If you consider yourself a consultant, contractor, freelance, or anything similar, it’s so important to know that there is a ton of value in teaming up with other consultants – whether it be in different industries or the very same industry in which you work.
Although this may seem simple and obvious on the surface, I’ve found (at least in the beginning) to still have hesitation when it came to teaming up with other people who pretty much looked like my “competition.” It’s natural to feel this way. Why slice the pie more ways than you have to? The reality is, rarely if ever can one individual – even one business – take on 100% of the work of a complex project and serve the client to the highest level. This is why collaboration is key!
Teaming up with other consultations, contractors, freelancers, and any other title that essentially represents this group of professionals, is not only smart, it’s necessary. For projects that touch upon various areas of expertise, or simply require greater manpower than what you can provide solo, linking arms with a trusted vendor network provides power, intellect, experience, and creativity at an entirely new level.
And I can back up this claim from personal experience.
Here’s how I’ve significantly grown my business through collaboration – and taken on projects far beyond what I could have done solo, while still maintaining my sole proprietorship.
Get to know your competition.
How does that saying go? “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” That’s a bit extreme, because competition is not your enemy (in fact, I’ve found that it’s very much the opposite), but you understand where I’m going here. You may be intimidated by another person or business who appears to offer the same services you do, or targets the some customers you target. Ask them to meet over a cup of coffee! Then have a casual and friendly conversation where you can gain an understanding of their business model.
In my experience 100% of the time, their business model is not what I assumed – and it’s often largely different. I often walk away from such meetings not only with more knowledge, but with potential for a “power partnership” in the future when the right project should arise. Which leads me to…
Identify industries that could be “power partners.”
What industries or services best compliment your business? In my field of communications, this is often tech and graphic design. These areas of expertise are beyond my scope, so I heavily rely upon trusted vendors to fill in the gaps for my clients. I have been intentional about building up my network specifically in these fields which gives me numerous options for clients so I can best meet their needs, budget, and overall style.
Who could be your power partners? Again, on the surface you might feel like these individuals would be out to “eat your lunch” and swipe clients from you, but rarely have I seen that to be the case. There is more than enough work to go around and usually I find these fellow consultants and contractors to be in the same boat of looking for collaboration opportunities to offset their growing workload.
Next, make sure you make it easy and attractive for other professionals to send work your way. Say a business wants to hire you as a subcontractor to complete some work for one of their clients. If you charge the same or more than they charge that client, what’s their incentive to hire you? Consider offering a discounted rate for subcontracting/white labeling jobs, given you’ll benefit from this other business acting as the project manager between you and the client. I have come to really appreciate the additional work where I can produce content in a subcontractor role, with the buffer of a collaborating firm who streamlines the process. Efficiency produces a better bottom line me!
Be responsive and respectful.
This is an important one. If you want to receive a continuous pipeline of work from a collaborating firm, you need to prove you are both responsive and respectful. Make it easy to work with you! First, do great work. Second, work quickly and efficiently. Third, charge fair rates. Doing these three, simple things will quickly result in you becoming the go-to subcontractor for jobs.
As for the respectful piece, I hope this would be obvious, but don’t bite the hand that feeds you! Don’t try to steal work from the business that brought you on the job. Don’t try to convince a client to work with you directly, unless you’ve talked this through with your collaborating business. And don’t charge more than what is fair for your time and talents.
Return the favor as often as you can.
Finally, to be a true collaborator, you should look for opportunities to return the favor. When a project comes your way where you could really use the expertise from a vendor in your network – engage them! In some instances, the project may be small enough where it makes sense to keep everything in house. But don’t get greedy – rarely does this end well. I’ve come to learn that trying to do everything myself, especially things outside my direct skill set, results in a huge investment of my time and added stress. Like I said before, efficiency produces a better bottom line for everyone. Engage other professionals you know and trust, which allows you to flourish in the areas that most align with your talents.
I’d love to hear how you have collaborated with other people who serve similar industries to grow your business and better serve your clients. Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!