What You Absolutely Must Know Before You Form a Web Design Partnership

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Should you work with a freelance design partner?

The answer is “maybe.”

Not every freelancer is cut out to be in a partnership. And not every pair of freelance designers who decide to work together succeed.

For many, working with a freelancing partner is the best thing that ever happened to them. But for others, forming a partnership results in nothing but chaos and misery.

What’s the difference?

That’s an excellent question, and one that we’ll explore in this post. We’ll look at why some partnerships work and others don’t. I’ll also provide five tips to help you form a working web design partnership.

If you liked this post, you may also like 10 Essential Guidelines for Freelance Collaboration.

Born to Be Together

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The dream partners–you’ve probably met them at one point or another. You probably also envy them.

They seem to work together seamlessly. They get along so well, it seems that one could finish the other’s sentences. You may even wonder if they can read each other’s minds.

Of course, a smart web design company will avoid making any internal disagreements public knowledge. So, things might not be going as smoothly with the dream partners as you imagine.

Still, it is a fact that some personality types just naturally click. It’s almost as though they were born to be together.

Business partners who work well together generally have the following characteristics:

  • Mutual respect and trust. Partnerships work best when each partner respects and trusts the other. Without this foundation, most partnerships can’t survive.
  • Balance of abilities. In the best partnerships, the partners are equally matched. While their talents and skills may differ, one is not superior to the other.
  • Clear lines of communication. As with any business, good communication keeps a partnership healthy. Bad communication dooms a partnership.
  • A team mentality. Big egos need not apply. In a business partnership, working well with others means the difference between success and failure.
  • More work = more pay. Last, but not least, web design partnerships often earn more than solo web designers. And who couldn’t use more income?

Parnerships whose members have all or most of the traits listed above generally enjoy business success. But not every partnership is so lucky.

Freelancing Hell

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A poor partnership match can be a true disaster. Freelancing is stressful enough without having to deal with in-house fights and power struggles all the time.

You’ve probably also run across those freelance web design partners whose relationship with each other is so bad you wonder why they ever went into business together. They may be wondering the same thing.

A web design partnership mismatch can seem like freelancing hell. And betrayal by a once-trusted partner can feel worse than a client rejection.

Here are some of the disasters that can happen when you aren’t careful about which web designer you partner with:

  • Blame game. Whose does what? In a bad partnership, a lot of finger-pointing occurs. Mistakes are always the fault of the other partner.
  • Double jeopardy. When partners are mismatched, both may attempt to contact the same client directly–causing confusion and distrust.
  • Differing visions. Freelance web designers who don’t work well together are often unable to agree upon a unified project direction.
  • Unhappy clients. It’s hard to hide the chaos caused by a bad partnership. Odds are you’ll miss deadlines and otherwise upset your clients.

5 Crucial Partnership Tips

Partnership success begins before you ever form your web design partnership. Here are some tips to help you make sure your partnership starts out right:

  1. Be picky. When selecting someone to team up with, choose carefully. Just because someone is an excellent web designer doesn’t mean that they will work well with you. Consider their work habits, values, and experience. You should also consider their online reputation since they will be associated with your freelancing business.
  2. Get it in writing. Communication is vital, so it’s important to keep a written record of any work-related discussions you and your partner have. This includes contracts, who is responsible for doing what, and even specifics like when each partner gets paid and how much. Don’t rely on your memory for important details.
  3. Look for a complement. Often when a web designer looks for a partner they look for someone who is very similar to themselves. However, your partnership will benefit more if you choose someone whose skills complement yours. Try to find someone who is strong in your weak areas and vice versa. You’ll end up balancing each other out.
  4. Do a trial project together. While working as partners may seem like a good idea in theory, the reality is quite different. Before you make a long-term partnership commitment, work on a trial project together. If the initial project seems like a struggle, don’t assume that things will automatically improve once you have a more formal partnership arrangement.
  5. Don’t forget the legal questions. A partnership is often the first step to an agency or an even larger organization. Have an attorney draft a partnership agreement, or set up your web design business as an LLC. Laws vary depending on where you live. An attorney can help you decide what business structure works best for your situation.

As you can see, how you form your partnership is very important if it is to succeed.

Learn More

Are you thinking about forming a web design partnership? Here are three more resources to help you get started:

  • From SBA.Gov, Partnership. This resource does a good job of explaining the types of business partnership you can form. It also reviews the advantages and disadvantages of forming a partnership.
  • From Danny Iny on tuts+, The Ultimate Partnership Guide for Freelancers. I particularly liked the approach of this article, which provides an overview about partnerships as well as advice on how to fix a bad partnership.
  • From Thursday Bram on Fuel Your Creativity, How the Right Partnerships Can Make Freelance Clients Love You. Here’s some very actionable advice on finding the right freelancing partner.

Your Turn

Have you ever been in either a good or bad partnership? Share your experiences in the comments.

Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.