Be the Perfect Partner, Find the Perfect Partner

By guest contributor Maddy Hauge. Photography by Jon Calleja.

The most important steps in starting any new collaborative venture is identifying what your role should be and which people need to be brought in to round out the team.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself:

What are my applicable strengths?
What unique talents do you bring to the table? This will help you understand what your role in the project should be. You may also need to pitch yourself to potential collaborators, if they're not already familiar with your work. Knowing your unique talents in advance will help you sell yourself and your idea.

What are my weaknesses?
It's not about being negative! No one can possibly excel at everything. Being honest about where you could use support will help you identify what your needs are in a partner.

What do I hope to gain out of this experience?
Do you want to network? Is there a skill you want to learn from an expert partner? Are you looking for publicity for your business or traffic for your blog? Answering this question helps you narrow down who are the best candidates for each collaborator position on your team. If you want more traffic and exposure, you'll want to work with a creative partner with more followers and an established name. If you're looking to learn from a new perspective or meet someone whose work you admire, those statistics aren't as important.

How much time do I really have to dedicate to this?
This question will help you determine your scope, as well as what you can actually accomplish. Time management can be difficult; believe me, I've been there. At one point I ran two blogs, an online magazine, and had a full-time job. Be realistic and underestimate your time. In doing so, you won't be stressed out the night before your launch or photo shoot. Wherever possible, I try to plan my scope so that I have everything done a week before my deadline. This gives me some fall back time, if absolutely necessary.

Once you have answered those questions, make a list of people who you think would work well for the project you're proposing. Compare their skills and abilities against what you know you're looking for. Write a completely unique email to each of your potential collaborators, outlining what the project is, what your goals are, and what you bring to the table. Include what you expect out of them and why you think they're a perfect fit for this role. Be sincere, be detailed, and be personal to the individual you are pitching to. No one likes an email that reads like a template.

Remember, once you decide to take on partners, you have to let go of some control. Sometimes this can be difficult. I certainly struggle with it. It's important to remind yourself that you're choosing the collaborators you are working with because you admire what they do. Feel free to give them guidance, but allow them to steer their own ships.