STOP COLLABORATE AND LISTEN
Collaborations. They can be awesome and create long lasting friendships. They can inspire you. They can lift you up. They can help you develop your brand. Your products. Your business. You.
And then, they can be not so awesome. They can be a little difficult. They can knock you down. They can flat out not work. And be a little weird. They can destroy relationships. Friendships. Trust. Confidence. And can be totes awkward. Like shit-balls-awful-awkies-kayne-ellen-cray-cray-interview awkward. Ermagawd.
And by ‘collaborations’ we do not mean ‘social influencer’ paid post things. They aren’t what we call collaborations. They are paid posts. Sponsored posts. And that are totally fine. And they should definitely not be weird.
The collaborations we are talking about are the ones when two businesses combine to design-create-make-develop a product together. Uh huh. And we totes love it when small businesses collaborate rather than compete. It can be a winning business strategy.
When times are tough. Or a little slow. It’s not a bad idea to lean on your ‘neighbour’. You can work with each other’s strengths. Help each other grow. Support each other. Make some sales. Make some all time awesome products. And hopefully friendships. Win win.
We have been lucky to collaborate with some super-amazing-super-inspirational-super-talented-super-awesome people. But it isn’t always sunshine smiles and good times for everyone. Some collaborations leave one or both small businesses feeling a little ‘hmmm-meh-feck’. Some have never actually happened. Just stalled. Fizzled. And faded into the distance. Some collaborations never start as people politely decline because the fit-vibe-style-timing-idea wasn’t right.
So what have we learnt? Plenty. We are still learning. And, after hearing about a few not so rocking collaboration experiences from others... we truly believe successful collaborations are aren't always just about the product. It is about the people. And how they work together.
No brainer. Do you trust them? It’s not always easy to gauge whether or not you truly trust someone over email. Or Social Media. And if you haven’t already developed some kind of friendship either in real life or online life… our big tip. Ring –a-ding-ding-ring. Just pick up the phone. And call. We really believe you can tell a lot by having a chat. A real life conversation. Which most of us don’t do anymore. One collaboration partner I had, we called. We chatted. And now we chat almost every dang day. And we are not collaborating any more.
You can tell a lot about a person by their vibe. And if you don't know them... a little stalk of their social media can help. How they write. How they interact with others. What they post. Not many people can fake being nice. Like truly nice. Some do fake nice… but if you scroll through their feed and you either a) roll your eyes b) say ugggh c) laugh out loud and not in a good way d) all of the above… then they probably do not have the same vibe as you. Not really your style of peep. And that’s ok. Not everyone will be each other’s peeps. If you don’t dig their vibe. Pretty good chance you aren’t going to dig the collaboration either. Sigh.
Simple. Does your style work with your potential collar partners? Does your brand. Your product. If not. Then probably not your thing. We love colour. We are not big on pastels. We are not big on pretty girly pieces. We love them. We admire them. But it isn't our style. So we probably would not collaborate with businesses that have that style. Nothing personal. It just isn't what we do. And it isn't what we like to think we do best.
This one is touchy. And a tough one. But we hear about this a bit. If someone approaches you to do a collaboration 'just because' their competition is doing something same-same-but-different and they want to 'beat' them. Walk away Renee. Just walk away. Collaborations should be like everything in small business. No copy copy. Original. Or at least as original as you can be. We have politely said no in the past if we thought something was too close to what someone else is doing. Or is planning on doing. Copy copy. It's not how we role.
Money money money. It makes the world go round. And it breaks people. So arrange the split upfront. And put it in writing. No need to get all formal and get yo' lawyers all on board. Just a clear email outlining the split. And make sure you BOTH agree whole heartily. No one really likes to talk money. But you need to nut it out. And you need to stand your ground. And your worth.
A simple breakdown of how we have worked goes a little like this.
Small Business 1. Material Cost + Time (per hour dollar) = X.
Small Business 2. Material Cost + Time (per hour dollar) = Y.
Collaboration. X + Y + A bit of profit (lets face it we all want a little something something) = PARTY PARTY
Total Split. PARTY PARTY divided by 2 = CASH MONIES EACH
Of course you need to factor in postage. And if you are a super uber ex-account-manager-excel-spreadsheet-formula-nerd like us….. shit gets even more real. Apologies to all our past collaboration partners for our nerdy-noddy-no-friends spreadsheets. We heart excel. We really do.
