The term “partner” elicits images of shared risk along with shared benefits. But if you’re a freelancer or solo entrepreneur just launching your biz, bringing on a partner in the traditional sense may not be in the cards right now…if ever.
HOWEVER, you can still “partner” with other pros and actually double your business in the process.
But I Don’t WANT a Partner
Now I’ve never been one who thrived on the buddy system. When I was an 8-year-old Girl Scout my “buddy” accidently separated from me in the woods (aka, ditched me). Since then I’ve found it incredibly difficult to depend on others. Like many entrepreneurs in general and writers in particular, I LIKE working alone. Sure, I have to take on all the responsibility…but I also get all the accolades (not to mention all the money).
That being said, I’m smart enough to know that there are times I have to burst out of my narcissistic bubble and cast about for a partner. And truth be told, it’s worked out well.
Which brings us to a definition, because by defining this other person, this fellow participant, I can clearly establish boundaries about expectations, responsibilities and so on. And so:
Partner—Another person with whom I work to achieve a common goal.
Eh. That seems right, but something’s missing.
Perhaps “accomplice” might be more apropos…but that dredges up images of fingerprinting and police lineups and things I just don’t want to go into right here and now.
In the end, when I say “partner” I mean the verb, not the noun.
For example, I “partner” with quite a few graphic and web designers, both individual freelancers and big marketing firms. And it really works out well.
There’s no money exchanged between us; no wrangling over a percentage of the profits, referral fees or scorecards kept on who owes who. It’s all strictly quid pro quo.
If one of us has a client with whom we’re working on a project and said client is searching for the service that the other one provides, we make a referral.
I know. It’s not quantum physics. So why am I taking up space and wasting your time with something so obvious?
Because, if you do it right and if you do it often, you can more than double your business.
How the Buddy System Doubled My Business
When I began freelancing thirteen years ago, I had a small stable of steady clients for which I was grateful, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep me busy full time, let alone keep me in caviar and champagne. I really struggled to find new business.
Then I got a call from a designer I’d recently met. One of her clients had a need for a writer, would I consider helping her out? I jumped at the chance.
It was then I realized that there must be hundreds (thousands?) of designers in the same position as my friend. After all, we were in the same industry targeting the same market, but there were just some things (like web content, brochure copy, ad headlines and more) that she just did not provide. Why let those clients go looking elsewhere for a copywriter, when she knew a perfectly good one? (Ahem…that would be me.)
From that day forward, I added designers and design and marketing firms to my list of contacts. After approaching several of them, I was delighted to find that my business doubled in just a matter of a few short months.
Five Steps to Making Partnership Work for You
Finding partners is not as difficult as you might think.
- Take some time to reflect on businesses that complement your own. Who else might be approaching the same client base as you? For example, if you’re a landscape designer, local nurseries might be willing to send referrals your way. If you’re an interior designer who understands the importance of “home staging,” why not give some local realtors a call? If you’re a handyman, the neighborhood hardware store might just be willing to hand out your business card.
- Approach your potential partner with a proposition that will benefit you both, e.g. an agreement that you’ll pass on one another’s business card to potential clients or a reciprocal link on each others websites.
- Keep in steady contact with your partner via emails or an occasional phone call in order to build a relationship. Bring them some bagels some morning or take them to lunch some afternoon. (Most folks are more willing to refer a friend they know, than a total stranger.)
- Consider exchanging products or services with your new partner. In this way they can experience the quality of what you provide and know how you work, enabling them to recommend you to their clients based on their first-hand experience.
- Make sure you clearly define the parameters of your business relationship. Do you want to be exclusive, meaning you’ll only refer potential business to them and vice versa? Do you want to offer one another a small “finder’s fee” or even a percentage of fees for every referral? Will you need a contract outlining your agreement or will a handshake do?
A new partner or two may be just the thing you need to really boost your business. After all, where would Batman have been if Robin hadn’t been there climbing the outside of buildings right behind him (and potentially cushioning the fall if the rope broke?)
Can you think of a partnership opportunity that might boost your biz?