7 Mistakes To Avoid When Pitching Creative Collaborations
Children should never talk to strangers with candy in minivans, but creatives in the digital world should certainly consider breaking the ice with like-minded peers. The power of attraction is real, and we have more opportunities than ever to establish new relations with people who share common interests, aspirations, or niches.
Someone could see fit to introduce you to someone you share commonalities with. It can happen naturally, via conversations on social media. A more proactive, formalized approach can come through a well constructed email. If you’re still unsure about how to break the ice, this article is for you. If your initial inquiries seem to get outright ignored, this also might be a good read. Shooters shoot, but snipers hit targets. Let's get into it.
Read on to learn about how to avoid 7 common mistakes that should be avoided when pitching creative collaborations.
1. Lack of specificity.
Before you start typing away, get crystal clear about the goal of your outreach. "I want to work with ___" is nowhere near specific enough. What kind of work, what level of involvement, for how long, and across which platforms? Think about the questions the person you're contacting might have about your request, and answer them up front.
Do you want to set up a phone call to learn more about what someone is doing? Say that. Do you want to gauge interest in a potential collaborative project? Say that. Avoid using “would love to work with you,” “let’s connect further,” and all forms of the phrase “let’s build” as the conclusive ask upon which your request hinges. Lack of specificity muddies the waters and makes it much easier for a busy person to skim an email, ignore it, and move on with their life. Asking for one specific thing that’s easy to say “yes” or “no” to will make a reply more convenient, and subsequently more likely.
2. Poorly researched inquiries.
Nothing says “this isn’t worth my time” like someone who reaches out to ask you for something that no one who's well researched would think you're in a position to give. Here's a real life example. I decided to put my music discovery platform, Artistic Manifesto on hiatus back in February. Publicists and artist managers are still e-mailing me about posting their clients on Artistic Manifesto today. It's been four months since I stopped blogging about music. At this point, it's quite clear that anyone who is *still* asking me about a blog post doesn't know much about me or what I'm doing. If they barely took the time to look into what I do, what are the odds that they're worth my time?
People who have a good sense of time management aren’t going to be inclined to respond when a request feels generic or misaligned. We all have to make tons of conscious and subconscious decisions in regards to how we budget our time and energy on a daily basis. Check personal websites, browse social media feeds, and ensure that you're up to date. The diligence goes a long way when attempting to establish rapport with someone who has limited time and no idea who you are. Even if you still end up getting a "no," the effort that you put forth may help you make a strong impression - which can help if you choose to reach out again in the future.
3. Lack of context about why you’re a qualified collaborator.
The person doing the reaching out carries the onus of providing sufficient context to sell the person they’re contacting on their value as a collaborative partner. If you’re reaching out, you likely know enough about the person you’re contacting to contextualize WHY you want to work with them. You don't want to just work with anybody, so they must fulfill some sort of criteria to make the e-mail correspondence worth your time. If this is false, re-read point #2 of this article. If this is true, consider that they likely know less about you and your expertise than you know about theirs.
It’s best to craft communication with this assumption in mind, even if there’s a chance that it might not be true. Feel free to include details such as why you like their work, experience that equips you to execute, and steps you've already put into place to make things happen. Make it clear that you didn't just roll over and decide to make a website last week. You have criteria for collaborative partners. So do they. Do your best to demonstrate that you could be a good fit.
4. Calling it a “business collaboration” when you really just want a favor.
It’s not inherently wrong to ask people for favors. They have the right to say “yes” or “no,” but it can’t hurt to ask. They'll know that what you're asking for doesn't come with a huge payout in the immediate future, but they'll be positioned to consider your request because you made that clear from the beginning. When you try to frame a favor as a mutually beneficial business partnership, it’s easy to interpret your correspondence as misleading, manipulative, or even disrespectful.
You might feel strange asking a stranger for a favor, but it's far more beneficial to improve the value of what you're proposing than to improve the way you label the offer in question. Always call a spade a spade. People will respect you for it.
5. Over-selling yourself and your accomplishments.
You need to communicate your expertise and the value of your idea. You don’t need to give somebody a comprehensive rundown of your entire professional career, every project you've ever had association with, and all of the lyrics to Twista's verse on "Slow Jamz" in an introductory email. Trying too hard to make yourself seem relevant feels desperate and unfocused. Nobody has time to read five paragraph essay emails from strangers.
Focus on communicating the precise ways in which you’re qualified to work on the project that you’re pitching. Include salient details that can start conversation, grab someone's attention, and communicate value. Think about how to sell yourself to someone who has too many e-mails in their inbox and not enough time to respond to them all. Get to the point. Make it short and sweet.
"Always call a spade a spade. People will respect you for it."
6. Failing to communicate tangible, sufficient benefits for the person you’re pitching.
Put yourself in the position of the person you’re about to reach out to. Think about your correspondence from their perspective. If you’re looking to orchestrate a creative bartering situation of some sort, offer as much or more value than what you’re asking for. Pique their interest. Propose something that’s truly beneficial for the other party.
Consider how much correspondence the person you’re contacting might receive in a day. Think about how your e-mail can be both honest and appealing. Monetary compensation is a great way to appeal to someone, but it's not the only option. Think about the way you could be of assistance with the resources, skills, time, and energy that you have at your disposal. Empathy is an x-factor.
7. Avoidable, poorly timed correspondence.
Timing is everything, and it seems to be the key. You'll never know everything that somebody has on their plate, but you can certainly get context clues from the internet. Take into account all of the information that you can draw from someone’s social media accounts before pressing “send.” A simple scroll of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds *could* help you to understand what's happening in someone's life.
If the person you’re about to reach out to is tweeting about an extended vacation, some sort of urgent crisis, or a huge project that’s taking up all of their time, you might want to consider holding off on trying to introduce yourself for a week or two. Increase your chances by staying up with the times.
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