Facebook group (of Google doc) to interact with each other, throw out ideas, suggest projects to work on, and ask for help.
c) Start supporting – remember that any good collaboration takes time and the more you put into the more you will get out of it! Become stars at making each other shine and sharing the spotlight with each other.
The truth is that there is no exact science to making a collaboration or partnership work, but it is worth putting in the work to find the right people and lay ground rules for supporting each other. When you have support it will not only improve your online exposure but it will allow you to feel more confident in what you can bring to the table when pitching brands, establishing new contacts, and branching out into uncharted online territory!