15 Questions to Ask Before Collaborating

In today’s competitive freelancing market, collaboration between freelancers is becoming increasingly common.

Collaboration has some clear benefits for a freelancer:

  • It provides you with an expanded skillset and additional ideas, both of which can lead to a superior end result.
  • Collaboration can help you take on projects that you would not otherwise have the time (or ability to do) to do otherwise.
  • Collaboration introduces your work to a broader range of potential customers.

These potential benefits can make freelance collaboration sound really appealing, and many freelance collaborators do have a good experience. However, it pays to be cautious before jumping into collaborating with another freelancer. In this post, I’ll list some questions that you should consider before you collaborate.

5 Questions About Your Collaborator

The first set of questions are designed to help you learn more about your freelance collaborator. Working with the right collaborator can mean a successful project, but working with the wrong person can be a disaster.

Here are the questions to consider about your collaborator.

  1. What sort of reputation does your collaborator have? If your collaborator has a bad or shady reputation, it’s possible that reputation could become attached to your own reputation if you agree to work together.
  2. What type of work values does your collaborator have? This question goes beyond reputation to look at work values. Some freelancers have a more formal working style (status reports, meetings, etc.), while others like to fly by the seat of their pants. Is your working style compatible with the collaborator’s style?
  3. Do you trust your collaborator? Another huge, but important question. If you are collaborating with someone you don’t trust (or don’t know well enough to trust), you could wind up responsible for handling the whole project by yourself.
  4. How available is your collaborator? Will he or she be available to brainstorm with and make decisions with in a timely fashion? Remember, some freelancers prefer to work “regular” hours while others may only work in the wee hours of the night. Time zone differences may also cause problems.
  5. Have either of you ever collaborated on a project before (together, or with someone else)? If this is a first-time collaboration for both of you, be sure to allow some extra time as you work through those unexpected issues that are bound to come up any time you try something new.

Now that you’ve learned more about your collaborator, you should consider the project itself.

5 Questions About Your Project

The second set of questions are about the project itself. Here they are:

  1. Does this project really benefit from having more than one freelancer working on it? Let’s face it. Some projects don’t need two people working on them and adding an extra person just slows the project down. Is this one of those projects?
  2. Who will be responsible for which tasks? Be sure to come to an agreement with your collaborator about this before you start to work on the project.
  3. Is the project due in phases, or all at once? It’s fairly common for a collaborated project to be delivered in phases, but don’t make this assumption. Ask the client and make sure that your fellow collaborator has the same understanding.
  4. Who will receive actual credit for the work? Do you expect to use this project in your portfolio? Does your collaborator also expect to use the project in their portfolio? (This question is somewhat related to question number one in the section below…)
  5. Are you comfortable with the project? Sometimes freelancers involved in a collaboration can get carried away and take on a project that they would not otherwise be comfortable with. Make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.

Now that you’ve given careful thought to your freelancing collaborator and the project that you intend to collaborate on, it’s time to take a look at your client.

5 Questions About Your Client

This section is designed to help you to take a closer look at the client for your collaborated project. (It also includes some payment issues that can arise.)

Here are the questions:

  1. Does the client know that a collaboration is taking place? Sometimes what is called a collaboration is actually one freelancer acting as a subcontractor for another.
  2. Can you contact the client directly, or must contact go through your fellow freelancer? Again, if the client doesn’t know two freelancers are working on the project you will not be able to contact them directly. (Although, there are situations where the client knows that the project is a collaboration, but chooses to work only with a single member of the team as a contact point.)
  3. Who will deliver the project to the client? Believe it or not, I’ve seen instances where this was not discussed and both freelancers assumed that the other one would take care of the delivery to the client.
  4. Will the client pay each of you separately, or will one of you be responsible for paying the other? For convenience’s sake, sometimes a client prefers to pay one person instead of two. (Your team should ask for a percentage of the project payment in advance and the advance payment should be divided between the two of you.)
  5. Is this a new client for both of you, or an existing client for one of you? If you are working with an existing client for one member of the team, that member may have some doubts about sharing “their client” with another freelancer. Discuss this in advance.

The Key About Collaboration

The real key to a successful collaboration is to make sure that both parties have a clear understanding of the project and of their individual responsibilities.

For a collaborated project, you may find it helpful to create two contracts–one for the client and one for your collaborator. Even if you don’t use a contract with your freelancing collaborator, make sure to get the understanding between you in writing (email will work). It’s just too easy to forget conversations.

Your Turn

Have you ever collaborated on a freelancing project? How did it go?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by Kate Ter Haar