Collaboration is working with others to achieve your goals. It means that we can expand, think bigger and achieve more.
As small business owners, we are often encouraged to niche and specialise but that can make it hard to take work of a wider scope. Collaborating, therefore, can mean being more agile, taking on bigger projects, reaching a wider audience and involving experts that specialise in different aspects of a job.
Clients may expect, or prefer, one point of contact for a project. Saying no to work might mean you lose out on work now, but also potentially in the future if they don’t think you will have time, they might not come back. They may even let others know you weren’t able to help and so put them off as well.
It can mean having to do it all yourself when perhaps you only enjoy one aspect or aren’t so good at other elements of the work. Doing it all may mean some of the general work that takes time but doesn’t necessarily have to be done by you or it might involve a skill that isn’t your area of expertise.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Henry Ford
Who can you work with for mutual benefit?
If you have too much to do, you could delegate/outsource or you could create a virtual partnership or team, to carry out the work together. If you have a virtual team of collaborators, then you can take on more work and grow your business.
Think about the work you do: the areas of overlap with other businesses, such as a copywriter and a web designer; elements within an area of expertise, such as a social media expert and a more generalist marketing consultant; or identify the companies that compliment your business such as an events planner and a caterer.
Find your experts
As a virtual assistant, I have collaborated in the past with HR, Graphic Designers and Recruitment specialists.
Make connections with people you can work with. Find companies that provide a similar, or complementary, product/service to you. Then, when you are asked for something you don’t provide you can collaborate. You don’t have to turn work away and you may have an arrangement that means you still benefit from the job.
Decide who needs to be involved in the project so that you can plan what needs to be done and manage the different elements to achieve your desired outcome. You are building a virtual team of experts but it’s still your brand and your reputation, so choose wisely.
Collaboration, not competition
Achieve more by bringing different skills to the table
Benefits of collaborating
- A sounding board – to bounce ideas and problem solve with others who may have different input/perspectives
- Learn from others – working with experts in areas that differ from your skillset, will get you a better understanding of their skills
- Get rid of the things you don’t like/can’t do – collaborating means that you can find others who want to do the things you don’t like or struggle to do. We can’t all like the same things!
- Efficiency – work can be completed faster if there are more people involved, especially when those people are experts at what they do.
- A wider audience – with a virtual team or partnerships you can reach a wider audience and grow your business.
- Growth without staff – other companies and freelancers can be part of your team so you don’t have to employ staff, if you don’t choose to.
Things to consider
Ideally, you want someone who you share ideals, working practice and motivation with, though if it only for small one-off pieces of work this is not so much of a consideration
If you work successfully together you will build rapport and trust, which will make it more likely you will want to work together in the future. Make sure you put as much effort into collaborative work as solo work, it is still your reputation.
Agree on the work at the start so that you are all aware of the roles, requirements and timescales etc. It is a good idea to draw up a contract to get in writing each person’s commitment and responsibilities. Remember, they will have other priorities, as will you. Keeping on the same page will be important.
it’s worth considering what might go wrong so you can make back-up plans or put into place some workarounds. If you have identified a potential risk, you’ll be better prepared to prevent it from having a negative impact.
Communication is key
You have your plan, so you know what needs to be done, by whom and in what timescales. But have you reached those goals or has something happened? Are you delayed, waiting on the client for something that is going to have an impact on your partner/the rest of the team?
Keep in touch with both the team and the client so everyone knows what’s going on.
Tools that may help
Meeting in person is a good idea as it can be a much more effective way of building relationships. However, if you aren’t moving into the same office there are some apps that may be useful to help you keep on track.
Here are some tools that you can use so you can keep in touch with your team
Microsoft Office Teams https://teams.microsoft.com/start
‘Collaboration allows us to know more than we are capable of knowing ourselves.’ Paul Solarz
Teams I’m on
I consider myself to be a part of all of my client’s teams, providing them with services that they don’t have skills or time for. I think they would agree! https://www.3dva.co.uk/endorsements/ I’m also on the teams of those I work with to provide results for the end client.
If you are interested in working together, get in touch. I am particularly looking to work with graphic designers, HR consultants, Trainers and business coaches.