One of the most important lessons I have learned from professional mentors is the power of collaboration. As I gained experience in my 20’s, my wiser colleagues would emphasize the importance of bringing together experts to make a product stronger and more valuable. We live in the age of Google, where it is easy to take a shortcut and just figure something out on our own. However, I would suggest that there is immeasurable value in seeking out other people’s expertise and putting their knowledge to use.
When I first ventured from the government world to freelancing, I was eager. I thought I had to say yes to everything that came my way in order to be successful. Thankfully, through organizations like Hatch Tribe, I’ve learned that you don’t have to do it all and be it all- you just need to be good at the services you offer and stay focused on your mission.
Now, as a business owner, I realize the beauty of bringing together experts and the value in seeking out their unique talents and perspectives. My business would not be successful if I didn’t partner with other experts who can compliment a project and help bring it to fruition.
As a communication strategist, part of my job is to bring the right team of experts together for a client. Communications is a broad field, and every niche is important. Photography, graphic design, content development, social media execution, SEO, the list is endless. With so many specialities, it can be difficult to know what to tackle and what to outsource. So I go with my gut. What drives me is strategy for a client’s brand, so I focus on that while I bring in others to help with the visual side of storytelling. These experiences have led me to 5 key takeaways that any business owner can benefit from when collaborating with others.
1. Stronger Results
I have found that as I collaborate with others on a project, it changes. The end product is stronger, better and inspires action. The beauty of collaboration is that it doesn’t negatively impact my business, it has empowered me and the experts I work with. When I bring in someone with more experience on graphic design, the pie doesn’t get smaller- it gets bigger. The client is impressed with the end result and those of us who teamed up on a project are better for it.
Partnerships allow a business to price appropriately so that you do not feel the pressure to undervalue your services. When you are able to offer a prospective client more, you can charge accordingly. Collaboration should be a positive investment for your bottom line as you are able to offer a more professional product that is worth your asking price.
2. Creating a Niche While Empowering Others
Expanding opportunities for others creates a niche for yourself. When working on projects, I get to do the part that I love and focus my resources on what I am passionate about while simultaneously helping others grow their business. They get to show off their passions and talents, too.
Collaboration is empowering others to be successful, while elevating your influence. This in turn creates a powerful network of credible individuals who you can trust to bring you in on potential projects and introduce you to prospective clients. For small businesses, the majority of new clients come through word-of-mouth referrals. There is no stronger referral than someone with whom you’ve partnered and helped to grow their business.
3. Facing Weaknesses and Perfecting Strengths
Getting to this point in my business has been a process of refinement. I had to face my weaknesses and take risks, but, as a result, I am more successful because I can deliver a stronger product that increases a client’s return on investment. Ultimately, knowing my weaknesses has given me the power to fuel my passion for communication and learn from experts who have been gifted with a specific skill set.
I have more time for business development and industry research, as I am not spending my time trying to take a crash course on Google on a skill set that I wasn’t trained in. As I focus on what I can deliver and draw from the strengths of others, we all grow and become better experts in our field.
4. Diversity of Thought
Viewing a project through multiple lenses is vital in the communication world. Collaborating with others allows one to truly understand different perspectives and think through how a certain message or brand would be perceived by others. You can and should create buyer personas to test content, visuals and messaging, but working with a team of experts automatically strengthens the editing process and delivers the strongest possible product to a client.
Living in a global economy, diversity of thought is vitally important. When you have partners to talk through a project with, you are automatically filtering it through another perspective which only serves to make the end result that much stronger, all while avoiding potential crisis communication scenarios.
5. Staying Focused on Your Mission
In the end, it is important to remember that you became an entrepreneur because of the unique passion that drives you. Your mission should always be at the forefront and when you collaborate with other experts in their fields, you are doing yourself, and them, a service.
Taking a risk is nothing new- you have already taken the biggest risk when you made the decision to go out on your own. Developing strategic partnerships and collaborating with others may sound like a risk, especially if your business is new, but it is well worth the long-term investment and honors the reason why you stepped out of the status quo and into the life of an entrepreneur.
Stefani Drake is the Lead Strategist + Founder of Drake Strategies. Stefani has over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with domestic + international nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog.