I've have some amazing collaborators that have worked out wonderfully for me, but it took a lot of trial and error to find a system for identifying these kinds of folks. Here's what I've learned about getting quality collaborators that last.
- Unless the collaborator is a co-creator with an interest for a project's long-term well being, don't give up or share your copyrights with them. Ever. It might end well (as it did for The Nine Lives of Catnose
,) but more often than not, it will end badly, and sometimes with lawyers, if one of you drop the ball or abandon a project.
- If you have an intimate/romantic/close-friendship relationship with a collaborator, make sure that you both are able to separate personal from professional. Otherwise, the project will die a horrible death if your relationship dissolves. My current husband and I collaborate constantly, but he makes sure to use a pen name to separate his artist-self from his marital self. When he is business, he is absolutely professional to the point that if we divorced, we could continue working as a team with absolutely no emotional issues since we both know what our professional boundaries are. In fact, our professional relationship has reached the point where my husband has said on record
, "Has my check cleared? Then yes, I love it," when asked about our longest-running collaboration. He treats this as a job and I love him for it.
- Always have a back-up for a collaborator and/or be able to mimic your collaborator's style of writing or art, in case of an emergency. If you can't do either, then you're not ready to collaborate.
- Communicate often, respectfully and honestly. It makes things easier for everyone involved.
- Avoid drunkards, partiers, drug-addicts, drama queens, interns who aren't applying themselves in their studies, people with ridiculous financial problems/late rent payments (that they mention or ask you to help them with,) those who can't fill out tax forms/contracts, people who do not share your communication style, people who don't share your values and, people who aren't as interested in your project as you are, regardless of how talented or qualified they might be. If you do have someone with a problem, make sure that they are upfront about it, and that you are kept on the loop of how they are dealing with it, should you feel that the individual is worth the risk. Otherwise, find someone else to work with.
- Document your progress and keep your collaborators on the loop on how your business is running.
- If you or someone close to you have ANY have any misgivings about a collaborator, do not work with them. If you are uncertain about someone at all, 99% of the time that person is not a good match.
- Make sure that you have similar aesthetic tastes. I had one collaboration fizzle out because I could not deal with my collaborator's love of Portishead and she couldn't deal with my love for cheesy pop. Seriously.
- Treat your collaborators like you'd like to be treated.
- Always keep a large buffer. It saves a lot of grief in the long-run if either of you has an issue or injury.
- If a collaborator and you must part ways, pay what you promised, be civil and professional, and don't publish any work unpublished either of you are uncomfortable releasing. It makes things easier.