"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Creative Collaborations

“Two heads are better than one.”

Creative collaborations can be a great way to expand your portfolio, increase your bottom line, and partner with someone whose artistic strengths complement your weaknesses. Whether it’s a graphic designer teaming up with a writer for the creation of a website, several authors coming together to pen an anthology, or a lyricist providing just the right words to complement a musician’s score--it can definitely be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

But much like a marriage, these alliances should be approached sensibly and with great caution. The wrong partnership can be as harmful to the creative process as Kryptonite to Superman!

This epiphany came to me after working with folks with whom there was the best of intentions initially, but very little compatibility in key areas.
I learned the hard way that what makes for a good personal union does not necessarily make for a good business relationship.

The price for these mismatches? Strained relations, frustration, and lost productivity.

So if you’re considering joining forces with someone for future business growth and better opportunities, take heed.

Here are ten ways to make your vision a reality and create a winning combination!

1. Get your project off to a good start by providing for the “right fit.” Don’t be fooled. Not everyone we like, or with whom we enjoy a friendship, makes a good business partner. Is he or she like-minded? Do you have a similar work ethic? Are your temperaments compatible? Choose wisely.

2. Not sure where to start? Get recommendations from people whose opinion you value—people in your creative circle or writers’ group.

3. Put in writing who will be responsible for what and when. The more parameters you have regarding roles, the better.

4. Make sure that your strengths and weaknesses are complementary and not conflicting.

5. Learn the art of compromise. Even in the best scenarios people disagree on how things should be handled. Be willing to see your partner’s perspective, and to find a happy medium.

6. Carry your weight. There’s nothing worse than working with a slacker. It can also be a detriment to future referrals.

7. Brainstorm individually and collectively. (Some of my best creative ideas actually come to me when I’m all alone in the solitude of a bubble bath, when my muse is not being pressured.) Your “genius” may come to you while working in your garden. Whatever works, work it!

8. Make sure that you and your partner not only have the same agenda, but also the same sense of urgency. In other words, if you are very deadline oriented and the other person has to wait for the “right mood” to move forward on things, it will cause tremendous stress, and potentially sabotage your collective success.

9. Remember to treat him/her with respect and as a valued professional. In too many scenarios, one person wants to act like a parent or supervisor. Let go your ego! “You are not the boss of me.”

10. Be each other’s cheerleader. It’ll keep you both motivated and bonded, and give you a sense of fun until you reach that finish line!

Keep in mind that not only can creative collaborations enhance your professional horizons, but many have actually resulted in romantic relationships, or long term friendships.
And certainly there's no better profit than that!

Thoughts? Have you ever collaborated on a creative project?

Note: This piece was originally published in Hope Clark's Funds for Writers. It also was included as a chapter in the book, "The Write Direction"-by Author Donna Goodrich.
Image Salvatore Vuono


  1. Excellent advice! This is timely; I am collaborating with a friend on a project as we speak. Matter of fact, I'm posting about it next Monday. :)

    All of these tips are important, and I think maybe my friend and I should review them more often, just to stay on track. My favorite is #9; my usual easy going self resists a bossy someone trying "to be the boss of me".

    Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. It's like you got into my head...:)

  2. Jennifer,

    Sorry to hear you had a not-so-great experience recently:( I had a similar experience recently as well, but I think my problem was that I did not follow tip # 3 (put in writing what each person is supposed to do). I didn't clearly tell the person with whom I was working exactly when her part was supposed to be done, and why. It led to lots and lots of stress for me!

    From now on, I'm going to be very conscientious about putting things in writing and being super specific.

    Good tips, as always!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. Several of these points resonated with me. Although I prefer to work alone as a general rule, I have had successful collaborations in the past primarily because those involved respected the necessity of compromise, and were diligent about carrying their own weight.

    And I will now dust off and put on my contract lawyer hat to comment on point #3: put EVERYTHING related to a collaboration in writing. A life-long friend will turn into a different human being when money and reputation are involved. People who rely on handshake agreements keep contract lawyers in business. So very sound advice!


  4. Karen,

    Thanks for your comment. I was tickled. :-) Good luck on future projects.

  5. Nihara,

    Thanks. Actually, this happened to me awhile ago. Sorry it had to happen to you at all. The important thing is that you learned a very valauble lesson. Move to the head of the class! :-)

  6. Janette,

    So very true! Right? Thanks for adding to the mix here. Enjoy your day.

  7. Great post and definitely something to keep in mind when deciding to collaborate with others.

  8. Jennifer Brown BanksJune 22, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    I appreciate the feedback, Cynthia. Thanks!

  9. Spot on, Jennifer.
    Successful collaborations are a case where the whole is greater than the sum off its parts. I'm still on the best of terms with my former partner after working as a writer/editor on 7 documentaries. Each of the "tips" you listed came into play-albeit in their own way and time.

    I found that aside from a commitment to professionalism-#9, and writing down some parameters-#3, the entire effort will, like a marriage, be a process of discovery where the project is placed no higher on the list of priorities than the collaboration itself, as the two will never be mutually exclusive but rather mutually dependent.

    When the process flows, so does the project and vise versa, and like a marriage, nothing repeat: NOTHING should be taken for granted.

    In that light I would only add: Don't expect your partner to be a mind reader. Speak what's on your mind(#9) and keep your relationship and your project moving forward as you discover how this "third dimension" to the creative process can help to improve both your writing and your relationships.

  10. Jennifer Brown BanksJune 23, 2011 at 4:43 PM


    Glad to have your very thoughtful input here, welcome. You make some fine points. Thanks for sharing them today.