Collaboration – What the Word Really Means in Business

Collaboration is defined as : a cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties work jointly towards a common goal. Working with someone to produce something or achieve something together.

Within the creative industry, collaborations are a means of working together to create something bigger than one can do alone. It is something that benefits both parties, and is often used for growth and inspiration.

So why am I taking the time to define this term? Because this word is used all too loosely in business and I want to shed some light on the matter if I can.

Collaboration - What the Word Really Means in Business by Hannah Robinson

Collaboration Means Working Together

If you have a project in mind and want to collaborate with someone, ask yourself if it is something that you BOTH will get to work on together. Supplying yourself to observe or just give an idea while the other party does all the labor is not a collaboration. That is just you using someone for their services to benefit yourself, while thinking in your mind they get something out of it.

It Benefits Both Parties

Sometimes we get so hung up in the community over competition mentality. We forget to pay people what they deserve. The only way a collaboration can be deemed as such, is if BOTH parties are benefiting equally. Trading services that one another actually needs is a useful collaboration. Offering to give them a discount on something you sell won’t work. Exposure is not sufficient means for a collaboration either (unless you are Ellen or Oprah).

Practice or Portfolio doesn’t count

If the person you are approaching is not a complete noob, “for portfolio” or “practice” is not a collaboration. Really, it is just an excuse to get free work from them.  Most likely they are already talented and getting paid offers. Why should they spend their precious work hours giving you free stuff? They do not need to do free services for their portfolio, and they don’t need to practice. You need to pay them or offer something equal in value for a trade.

Propose and be professional

So what if you have sufficient means for a collaboration with another business owner? I would advise working up a proposal and being professional as you approach them. Too many people ignore generic messages about ‘collaborating’ because they aren’t actually collaborations (or they aren’t outlined). Don’t waste anyone’s time with a bunch of back and forth.

Take the time to outline exactly what you would like to offer and what you are hoping for in return. That way when you reach out, you can go straight into brainstorming.


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