13 min read
You know that feeling you get when you’re toiling away on something all by yourself? Strange things happen when humans are isolated: you start to talk out loud to the dog, you take breaks way more often than you really need to, you do something hilarious and look around and no one’s laughing with you.
Even for us introverts, working alone can get really, well, lonely.
While you could certainly go the route of many business owners and partner up with someone long term, finding some short term partnerships can really have a big impact on your business, your overall happiness, and your bottom line.
But before you go diving into the deep ocean of partnership, we want to prepare you with your life raft of tools you need to stay afloat. Making a partnership work for you is key as you set sail – let’s unpack 12 of the best pieces of advice I can give you to go from solo to partner pro.
When it comes to starting something new, one of the ways we paralyze ourselves from taking action is thinking way too big up front. Partnerships are no different. If you’ve never partnered with another blogger before, it can be overwhelming to think about completely merging your businesses, what your URL will be, and how you divide up projects long term. So don’t!
When you start small with a single project, you’re setting yourself up for success. You get to test out partnerships in general, your project has a set start and end date so you don’t ever feel trapped, and you can easily work out specifics with the smaller scale of things.
You’re a rad photographer but you don’t love to write? Genius at email funnels but designing the landing page just makes you want to cry? This is where partnership is going to rock your socks off!
When Emylee and Abagail of Think Creative Collective first got together, they knew what each one was capable of. Their original partnership was focused on branding packages with Emylee’s strength as the photographer and Abagail’s as the web designer. As they mentioned on the Reach Podcast, they knew their talents early on and it made it easier to decide how they could work with one another.
“We fell into natural roles [working together]. Abagail’s strengths came out and I was able to delegate some of that stuff to her and the same for me. We started seeing pieces of the business fall to each other and we found that our conversations together about growing a business and our crazy dreams about what we wanted it to look like and what we wanted to do were the same.”
The right partner isn’t always about someone who compliments your talents. It can also look like someone who serves your audience in a way you can’t.
When Marie Forleo and Laura Belgray met years ago, they were both starting their own businesses – Marie was a life coach and Laura was a copywriter. Over the course of many hip hop classes, the two danced their way into a friendship. As both of their individual businesses grew, Marie even hired Laura to help her with the copy for her booming brand (now mostly focused on the popular B School).
Running B School has given Marie more feedback than she could have ever imagined she’d get on what troubles business owners the most. And one of those sticking points for Marie’s crew just happened to be something Laura was an expert at: How the heck do I write meaningful copy that converts???
The two friends partnered up to create The Copy Cure and launched it to great success. Taking Marie’s business growing prowess and Laura’s copywriting savvy, these partners built exactly what their audience needed, right when they needed it. Not only that, but you can just see how much fun they had creating this project together.
Marie and Laura are perfect partners for each other for many reasons, topping the list, however, is a long-standing relationship and mutually beneficial skill-sets.
When you’re looking for the perfect partner, consider how you’ll compliment that person’s best work, how long you’ve know them, if you’ve worked together before, and what you bring to the table that benefits them. Like any relationship, you want to find someone who is similar to you but just different enough to keep things interesting and enjoyable – for the two of you and the people around you.
When Alison Monday and Morgan Hines launched Little + Tiny, they didn’t shut down their individual businesses. Partnering up was a dream these two friends shared and their skillsets were complimentary to one another. Not only that, their individual clients were asking for the support that the other person provided and they often referred clients to each other.
For some business owners, it’s easy to see a powerful partnership as a way to stop doing that client work you don’t love or get the teamwork and camaraderie you’ve been seeking on a daily basis. And it becomes tempting to throw in the towel on your individual projects and go all in on those joint partnerships.
But that’s not always the best plan. Since you’re starting small (right??) it makes sense to keep your client work, your individual projects, and your own blog going throughout your partnership. Remember the saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? Consider yourself warned and keep up your main gig while you work on this side partnership.
Just like real life, when you’re partnering up with someone else it’s important to make sure your near and dear get introduced to your new beau.
You can go a few different routes to make your intros, and your choice will all depend on how you communicate best. You could:
….or any other creative way that would resonate with your audience. In fact, the more you show up together early on, the more your audiences will get to know your new partner and build trust with them. After all, in the wise words of Eminem:
“Trust is hard to come by. That's why my circle is small and tight.”
