Collaboration or Service: Setting Expectations

One of the questions we have to ask ourselves at the beginning of a project is “will this project be a collaboration or a service provision?” Though the outcomes may look similar, there are differences in the process which need to be understood from the start.

Defining Collaboration

For us, to collaborate on a project fundamentally means we assume a higher level of input from the client than we usually would. Many creative freelancers / agencies like to say that all of their work is collaborative, in fact, we have done this in the past! However, not every client actually wants a collaboration. It’s important for us to set these expectations up front in an initial meeting. We need to ensure that every party (stakeholder) has the same understanding of what collaboration will look like for this project; it can differ on a project-by-project basis, even with the same client. So it’s important to ask questions such as “to what extent would the client like to be involved?” and “who has the final say on each process of the journey”.

Service Provision

We have a number of services ranging from research, idea generation, through to content creation, all under the umbrella of Design Thinking. These are the tools we use to provide clients with something new, innovative, and appropriate for their audience. By default, we assume that the client will trust us to use the approved creative brief (and potentially other documents, such as a Statement of Work) and produce someone which adds value to their business. There is still communication with the client throughout the project, however, no creative or technical input from them, which is where the difference is between the two work types.

Set Expectations

Before starting a project, ensure that expectations are set and monitored throughout the project. There are many expectations which should be set at the beginning (quality of work, timescales, etc.) though it’s essential that the work type is understood; collaboration or default service provision. This is usually one of the tasks of either a Project Manager, Account Manager, or Producer. Expectations are very important and shouldn’t be overlooked. If done well, it can increase trust between all stakeholders and develops a necessary relational asset.