I have to be honest here.
Some of the things I’m about to tell you didn’t actually happen.
Before you go and get all judgy on me, hold up.
This is the reason I’m writing a How To Collaborate with Other Creatives post. Because if everything I’m about to tell you had actually happened, it’s likely that anything I learned during my collaboration with I See Noise (owned by one of my fave gals, Randa Salloum) wouldn’t be new or significant enough to spark the writing of this post.
To reverse engineer it a little (ugh I think I just eye-rolled at myself, I HAAAATED that term in school – anyone else?), on Monday Digital Darlings and I See Noise released a limited edition collection of art prints.
Inspired by the myriad of ladies in our lives – and let’s be real, on our instagram feeds – who are constantly raising the bar in business and creativity (and doing it with KILLER style), the collection is meant to serve as a constant reminder to live authentically and never apologize for making the choices that serve your own happiness. Regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.
Work hard for what you want.
You CAN live your dream job, buy a thousand pairs of shoes, travel the world, do BIG things that other people say are crazy…
Because you know that logic doesn’t produce magic.
You’re a smart girl, darling. And that’s really fucking cool.
Being smart, creative, entrepreneurial, and living your dreams doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out, all the time.
It does mean that you recognize when you don’t know what you’re doing, dare to try anyways, and LEARN from what worked and what didn’t so that you’ll do it better next time.
That’s what being a smart girl is all about – always trying, always tweaking, always improving.
ISNxDigitalDarlings was a first, for both of us, and we learned along the way. Here’s where my earlier disclaimer applies. Randa and I didn’t actually follow all of these collaboration tips (at least not as officially as we should, but hey I know where she sleeps and vice versa), which is exactly why they’re here. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.
5 tips on How To Collaborate with Other Creatives:
1. Agree on your collaboration concept, deliverables, and desired outcome.
It’s pretty difficult to work towards something if you don’t know what you’re working towards. This may seem like a no-brainer, but before officially entering any collaboration, it’s important that both/all of you are very clear on what you are creating as a team. This is especially crucial when
stubborn strong, creative minds join forces. If one of you is the slightest bit disappointed/unhappy/not-100%-excited about the direction of the collaboration it will breed resentment.
Discuss your creative visions and what goals you have for the outcome.
It’s likely that you won’t be on the same page about everything, so communicate as openly as possible and look for commonalities between your respective visions.
Randa and I started with a pineapple print (my upcoming Costa Rica trip was clearly on the brain) before quickly concluding that pineapples, while super delicious and damn adorable in gold foil, really had nothing to do with our goal to inspire all of YOU. (You know, unless we all need extra inspiration to eat pineapples, which frankly, I don’t think we do.)
How will your collaboration manifest, from beginning to end? What are the deliverables, aka the concrete products and marketing tools you’ll be creating, and what are the costs involved?
It’s easy to get super excited and carried away with the initial ideas – finding inspiration, making magic, designing – and either forget or push aside some of the make-or-break decisions like budget, time commitments, and profit sharing. Don’t let these escape your initial conversations, only to rear their heads and stomp around while refusing to move forward like stubborn horses in the middle of a trail.
2. Make it official.
Get it in writing! Make a contract.
It doesn’t have to be some crazy long document full of legal jargon – just write down a few lines with the details agreed upon in tip No. 1 and what will happen (if anything) should anyone need to pull out of the project for whatever reason. When creatives collaborate, you’re dealing with a lot of intellectual property and often, high emotional attachment to work produced. (We create from our SOULS, people! Our SOULS!)
A contract isn’t a scary thing that passive aggressively screams, “I don’t trust you!”
It’s just a mutually agreed upon paper stating what you’ve set out to do, together, and how you’ll handle an unforeseen change of plan.
(Oh, and it’s a great place to practice your autograph… ’cause baby you’re gonna be a star!)
3. Set a timeline.
Reverse engineer that project, darling. Yep, I said it again. (My goodness, my professors would be proud!)
Start by listing all the milestones (thanks Facebook timelines) you’ll need to hit, working backwards from your launch day. Then, fill in all the steps it will take to achieve each of these.
Don’t forget about marketing – we’re not living in a “build it and they will come” world anymore.
If there’s one thing I know about successful people, it’s that they make time to plan for success. (Stay tuned for a post all about this.)
So, when you’ve listed all the foreseeable tasks leading up to launch day, jot down when and how you will promote the project/product before and after it’s launch. Are you writing multiple blog posts on multiple outlets? Decide when each will be published. Sharing to social media or pitching to influencers, websites and publications? You’ll want to give both you and them enough time to properly prepare a story.
4. Divide and conquer.
Now that your timeline and action steps are clearly defined, assign yourselves tasks with deadlines and hit the ground running!
One of the best parts of collaborating (beyond the whole “two heads are better than one”) is this:
You’ve got someone to hold you accountable.
If you’re lucky like me, your team will be a nice balance of dreamers and do-ers. (Ahem, major props to Miss Salloum for keeping this dreamer focused on the task at hand.)
If this isn’t the case (actually, even if it is), it’s really helpful to pre-schedule check-in meetings – either in person or via Skype – to discuss your progress and work through any difficulties or roadblocks.
(I’d highly recommend consuming wine and baked goods, but do what you will.)
5. Communicate openly and with respect.
In any relationship – working or otherwise – regular, respectful, and honest communication is essential.
With creative collaborations, it’s SO important to be able to talk through the differences in opinion that are bound to arise when the value of work created is subjective. When you all have to put your name on a jointly created product, everyone needs to be happy. And sometimes that means compromising.
But theres a difference between compromising for the sake of the collaboration as a whole, and compromising to appease the ego of a team member.
If you’re unhappy, first ask yourself why. Then come up with a few possible solutions – you can’t expect your team or partner to get on board without a “why” and an idea as to “how.”
Want to know what went on behind the scenes for ISNxDigitalDarlings two days before the launch?
We re-shot most of our promo and website images. That’s right, photoshoot number two at the eleventh hour.
Last friday evening, Randa sent me a quick screen shot of the thank you cards to be included in each print order. The design was perfect, but I just had this sinking feeling about the photo behind our text. I couldn’t scream “I LOVE it!” (Because, well, I didn’t.)
I SHOULD have looked more closely at the original batch of photos from our shoot the week before, but things were rushed and my focus was on launching Digital Darlings. So I asked her if she was happy, truly happy, about presenting this photoshoot to all of you. Her response?
“Well, I like the detail shots.”
Boom. We both knew what needed to be done. Despite it being a big pain in the ass.
Luckily, we have talented friends who are quick to jump in when called upon. Michelle Morton totally knocked our photos out of the park – and really, what better way to spend a Saturday night than getting creative with your besties? Dreams don’t work unless you do, so might as well make work a party!
Tell me in the comments, have you collaborated with other creatives? What did you learn? Would you do it again?
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