The magic of collaboration

If the idea of working jointly on a project or activity incites hellish flashbacks of uni group projects, stick with me. Collaboration is not a dirty word. Done right, it can open up some pretty awesome opportunities, bring new people and ideas into your world and play an integral part in the future success of your business. Whether you’re a product or service-based business, you can form connections with others, and grow your business by investing in and collaborating with these connections.

One of the best things about running my own business is the opportunity to collaborate with other people. I may work for myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss interaction in the workplace. So, now I simply create it. Through collaborating with others, I can experience a feeling of connectedness. Starting out in a brand new industry in my mid 30s, I found myself totally out of the networks and loops that I had built up over 12 years in the education sector. My career had changed, but so too had the nature of networking.

Here’s why you should consider collaboration for your small business.

For inspiration:

It’s easy to get stuck doing things a particular way. Need a new perspective? Online tools and blogs can inspire you, sure, but try human connection for the ability to discuss, share and communicate inspiration and information. Who knows? You may end up with a fresh technique, tool or new content idea. Someone to bounce ideas off can trigger creativity, and also provide an objective point of view.

To grow your network:

Nothing terrified me more than networking when I started working for myself. Going along to my first networking event felt like a torturous first day at school. Each time I approach new people, my stomach does a little flip, but I do it anyway. I didn’t leave my last career with a huge list of contacts or clients. I’ve built them up from scratch. And I truly believe in the power of human connection. So, if I don’t continue to put myself out there, chatting about why I believe in my business, how can I expect it to grow? An added bonus, of course, is that I’ve met such wonderful people whose services and products I can access. The reality of being in business is that you need to consistently make connections, to encourage referrals and new work. Every time you reach out to someone, you are expanding your network, whether or not it results in collaboration.

To learn:

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I’m driven by a desire for lifelong learning. I actually hanker for it. While sometimes the breadth of what I don’t know seems overwhelming, it’s also very motivational. Collaboration brings with it the opportunity to learn from someone with a different skill set, strengths and perspective.

To problem-solve:

There is definitely power in numbers, in terms of accomplishing something or solving a problem.

Here are some of my favourite collaborations to date:

Creative Darebin Networking Breakfasts - a weekly breakfast for creatives in my hood ticks all the boxes. Casual conversation over coffee with like-minded types? Yes, please.

She Will Shine Women’s Business Network - a totally unstuffy, supportive and inspiring girl gang offering networking nights, power groups, dinners and the rest!

Hood Mama Edit - a slick photo shoot collaboration masterminded by Holly at Motherhood Melbourne and shot by legend behind the lens, Jess Worrall.

Guest blogs on other sites (psst...did you catch me on Seriously Milestones last night?) and interviews with people I admire, like my chat with author Emily Brewin.

Opportunities that have come my way only because I had the courage to reach out. I’ve had some of my freelance articles published and generated new copywriting work this way.

So, what should I consider first?

Before you reach out, think carefully about who to partner with and why. Do your goals and values align? Do you have the same target audience? What can you each bring to the table? How will the collaboration idea work? On a practical level, you can use your combined leverage to connect with more people and spread your message. Social media campaigns don’t need heaps of money or followers, but they do need a genuinely engaged following to be successful. Other ideas are to feature one another, such as by guest blogging or promoting each other’s services. Photo shoots can work too. For the Hood Mama Edit, bloggers and writers wore the products supplied, then created content. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with your ‘so-called’ competitors either. There’s power in numbers, and clearly common interests. The question may be, why wouldn’t you?

How do I get started?

I’d encourage you to begin online, via Facebook groups or networking sites. I love connecting with fellow freelancers and copywriters this way. Search your local area for IRL networking options too, or chat to your friends. They may know someone they can put you in touch with. You don’t need to meet in person if that’s too tricky. There’s always Skype for chats, Google Drive for doc sharing and Trello for project management. Keep it easy! Just enjoy the process.

What collaborations have you been a part of? Let me know. Or if you've got a great idea about how we could work together, let's chat!

 

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What I’ve learnt in my first year in business

That first year in business. Would we still do it if we knew how hard it would actually be? The fact that you’re really ‘on’ 24/7, making very little money and frantically upskilling well outside your comfort zone? I would. Because, as tough as the first year has been in many ways, I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Here are 11 important things I have learnt over this past year working as a freelance copywriter.

1. Mindset matters

Your mindset and attitude go a long way to ensuring you can go the distance! Things like goal setting, staying focused and thinking positively really do make a difference. I nourished myself with exercise and yoga, fuelled my passion for learning by listening to podcasts and reading, and networked with like-minded people. Importantly too, I spent time with my family and friends who centred me.

2. A network works

Having a powerful network around you is essential, including family, friends and professionals. Nurture these relationships. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone when it comes to professional networking (even if, like me, the idea terrifies you). I hunted around to find a business networking group that felt like the ‘right fit’, sought out like-minded types on social media and learnt to talk about myself and my skillset.

3. You have value

It is important to charge what you’re worth, perhaps not in the earliest of days, but once you become more established. Some small business owners are dead-against offering mates’ rates or freebies, but I’m open to it in the right context. It can be a good way to build up your client base and gather testimonials. Just make sure you have the time for it or you’ll find yourself resenting it. You might not always make the ‘right’ decision around this - I certainly didn’t - but it’s all part of the learning process. Always ask for testimonials too. They are gold! Let your happy clients do the spruiking for you!

4. Don’t wait

Stop waiting around for the perfect moment to start - it’s not coming. The time is now.

5. Trust your gut

Don’t waste valuable time over-thinking everything. Of course you’ll be winging it at times, especially in those early days. Be kind to yourself and trust that you’ll make the best decision you can in the moment. Just a note to trust your gut (especially when it comes to more difficult clients). Nine times out of ten, you're probably right.

6. Understand your client

In the beginning, it can be tempting to want everyone as your client. Unfortunately, this broad approach may mean you end up pleasing no-one. Try to understand your ideal client or customer by getting into their head (find ‘types’ of your client on social media and stalk away!) and figuring out how you can solve their problem.  

7. Social strategy

Social media marketing is important (engagement over ‘likes’), but it is just one piece of the pie. Spend time focusing on your website, network, write great content (and have the SEO gods smile upon you) and email any potential clients to reach out. I’m personally not on every social platform and I don’t always work with a particular ‘strategy’ in mind when I post. But I’m always 100% me.

8. Good things take time

There will be days where you feel like you’re winning and other days you almost throw the towel in. Take time to acknowledge the wins, however small.

9. Say no to 24/7

It can be so tempting to work all the time, but make sure you carve out time to rest, have a break and fill your cup. You’ll become a better business owner for it. Promise.

10. Systems and processes

Putting systems and processes in place will save you time in the long run. I certainly didn’t factor in that I’d be learning accounting software, or how to create graphics, or a newsletter template. If it’s just you, you kinda need to take it on. Occasionally I will outsource, if the task is way beyond the scope of what I can do, and that’s been great too.

11. You will change

This small business journey will alter you. There will be so many new people in your world, and you yourself will grow. Embrace the changes and all of those people who choose to walk beside you.

As I prepare for my second year of freelance life, I can't wait to see what learnings lie ahead.

Want to be a part of this journey? I'd love to work some word magic with you. Say hello!

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