While this largely happens on a blogger to reader level – in the last year or so a few of these relationships have progressed to the point where I’ve actually entered into partnerships on certain projects with other bloggers. Most prominent of these is b5media, a collaboration with Jeremy, Shai and Duncan at a partnership level. Similarly SixFigureBlogging has been a working partnership with Andy.
I’ve been particularly fortunate with these partnerships – they have (to this point) been fun, easy going and productive with no real personality issues (unless they are not telling me something). This is all the more odd because I’m yet to meet any of these partners!
I’m a big believer in collaboration as bloggers (or blogging in formation) but have written very little about how to make the decision of who to work with.
While there are definate benefits of working with other bloggers – there can also be real risks, especially when you’re considering working with people you’ve never met! I’m aware of a couple of pretty tragic situations where blogging partnerships have gone sour and the consequences were not pretty. So how should one make the decision?
Here are 10 questions that I’d be pondering before entering into working too deeply with any other bloggers:
1. How long have they been blogging? – While I don’t want to be a blog snob and say that only long term bloggers have potential as partners – I would say that longevity in blogging is a good indicator. Most blog partnerships will be long term and I’d want to see some evidence of the person having stuck to something (even if it’s not blogging related) long term before. There are many people that blow in and out of blogging with lofty ideas – but many of them just don’t have stick-ability. Longevity of blogging should also bring a few web smarts with it which will be handy.
2. What have they done before? How has it gone? - Similarly, take a look at their previous and current projects and ask yourself if it’s the type of work that you’d be satisfied with. Do they have an attention to detail? Do they have talent? Can they communicate well? What skills do they have?
3. Are they consistent? – The more I think about this one the more vital I think it is. People have a way of being on their best behavior when they need to – but over time their true colors generally shine through. If they have a blog, surf through their archives and see what they’ve written previously. Of course all of us probably have something in our archives that we wrote on a bad hair day – but over time have they been consistent not only with the frequency of their writing (which can say something about their commitment levels) but also in the tone and focus of their writing?
4. Do they follow through on what they say? – ‘I’m Going too ((insert idea here))… ‘. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone pitched me an idea by telling me what they are ‘going to do’ in the future. It’s easy to make claims about what you will do – but perhaps a better indicator of whether someone is worth working with is to see what they are actually doing about their dreams. I’ve been pitched a few ideas in the past few months by bloggers who I’ve suspected thought up the idea minutes before IM’ing me. My usual response is to send them away to do a bit more work on the idea, or to go start it and then to come talk to me. In doing this I find out who is a ‘gunna do it’ type person and who is a ‘did it’ type person. Big dreams are great – but they don’t just eventuate without work.
5. What do others say about them? - I read The Wisdom of Crowds (aff) a few months back and think there is definitely some applications/illustrations of the main point of the book in the blogosphere – this is one of them. You can often get a good picture of what someone is like by seeing what others think. You can do this directly by approaching their previous partners, or other bloggers who know them, or simply by Googling them to find what comes out in the SE. Of course you’ll want to respect privacy and not get too stalker-like – but at least on some level see what other people have experienced of the person you’re considering working with.
6. What are their skills? – I’m very aware of the areas that I am lacking in as a blogger and seem to seek out and connect with those who have these skills. It makes sense to collaborate with people who will complement your strengths and weaknesses rather than people who duplicate them.
7. Do they have time? – Entrepreneurial blogging types are notorious for coming up with many more ideas than they have time to carry out. Ask a prospective partner what else they are working on and how much time it takes. I’m saying this because I’m too busy myself and I ask it of myself before each new project (as a result I’ve not launched new things for a while).
8. Do you have a relationship with them already? – This is probably the ultimate question that I ask. It’s not that I don’t think strangers might be good to work with – it’s just that I’d rather a partnership to grow out of relationship. If someone pitches me an idea out of the blue I almost always say no simply because I want to know something of the character of the person before making that type of commitment. On the few times that I haven’t said no I’ve only moved forward very slowly (more on this below).
9. Do you know others who know them? – There is something very powerful about networks of people who are interconnected. I’d much rather work with someone who has connections with others that I know simply because I feel there is a little more accountability in those type of relationships because of the wider community of relationships that we have. I know that if Andy does something bad by me in our partnership that it will have potential repercussions for him because we have other mutual friends in the wider blogosphere (and it goes both ways). If these mutual relationships did not exist the accountability levels might be lowered.
10. What does your Gut say? – I’m a big believer in following your instincts and intuition. I’ve had a few occasions in the last year where all the above questions seemed to line up with very positive answers. Logic said that things should have worked out – however something inside me had warning bells ringing. On each occasion I let the opportunity pass. Listen to your heart (isn’t that a song?).
Two final pieces of Advice:
Get Verbal - While I like the written word for communication (IM or email) there is something about actually speaking (verbally) with a person that adds a new dimension to a relationship. I’ve seen this on many occasions – you really get to see (or hear) a different side of a person when you do it. Even better is face to face meetings in real life.
Take it slow – Good partnerships grow out of relationships and good relationships take time.
While I know it’s tempting to rush into business with people when you first meet them, this can be a recipe for disaster. I’d advise that if you do want to move ahead with a partnership that you break it down into smaller parts or projects and take them one at a time.
Start with a small one to see how you both go, to see how you get along and to learn how to work with one another. Then as you finish the smaller things you might want to ramp it up and take on some bigger things together. Out of this process comes trust, respect, communication skills and an understanding of how you work together – all things that will lead to a fruitful partnership in the future.