After college, I worked as a full-time touring drummer. I designed websites on the side as a way to supplement my income.
When I got to the point of leaving my work as a drummer to pursue a web design career full time, I moved to New York City. I quickly developed some good relationships and began to form some solid business partnerships. As a result, I saw a spike in growth. Eventually, one of these relationships led to me absorbing another agency.
While exciting, this rapid growth forced me to take a hard look at my business systems. I realized I needed to bring on more people with skill sets complementary to my own (and vice versa).
Finding the right fit with a new team member is important. But having a personality is not enough. You have to ask the right questions to make sure everyone is set up for success from the get-go.
Here are a few things I’ve learned when it comes to working with someone new in a partnership capacity.
What is your sales process? How do you sell? And how do you scope work?
It’s important for both of you to lay out your entire sales process. Then you can see if they align.
How many calls do they have with a client? How much time do they invest up front? What does discovery look like? Discuss every step they go through, start to finish.
Good or bad, this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. When you’re both able to get all your cards on the table, you can identify problems that may crop up.
Then, make your decision based on whether your sales processes lines up, not whether you like sipping coffee with each other.
Who are your target customers?
If they can’t answer this questions or identify the type of people they like to work with (do they have any criteria?) this could be a red flag.
The way they define their target customers is going to affect the size of their business, their revenue, and their goals. Once you partner with them, their clarity will also affect your business in the same ways.
You may need to have them define this before moving forward with the partnership.
Who is going to manage this project?
They have their developer hat on, and you have your designer hat on, but there’s a third hat that needs to be worn: Project Manager.
I’ve seen projects drag on for years. And it was because of one reason: project management wasn’t addressed up front.
For starters, it’s critical that both of you recognize project management as a hat that someone needs to wear. You can’t just team up and hope project management works itself out.
If you decide that you’re going to take on project management, you have to ask yourself if you are you the best equipped to handle that role. Is it your strength? If not, perhaps your partner should handle it.
Also, when deciding who is going to take on the role, you need to decide how to compensate for the extra workload. The project manager should receive an additional 20% of the project fee.
If you brought on an outside project manager, you’d pay roughly this amount to them. So make sure you build that additional 20% project management fee into the scope of your work and then pay yourself or your partner accordingly.
What’s the next step for the client?
Which of you will support the client after the project? Who’s going to provide marketing services? Who will drive the relationship out of the garage once the car is built?
It’s not enough to hand your client a tool (website) and expect them to know how to use it properly.
Asking this question will allow you to address your client’s needs after you’ve completed the project. You might discover they have an in-house marketing person. Maybe they have a contractor they work with. Maybe you can make a recommendation for them.
Don’t just leave clients with a shiny new website. They won’t see the results they’re looking for.
It would be like having a garden shed full of shiny new tools, but not knowing how to use them. There will be no harvest.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Whether you use these questions or not, it’s important for you to ask a handful of questions that are most important to making your business run professionally.
If you’re looking for a short-term relationship with a contractor, these questions may not help you. But if you need to develop a long-term working relationship, these big questions are essential to getting it right.
If your business partner or the freelancer you’re teaming up with doesn’t have the same sales philosophy, it will lead to problems down the road.
Be willing to have the tough conversations up front. They will save you time, save your relationships, and potentially save your business.
What essential questions do you ask when partnering? Let me know if the comments. Your questions might give other readers a leg up in their own business.