Choosing Value: How to Collaborate / by Alexander Ward

It's almost six months since I wrote a post about how to value yourself as a creator and I wanted to come back to that and talk about how to collaborate with people whilst retaining your value. 

Let's just put one thing straight from the outset, it's ok to collaborate. You might do this to build your portfolio, to tell an important story, to gain exposure to a new audience or a multitude of other reasons. The important thing to remember is that collaborating is fine in moderation - as long as you retain your value. That can feel easier said that done, so here's my guide on working on a collaboration, not just as a photographer, but as any kind of content creator.   

Define a scope

Just because you're not charging, it doesn't mean you should treat it any differently than a paid gig. First off, define a scope and agree what you'll both do and not do. The boundaries of any project can wander and a collab is no exception. This is a good time to set expectations on coverage of the work - if you're working for an influencer, for instance, you'll want to specify how you see the content being used. Don't be afraid of putting this in a written agreement and asking them to sign it off - if they're not sure about doing that, then how committed are they?

Do your research

The time you're spending planning, creating and promoting your collaboration piece could be used to gain new work, so it's important you take this approach and work with people who are genuine and fit with what you're all about.

Do plenty of research to make sure who you're working with is right for you; consider asking yourself these questions:-

  • What do they stand for?
  • What's their audience like and how engaged are they with them?
  • How long have they been in their field? Are they serious about it? 
  • Are they using underhand tactics like bots? 
  • What collaborations have they worked on before - how did they work out?

The fundamental question to ask yourself here is 'Will this be of value to me?' - and I mean that in a number of ways but most importantly, will this positively impact you and be a good, meaningful use of your time? If you're not sure, why are you doing it? 

There's another factor here; through your research, you might discover that their values don't match your own, maybe those tweets about Brexit or that Facebook share of the Britain First page don't quite represent what you're about - when people see you collaborating together, is this association good for you? 


Are you both into it?

When you're doing the chasing and you get that gut feeling they're not as into it, maybe they're not valuing your time as much as they should. It's ok to reassess the relationship and what you're doing after you've started. 

Put in the effort

My mum used a phrase when I was a kid that stuck with me; "Do it properly or not at all" and this is as true about collaborations than anything else in life. Sure, it's not paid, but that doesn't mean it deserves anything but your usual high standard. In my shoots I research, create mood boards, build shoot plans and scout locations: everything I’d do on a paid gig. Value goes both ways so showing someone the care and attention you’d give any other paying client can go a long way.


Proper preparation prevents poor performance

There are those of you that would think I wouldn't shoehorn in that title, but I have, and so I've proven you wrong and I win. Sometimes, no matter what you do, it just doesn't work. You might have different tastes, your moods might be off, your legs might be hurting and you're really hungry, whatever the reasons sometimes you just don't bring your A-game or you just don't see eye-to-eye. 

And y'know what? That's fine. Sometimes you do your best and it's just not worked, but stick to your agreement or mutually agree something different, safe in your knowledge you done everything you could've. Every bad move makes you learn 10 things, just figure out what they are to help you with the next step of the adventure. 

If you're seeking collaboration, come prepared. If you're a creator like a blogger or artist, it'll go a long way if you approach them with an idea, are polite and ready to help and credit them. 

Say thank you

Manners cost nothing, so remember to be thankful for their time and effort, and this goes beyond just a friendly thanks; remember to credit them in anywhere you're publishing the work, tagging them in social media posts and using a link in any web work. 

In summary

Collaborations are great ways to reach new audiences and tell a different stories, and they're great ways to explore new avenues but throughout the process it's critical you remember your worth and your value. The value is in your time, not always in your ratecard. 

Pictures: Hero image, Zara. Images in content, Susie and Sara - all my work.