Do not rush the process. Take your time. Work out the details. Work together. Make sure you love your product. That you would both have it proudly in your home. Or at least gift it to your nearest and dearest. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the collaboration process. Most of us in Small Business roll solo. So it is nice to work with someone. To bounce ideas off each other. And make sure the collaboration really works. Really looks great. And that you are both really proud to have your name against it.
Stand up for yourself. If they are ‘bigger’ or have more followers… do not think you are owed any less. Or worth any less.. If they want to work with you then they appreciate and value your work. Do not sell yourself short. Ever. No matter if they are ‘bigger’ they should treat you as an equal. Because you are.
It really is all in the details. When you release products on your own, if you are like us, you just roll with it and don’t always plan every detail. Fly by the seat of our-big-old-lady-stretchy-pants. But with collaborations, it is best to plan. And agree. On pretty much everything. That way, you both know who does what. Who posts. When to post. How you are going to sell it. Who’s shop. One shop. Both shops. How much. Who does what. When to promote. How to promote. When to launch. How to launch. And do this all upfront.
NOT FEELING IT.
Sometimes, you burst into a collaboration with huge amounts of enthusiasm. Amazing vision. Super pumped. And pee-your-pants excited. But once the ball starts rolling, things can change. Things can fizzle. Things can go ugh-erm-ah-dang-heck-balls. You may feel you are both going in different directions. Different styles. Different speeds. If you can't get it back on track, and you don’t agree on everything anymore... it is a-ok to pull the pin. Or at least let the other person know you just aren’t feeling it. Collaborations should be open. Honest. Kind. Real. And you should both be into it. Like really into it.
From experience, one of our collaborations went bat shit crazy busy. At one stage... we became overwhelmed with the amount of orders versus life. We felt we just could not pom quick enough. Thankfully we stopped. Took a breath. Regrouped. And enlisted Mr Perfect to get his pom on. Phew. We caught up. And rocked the socks out of the collaboration. It did teach us to be a little more prepared in the future. And to let our collaboration partner know when we need to cool the promotional jets while we play catch up.
If it does feel like it is too much work, tell your collaboration partner. And come up with a game plan. Whether it be limited numbers. Pre order. Pre make. Or even outsource components. Whatever it may be. Whatever works.
It is key. Yup. Keep it open. Keep it professional. Keep it kind. Keep it real. Just communicate. Always keep your collaboration partner in the loop. If you are the one taking the orders through your shop keep track. Let your partner know what is being ordered. If you are the one posting out the orders. Let your partner know when they have been posted. If you are falling behind. If you need to slow it down. Let your partner know. Check in daily. Or weekly. Whatever works for you. Just make sure you communicate. It is so important.
Know your strengths. And take stock of each others strengths. Admit to your flaws. Your shortcommings. The best part about collaborations can be that you get to combine all your talents to create something amazing.
We have OCD. We love lists. We love to be organised. We love colour. We love poms. So we believe they would be our strengths. But we cannot do bulk orders quickly. We cannot sew. We cannot cut wood. We cannot do the worm. We are terrible at keeping post office receipts. At writing down tracking numbers. And stocktake. We are shit. Like super shit. So we admit. They are not our strong points. And that’s ok. As long as you join forces, work with your strengths and holler for help if need be. All will be good.
Uh huh. All work and no play is no fun. So make sure you try and have some fun. Celebrate the big wins. Celebrate the small wins. Keep each other motivated. Keep each other pumped. Enjoy the ride.
We don’t always know who we are collaborating with. Sometimes you need to forget the gossip. The rumours. And just try and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. See if the vibe, the style, the idea works for you. If you don’t feel it. If it doesn’t sit right. Then that’s ok.
Always stand up for yourself.
Always believe you are good enough.
Never loose sight of what you are working towards.
Never loose your sense of self.
Always be kind. Courteous.
Some collaborations aren't raging successes money wise. Or sales wise. But they can create life-long-warm-fuzzy-happy-real friendships. And that's worth more than dollar dollar bills in our book.
We will totes stop. Collaborate. And listen... again x
PS We would love to hear your collaboration tales... AND holler for any advice or collaboration ideas. Eep x