Collaborations: How to start


How, where and when to start in the creative industry

One of the best and most “affordable” ways to build a portfolio featuring amazing creative or fantasy designs (beside renting) was reaching out to others through the internet. In fact, it’s also what made the entire foundation of what the studio is right now - it did take about almost ten years roughly from when I started serious until what it is now. It was definitely a road where I’ve learned a lot, by experiencing, making mistakes, listening and doing this. But it’s been one of the most wholesome experiences of my entire career and I would love to talk more about it!

Before I continue, I want to address two very important factors:

1. Cheap doesn’t mean it’s free: While I did say it’s a more affordable option over buying, it is still an investment. And it takes a lot of work, time and communication to ensure all parties are happy: so I will be breaking it all down in a few articles to come for all for all of you! But it’s a hell lot of fun, it can be way more affordable than buying - though I also highly recommend doing this as well.

2. This is my experience: so it’s slightly biasedd on what I’ve heard from designers and have learned. While I try to write this as objectively as possible - the golden rule to always keep in mind is that people may have their own system and you’re working with another person. Stay polite, stay honest and stay true. That’s half of the work already no matter the case.

So what ARE collaborations?

A collaboration is when two or more people decide to team up together for unpaid, on one or multiple projects to bring an idea to life, either national or international or a combination. In a case of international collaborations, usually item(s) are shipped to each other but I’ve had various cases when I teamed up with international models that brought pieces with them when they traveled to me too work on ideas.

Collaborations are an amazing opportunity to meet new people, create work of entire new levels and as a way to challenge yourself and each other to create epic new work for yours and theirs portfolio. For others it’s a way to break away from client assignments or to try & learn new techniques to showcase and attract new clients. And for others it’s a creative breath of fresh air.

The core is always the same: it’s to create new work on unpaid or tf base to add to one’s social media, website and ideally (online) portfolio.

When & how do you start with these?

Honestly and in theory: you could start at any time with this, even if you just picked up a camera. But in practice, there is a bit more too it: You’re working with other people so it’s not simply a matter of “ask & receive” - but a matter of “ask and work for the team greater good” and being aware you will most likely be reaching out to complete strangers to trust you and send you something to shoot that needs to be send back unharmed.

When reaching out a first time, make sure you have at least some (recent) examples of your work. It could be your website or just your Instagram even or even just a collage showing some examples. Keep your message straight and short and explain you’re interested in collaborating - if you have a theme or concept, add it straight away as well in a line or two. And ask if they would be interested. Like I said: nobody needs an essay. Just make clear who you are, what you want and what you have to offer (both as person and with your work).

I cannot stress enough that when reaching out, you’re probably working with strangers at first. Your interaction matters just as much as the results: be patient and understanding, even if you receive a “no” answer or in cases: not even a respond. Nobody owes you to send free items to shoot and you’re the asking party. While I get this is frustrating - you don’t know what’s happening behind the screens. Maybe they forgot, maybe they don’t do well with sending a negative respond, maybe they are tired of too many requests, maybe you didn’t read a FAQ or bio where they state they don’t do collabs or tf, maybe something came up, … There are plenty of reasons and in the best case - you simple leave it there as well. It’s definitely not ideal and I will be honest I don’t always respond either anymore in times when it’s just too much or many; but on the other hand I’m also a firm believer that we are allowed silence at times even if social media makes us believe we don’t.

A collaboration from not so long ago between myself, Royal Black Couture and Tinotenda Mushore

A collaboration from not so long ago between myself, Royal Black Couture and Tinotenda Mushore