How to Use Collaboration & Partnerships to Grow Your Creative Business

Collaboration and partnerships are valuable tactic for growth in new (and not so new!) businesses. They provide room for creativity, building long lasting relationships and are a great investment in your business with little (or no) overhead costs.

How to use collaborations and partnerships to grow your creative business by Katharine Hannah Photography


A collaboration is usually a one time deal between 2 or more people who have a similar goal in mind. Everyone involved puts their best work forward for the betterment of the group goal.

Photography example: A styled shoot is widely popular in the creative industry and it’s where multiple vendors come together to create a full blown photography session. Photographers, makeup artists, florists, clothing designers, venues, and models can all work together to create an ideal photoshoot, show off their work, and have the shared goal of getting the photographs published and advertised online in magazines and publications. They can then put the publications in their portfolio, have great photographs to use in their own advertising, and they’ll get in front of a wide audience of potential clients.

How to approach a collaboration

1. Finding Collaborators

You can find collaborators through your friend group, through referrals, or by joining groups online that are in your field.

You want to be specific of who you collaborate with - make sure everyone has a similar style so that you’ll be on the same page when it comes to choosing specifics for your collaboration. If I wanted to photograph a forest inspired couples session and the venue that wanted to collaborate with me only had an indoor space, then I probably wouldn’t want to choose them for this project.


2. Choosing Goals

What is the goal for this collaboration - to build your portfolio? Make new business connections? Grow your audience? Be specific and clear with your collaborators about what you want to achieve together - ask questions, see what they’re thinking of, and figure out ways for everyone to get the most of what they want.


3. Setting Deadlines

One of the most important parts of a collaboration is setting deadlines - if you’re someone who likes to get things done on time, you’re going to end up very frustrated if you didn’t clearly communicate your expectations with your collaborator about needing this project done by the end of the month.


Partnerships are a little different than a collaboration in that the goal is usually a long term, continuing relationship as opposed to a one time project. Both businesses are working together to share their services/products to grow their own business while still helping each other.

Boutique Example: If you’re a lifestyle blogger who is always needing new content for your blog on fashion trends you may want to approach a partnership with a boutique. You can have the boutique loan or gift you clothing and accessories that you can photograph and write about on your blog to give you new content without having to buy clothes constantly, and the boutique gets free advertising and photographs of their products.

How to Approach a Partnership

1. Find a Fair Exchange of Value

No one wants to work for free, so make sure everyone is getting a fair deal of the partnership. If the boutique you’re partnering with is getting free advertising and content to share and they won’t even give you the outfits you’re actually interested in writing about, that’s not a fair exchange of value. Negotiate what you want out of the partnership and if you feel like you aren’t getting what you want out of it, then this particular partnership might not be worth your time.

2. Be Clear with Intentions

Tell the business you’re trying to partner with exactly what you want - be clear and straightforward because they’ll appreciate it and it’ll save you time in the long run if your visions don’t align.

3. Keep Your Word

Once you’ve set up a partnership, keep true to what you’ve agreed upon. If you said you would get this blog post out next month, but then you ghost the boutique for two months they aren’t going to be happy and they aren’t going to want to continue their partnership with you. That’s bad because if you hope to ultimately become a fashion blogger but you can’t keep your word, you lose the trust of the boutique and they won’t refer you down the road.


Here are a few resources to get you started on your collaboration and partnership journey - there are local meetups where you can find creatives to connect and network with (and hopefully spark a collaboration!), resources to communicate your intentions once you find a partner, and other goodies. :)

The Rising Tide Society | Local Meetups for Creatives

TheLawTog | Contracts & Agreements for Partnerships

Thursday Therapy | Local Meetups for Wedding Professionals


Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.