How to Land Your Next Collaboration

I want you to imagine the neighbor you met once who lives down the street from you comes knocking on your door. She’s super nice and you really like her. She asks if you’d like to go to the grocery store and purchase food using your own money and then come back to her house to cook for and serve dinner to her family.

At first you’re a confused. You want to help, sure, especially if she needs it but also there was nothing in that request that would benefit you. Not that you want to come off as self serving but maybe the request would have been more appealing if she had offered to make the main dish and you make the sides. Or if she had said both your families could eat together. Or if she had offered to maybe do the same for your family the following night. But no, this was a request of you serving them and getting a, “Kay, thanks!” as they shove you out the door while they enjoy dinner. Meanwhile, you actually have your own family to shop for and cook for and feed.

So you say no.

This is the way I see a lot of people asking to collaborate. And friend, I am also guilty as charged on this one! Before I paused to really consider what someone might say yes or no to, my ask was 100% in my favor. “I need this. Can you give it?” style. As you might have guessed, I got a lot of “No thanks!”

A very real fact that we need to realize is that everyone has their own dreams that they’re trying to make happen. I sure do. My dreams are my focus and they take a lot of focus. They take up my time and my money and my effort so if I’m going to say yes to a collaboration, that collaboration has to play a part in building my dreams. If they also help someone else’s dreams along the way, tell me more cause I’m definitely interested! But if the collaboration is 100% about me helping someone else build their dreams, girlfriend, I’m all about love and community but the realistic answer has to be no. It wouldn’t be practical. It would be like saying yes to my neighbor’s very one sided request. Using my limited time and resources while my own family sits at home hungry and wondering where I am.

I recently collaborated on a giveaway with a local Co-working space here in Gilbert. I went to their office and said, “I saw you recently launched your new photos passes. To promote those photo passes, would you be interested in hosting an Instagram giveaway where two people win a branding session with me in your space?” They said yes because they saw a benefit to them in it. Also the ask on their part was minimal. All they had to do was post to Instagram and let me use the space for the winners and along the way, their space and photo passes would get some rad promotion. The ask was entirely about serving them. Then they offered to include a free month of co working to the winners as well which was AWESOME and added more incentive for people to participate! Had I walked in and said, “Hey would you guys be interested in giving free passes to my followers for your business?” They probably would have said no. And rightfully so.

When you ask, you need to give.

Are you asking to collaborate and getting a bunch of “No Thanks”? No worries! Here are a few steps to land an awesome collaboration.

1. Who are you asking?
Who is your target market? Find someone who already has a good following and who’s audience consists of your target market. It doesn’t make sense to ask someone with a following that consists of almost 100% women when your target market is male. Find someone who is already speaking to your ideal client. Also, make sure that person doesn’t offer the same services you do. For example: if you’re a graphic designer, don’t contact another graphic designer. Contact someone who serves your target market in a different way. If you find that person, it should be easy for you to come up with something awesome to offer their audience because they’re your target market anyway!

2. How can your services help build their dreams? 
When you find the person you want to collaborate with, come up with an creative way to serve them. What does their business need that you can provide? Will filling that need also serve you? For example, offering to do two free branding shoots for the co-working space gave me a fun way to get in front of their audience which was all local small business owners…which is exactly perfect for my business.
How will serving them indirectly serve you? Can you host a giveaway? Donate your services to one of their events? Write a guest blog for them? Create social media graphics for their Instagram? Get creative and brainstorm! Tip: Don’t offer something that won’t allow you to showcase your business, skills and services. For example, offering to bake cupcakes for an event when your business is interior design won’t allow people to see your awesome design magic! Make sure what you’re offering is in-line with your business. Again, if you find someone who serves the same clients you’re hoping to serve, this should be easy to come up with!

3. Show up for them first
See if you can participate in something they’re hosting right now with no strings. Can you share a post of theirs promoting their fall sale? Can you go to that event they’re hosting for Phoenix Children’s Hospital? Maybe you can simply participate in that Instagram Bingo they’ve got on their stories. Find a way to show up for them first. That way, your email can start with, “We met at your event last Friday.” How much stronger is that than, “Hi, you don’t know me but…”? You’ll also find that getting out there and saying yes to showing up in your community is when crazy great things happen! You meet new people and you get your face out there! Check out this post next on Networking for Introverts

4. Ask.
You’re ready! Go for it!

5. Don’t get discouraged
No doesn’t always mean no. No sometimes just means not right now. Keep showing up for them. Sometimes businesses want to collaborate with friends that they’ve known for a while. So you gotta become a friend who they’ve known for a while… and that can take a while!

Ok, so this was a very practical post and one I hope helps you get your next collaboration! In a few weeks, if you’ve used the ideas in this article to land your next collaboration, I’d LOVE to hear your awesome success story!! Email me or send me a secret message from my home page!

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris