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Collaborating with Creators

May 17, 2017

At this point, I have established a solid following in the Magic community of folks who enjoy my creative work. With that audience has come requests from other creatives to work on projects together as well as attention from potential sponsors. I’d like to address both topics in two posts here. Understand that I am grateful for the matters that these inquiries bring, and that I write purely from a logistical standpoint in regards to both.

 

“Let’s collaborate!”

 

This is a common message I receive on a weekly basis from people looking to make something cool together. The desire to collaborate is usually born from good intent: either they admire my work and think theirs would mesh well together in a project, or they’re a lesser-known personality seeking exposure. However, in most cases, this is as far as the exchange goes.

It's like when you run into an old friend on the way to lunch, and at some point the inevitable “let’s get coffee sometime!” slips its way into the conversation. But do you ever actually get coffee?

The issue with collaborating is twofold: initiative and time. 

Take the Initiative

My rule of thumb is this: if you genuinely want to collaborate with somebody, do 90% of the work before you pitch the request. It’s akin to hosting a dinner party: you would never invite your friends over and expect them to choose the meal, set the table, cook, clean, and pay for their share of the food they ate. Right?

Similarly, if you want somebody on your podcast, do all the prior preparation and make it clear to your guest that you’ll do the heavy lifting. You are the host in this scenario. 

A poor request to collaborate looks like this:

 

“Hey Sam, big fan. Let’s work on a video together sometime. What do you think would be cool to do?”

A better one looks like this:

 

“Hey, I admire your work. Would you like to join us for an interview on October 2nd at 9:00 CST? We each have five questions we’d like to ask you about your role in the community and history with the game. The show should last an hour. I’ve sent over an outline of the cast to your email.”

The first example is a frustrating message to receive because the host has set up the guest to feel guilty for not accepting. It also asks your guest to do all the legwork for your idea. On the flip side, the second example offers a professional sketch of both how much time they will have to commit as well as an opportunity to prepare prior to the podcast. It also allows the guest to deny the offer with the potential of rescheduling. In this way, it’s far less a binary between “yes” and “no”, which is beneficial for both the host and the guest. 

What makes collaboration requests much more effective is developing a relationship prior to the pitch. Try not to come out of nowhere and throw ideas at a content creator. Instead, take time to develop a friendship. Get to know the person you’d like to work with. Shoot the shit for a while. See if there is chemistry. If there is, your guest is far more likely to collaborate because they’re comfortable with you and have good reference points for the conversation. Even better if they’re already a fan of your creative work!

Finally, I don’t think anybody appreciates being leered into a deal or request through hollow compliments. I get this often, too, unfortunately:

“Hey, I really love that video you made!”

“Thanks a lot, I appreciate it.”

“Yeah man. So what do you think about my videos? I’d love your feedback.”

This is not building a genuine relationship. Creators are far less likely to work with you if you approach at this angle. Again, it sets us up to feel terrible for not responding. It also makes your initial compliment feel like hot air. Do you really like my work, or are you just trying to get my attention? 

In essence, it’s about being patient and personable. None of us are robots, and we are all trying to make the best use of our time. You must respect this if you hope to collaborate, which leads to the second issue:

Time is Mana

My schedule is very full. Between graduate school, running, maintaining a social life, and working on my videos, I have very little spare time for anything else. I like it this way: the busier I am, the more productive and motivated I remain. It’s a good formula for me.

That being said, any time I commit to collaborating is in exchange for time I would otherwise be spending on my channel. I don’t have much wiggle room: it’s a 1-for-1 transaction. In Magic terms, my daily life is a highly streamlined 60 card deck, and committing to collaborations means going to the sideboard. As such, you must make the case that the project is worth its slot in the main deck. 

Again, this is simply logistics. If you want to collaborate with your favorite creator, I encourage you to do some prep work. Before you pitch an idea, say hello. Extend a hand. Spend time first developing a friendship so that the result of the collaboration is genuine and does not feel forced. The content strives when two people know each other well before working together.

Understand that we are all busy people, so try to take it lightly if your request is turned down. If you do 90% of the leg work, though, I promise that the odds are far higher in your favor and the quality of your product will reflect that effort.

 

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