Using Partnerships to Expand Your Reach

One way to broaden your marketing reach is to work with other freelancers to mutually market your work. In other words, you can create a more formal relationship than “I’ll send referrals your way if you send referrals mine.”

For example, maybe you and a colleague pitch a client a complete editorial package—you’ll do the developmental edit and your colleague will do the copyedit. A one-time project such as this doesn’t require much risk because you’re not committing your entire career or your entire business to the partnership.

But because they’re so simple, they tend to be casual and informal, which can lead to misunderstandings. Be certain that each partner’s duty on a project is carefully laid out and that all partners communicate regularly with each other.

More complex partnerships are business-oriented, not project-oriented. You and another person with similar or complementary skills decide to go into business together, or you decide to take someone into business with you. But be up front with yourself about how you want this to work. If you want someone to assist you in the business but you want to remain in control, you don’t really want a partnership, you just want a good employee (and there’s nothing wrong with that). Recognize what you want and what you’re willing to give up for it.

If you and another person intend to have equal say in the running of the partnership and/or if you both plan to be part owners of the business, you need to enter into a legal partnership agreement that specifies what each of you provides and what each of you receives. Be clear about this from the beginning to avoid problems later on.

If you’re considering a partnership, spend some time with the potential partner first. If the potential partner is a friend, be especially careful: is it worth losing the friend if the partnership doesn’t work out?

Arrangements should be carefully thought out beforehand. Who will be in control day-to-day? What if the partners disagree on the direction the company is taking? What if the personal circumstances of one partner changes and the partner can no longer (or no longer wants to) continue operating in the same capacity? Circumstances that can dramatically change the nature of a partnership include one of the partners divorcing, having a child, or becoming ill or injured. What will you do if something like this occurs? Have you considered how to dissolve, sell, or terminate the partnership?

Before entering into a legal partnership, try working on one project together to see how it goes. When you participate in this trial run, don’t remain on your best behavior. Try to see how you and your partner handle stress, division of responsibility, and deadlines. Although a lawyer can alert you to potential pitfalls in your plans, you should be the ones making the plans. The attorney should merely formalize the partnership agreement.

At the same time, examine your temperament and honestly assess your personality. Would you make a good partner? In a partnership, the risks and burdens are shared. But being scared that you can’t make it on your own is not a good enough reason to enter into a partnership. If you’re planning to enter a partnership, make sure you have the personality to make it work and that you’re partnering with someone else for the right reasons.

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