Are we collaborating, or are you hiring me?

I do a ton of custom candles, and I'm often asked by clients to "collaborate."

After some back and forth, I find they're simply looking to hire me.

That's awesome, but there's a big difference.

"Collaboration" language has become ubiquitous, especially in the social media age of millennial "influencers" who often seek accolades and status by attaching themselves with upcoming and successful brands.

"Let's collaborate!" sounds much sexier and carries more social cache than "hire me!"

The idea of collaborating has seeped into every message I receive.

"Let me know if you'd like to collaborate!"

But, I find that true collaboration is rare. 

For it to be a true collaboration we each need to bring a substantial amount of time and energy to the project.

We'd need to trade ideas and expertise. We'd need to think about how our brands will come together in a mutually beneficial way that borders on co-branding. 

Peanut Butter & Jelly. Eminem & Dr. Dre.

I'm not saying it needs to be perfect synergy (Snoop Dogg & Martha Stewart is hardly an obvious duo) but for this to work we can't just slap our logos together and call it a day.

Our brands have to tell a story together.

Why are you working specifically with Virgins On Fire?

Are you drawn to my story? My humor? How will you communicate this to customers? Are you thinking about branding and marketing?

Will "Heavily Tattooed Bartender" work for your elementary school fundraiser, or should we brainstorm new ideas?

Have you considered a budget that encapsulates this added work I've been asked to do with your brand? Are you expecting spec work? Will you need samples? That all costs money.

Will we have regular meetings or a central place to exchange ideas? Will you provide art, graphics, fonts? How about creative direction, technology, and staff time? 

Great! Let's get to work!

Or, would you just like to hire me?

In that case, we'd talk through your needs, and I'd get to work by creating a great product for your brand. There's plenty of room for creativity, revisions and feedback, but I'm leading the charge, making the decisions, and doing the vast majority of the work.

It may seem nit-picky, and I'm always happy to help clarify what clients are looking for, but being as intentional as possible with language goes far in helping me understand expectations.

This clarity in language delivers a better product, saves us a lot of time, and tends to create a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Fo shizzle.