Even with small projects, you have to know you and your partner are on the same page with the vision. A few points to talk about up front might be:
Add in anything else you need to know before you feel comfortable diving in. After all, working with a partner means working closely together so you want to be clear you’re aligned on the vision up front.
Speaking of alignment, one of the biggest elephants in a partnership room is “how does the money stuff happen?” Now, we aren’t accountants or tax pros here so you’ll want to run your plan by your CPA or other money professional before solidifying things but you need to break the silence and talk money early (and often).
You’ll want to know who will accept payments, who will pay any subcontractors or other team members involved, when and how the money will be divided up, and how you will process refunds.
Oh, and keep it simple here to start. If this is your first partnership, try not to add in things like affiliate programs or commissions paid out to other people for promotional purposes. You can tackle these bigger money-related issues with your next launch together but, for now, stay focused on what matters most and get the answers you need to feel confident moving forward.
Working with someone else means dividing and conquering, and it’s a must to turn your product dream into a reality. Once you’ve identified your key contributions, taking true ownership of those tasks will help you get it done.
One way we do this at ConvertKit is by using Asana to track who’s doing what. Dani and I write most of what goes onto this blog and with Asana we can assign tasks to ourselves and one another, add due dates, and make notes of what we need to accomplish.
Of course, there are a ton of ways to stay organized with your projects but taking ownership of your tasks and staying on target is crucial no matter which method or tool you use to get there.
As a blogger, you likely already know how crucial it is to stay flexible. In the fast-paced online world, you truly can’t ever say “never”.
Staying in communication with your new partner will help you be flexible more quickly too. You might present an idea for the project that your partner doesn’t fall in love with, or you might start on something you’re excited about and realize it’s just not a good fit this time around.
Don’t sweat it! Build an “idea parking lot” (we use a project in Asana for ours) and make sure your genius ideas have a home to go to so they don’t run away. If something has to change or be set aside on this project, it doesn’t mean it’s not right for a future one! Jot it down, let it be, and move forward.
Your audience(s) will tell you what they want, both from you as individuals and from you as a team. Listening for feedback can happen in two places: in what you create in your partnerships (for future iterations) and in what you’ve yet to create so you don’t spin your wheels trying things that don’t work.
Josh and Jill Stanton of Screw The Nine to Five know this all too well. As they shared on the Reach Podcast:
“We created a course about a subject that we thought was really important for us and growing our business. It turns out because we didn’t ask people what they wanted specifically, we wound up spending three or four months creating this product and we put it out there. We only had a small email list of like 500 people, but it didn’t go very well. We sold zero.
At that point we took a look at things. We were like, ‘Okay, maybe in the future we shouldn’t spend three or four months creating a product before we decided to sell it,’ and so we started looking into ways of maybe solving that problem. I think one of the best ways of initially determining if a product is going to sell is to pre-sell that product.
If you can outline what that product looks like before you go ahead and start recording videos and creating documents and all that kind of stuff, then as soon as you pre-sell it and you see you get a pretty good response rate from it, then you can go ahead and start creating and launching it. That was a pretty big lesson for us to learn as far as creating a product goes.”
Listening to your audiences can give you great insight. With partnerships (or any project for that matter) be prepared for (and seek out) feedback before getting too far into your project.
Neighboring companies Hubspot and Wistia (both local to the Boston area) partnered up to offer a social media focused week to their customers. It worked well since their audiences overlap and Hubspot customers could take advantage of Wistia and vice versa.
Now, being physical neighbors is not required for in person planning. We officially live in the future and you can be “in person” with someone on the other side of the globe in seconds with video technology like Skype, Zoom, and more.
So get creative! Setup calls to hang out while you brainstorm ideas, travel to each other’s towns to record videos together, or even meet up at a conference and spend an extra day on your project.
No matter how you do it, planning in person quickly turns ideas into reality and gets you the momentum you need to get you to launch day.
Sounds easy enough, right? Not necessarily! While it seems logical that you would have fun partnering up with someone in your Mutual Admiration Society, if you don’t have all of the other parts and pieces mentioned here it can be less than fun in the long run. So find the right partner, know your vision, clear up the money stuff, and stay flexible. When you do that, the fun comes easily!
Partnering up with someone else can be a fun way to shake things up in your business. And, who knows, it just may turn into your very own Happily Ever After.
Have you dreamed of partnering up with someone else? Share this article with them and pitch your idea with a quick sentence or two. Invite them to hop on Skype with you and talk it out if they’re interested. It’s time to make your partnership goals a reality!