Creative Professionals’ Guide To Collaboration

Welcome to my column: Creative Professionals' Guide

Conversations with incredible creative professionals in Fashion, Art, Public Relations, Advertising, Culture, Religion, Entrepreneurship, and mindset will be featured in articles.

We will be discussing various topics on a regular basis. Each time, we engage in the discussion including creative thinking, money, spiritual practices, entrepreneurial spirit, negotiation, mental wellbeing, human rights, and much more.

In this first article, we will talk about collaborations in the creative industry. Me as the editor, at the same time, will be the first guest on this journey with you.


While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature throughout China, the United States, and Spain, I continued to look into the history of Western art on my own.

Following that, I began working in Shanghai in the field of art curation, while also completing a foundation course in womenswear design.

I afterward relocated to Paris, where I obtained specialized training in fashion design. Now I work as freelance stylist and creative director. Simultaneously, as a creative marketing and project manager in art gallery.

I am actively pursuing studies in cognitive psychology and the art of negotiation at this stage.

Creative Professionals’ Guide To Collaboration

As a creative professional in fashion and art, I’ve been inundated with requests for collaborations ever since the day I listed my job title in my bio. Occasionally, I’d say yes, while other times, I’d say no without any hesitation. One thing is for sure: There is always in-depth research and multi-dimensional concerns lie beneath the surface of a simple Yes and No.

The creative industry employs the concept and practice of collaboration at a much higher rate than any other, as there are very few creative jobs that cover only one creative division.

Take a look at the cast and crew list on Netflix before moving on to the next episode. You might will skip to next episode in second because the list bores you. You have nothing to do with it. The list is just too long. No even mention that it is likely just a list of the main cast and crew members and not even a complete list.

Nonetheless, you can see how many people are involved in the manufacturing process. A sophisticated and mature production cannot only be credited to one person.

The Necessity of Collaboration

We are required to continuously update our portfolios to remain relevant to industry trends and to prove our ability to adapt to the creative industry’s rapidly changing aesthetics and dynamics.

Nevertheless,  the moment we complete a project, we desire to lift our standard to an upper level.

Put another way, being put into a team with other creative professionals by clients, who build the team based on their requirements and goals of production.

Driven by both internal and external demands, it is necessary to collaborate. When two factors act concurrently, it’ll become challenging for anyone to make an objective choice.

Someone who has worked in this industry for years is likely to have developed criteria set for collaboration. However, in some instances, even for those with significant experience, decision-making can be challenging. Not even to mention how difficult it can be for the industry newcomers.

5 Common Collaboration Mistakes To Avoid

MISTAKE 1: Quantity Over Quality

Especially when a person first enters the industry, just like everyone else, the first thing to do is establish a personal aesthetic and style. The portfolio is the foundation.

Remember, what impresses people is not the quantity of your work, but the quality.

Let’s take an example of myself: For me, a fashion stylist, one excellent photo can tell my style better than 100 photos from nothing-special shootings. Image, someone spent ten times of the time and energy creating work with different styles of mediocre quality. Finally it does no good. Instead it is more likely to confuse or even disappoint the audience and potential clients.

It is necessary and important to say “No” some time.

Being asked questions such as “what is your style?”, it is definitely not what you want as a reward for your hard work.

The creative industry is different from what it was ten years ago. While the millennial generation poured into the creative industry, competition in the entire industry has become unprecedentedly fierce. Building a personal brand and image has become crucial.

Clients no longer pay for what you can do because there are thousands of others out there waiting to replace you at any moment. Instead, the clients pay for your unique creative flow and the values ​​behind your work. At a deeper level, they don’t pay for what you do. They pay you for the “why you do it”. Steve Jobs is a perfect example of this.

And creative work is a dual consumption of brain and physical energy. Every time you make a move with unclear goals and intention, it harms your brand image, reputation, and it causes unnecessary internal energy consumption.

MISTAKE 2: Always Looking For The High-Profile To Collaborate With

Creating with creatives who share great experience and reputation in the industry sounds like a shortcut to a successful collaboration.

Indeed indeed. 

However, you are not the only one who comes up with this idea, which means there are a lot of competitors out there, far more than you can imagine. In addition to this, the gap which caused by disparity in ability and experience might turn this collaboration to be an exhausting experience for you if you are still pretty new to this industry.

Why not work with those ambitious emerging ones, in whom you can see great potentials?

It might be a better idea to drive your attention to people with similar qualifications. Have some faith in young creatives. There must be some people out there having great potentials, ambitions, knowledge, and skills, waiting for an opportunity to be seen. Your common grounds will naturally build the bonding, which is extremely for teamwork. Last but not least, your opinions values the same in the team meeting.

For example, if you are a stylist assistant, you’re working on set with the stylist. Try to start a conversation with the photographer’s assistant and the makeup artist’s assistant, to see if you can do some projects together.

MISTAKE 3: Always Having (Or Not Having) Money Involved

There are two major points of view:

1. Everyone has to be paid for work.

2. Collaboration is part of self-training process for beginners. It makes sense if nobody wants to pay for your “lessons”.

Both actually make sense. We should agree that money is not the only measure of the reward of collaboration. Collaboration does matter to creative professionals. In a way, it is also for expanding social networking and sorting out potential partnerships and clients.

However, people in the creative industry are so creative that they add up a little extra flavour into it.

“We will pay you by “Exposure”.”

I believe you are all familiar with this type of statement. Yes, here is a taste of irony.

In this case, The first thing you need to determine is the actual value of the so-called “exposure”.

You must determine whether your target audience and the brand’s are the same. If you produce high-end products, avoid collaborating with those who have target audience into fast fashion.

Second, you need to make sure you are not the only person on the team who is not paid. It happens sometimes. Believe me, they won’t respect the value of your work and the value of you in this case.

After all, you are running a business, not an expensive habit.

MISTAKE 4: Setting Too Big Goals (Which Will Lead You To Frustration)

Many creative people have a natural desire to achieve perfection. Teamwork encourages them to raise their standards even higher because technically it is easier to achieve bigger goals while working in a team.

Keep it in mind that teamwork can be tricky, particularly when everyone firmly holds different opinions. You’ll understand what I’m talking about if you’ve ever tried to re-cook your leftovers. Mixing all and re-heating it is the simplest method. However there is a big chance that you will throw it away afterwards because it doesn’t seem eatable.

The process of selecting and sorting ideas is what teamwork entails. The goal is not to achieve perfection. Instead, it’s about balancing the various creative elements, and making it work. Too-high expectations will lead to disappointments and frustrations. It can crash the bonding and wreck the motivation of your team.

MISTAKE 5: Focus Only On Your Part

Information and communication strategies are the base of efficient communication.

Information includes the information delivered by you and your understanding on the information which is delivered to you.

Putting yourself in other people’s shoes can help you understand their viewpoints. The decision your team mate made might appear to you to be too conservative or outrageous at times. Try role-playing: Imagine yourself in his position , and you’ll get a better sense of where all his ideas coming from.

Try to think like a photographer if you’re a stylist. Try to see what a editor of magazine would see if you’re a photographer. When you act different roles, you will discover what you can’t see when you’re solely focused on your work.

This role-playing method is not just coming from sympathy. It is also from your need for information, which will help you be more integrated into the team.

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