No matter what creative field you are in, at some point you will be collaborating or outsourcing parts of your work. An author gets a designer to do her book cover, a photographer might hire a make-up artist and a composer works with a recording engineer. Creatives work together across genres and fields all the time.
Creative partnerships are inspiring and educational experiences, and the product of a good collaboration will be miles ahead of most one-man productions.
But there is a dark side to collaborating too. For every one creative professional, there is at least a dozen who aren’t. They might be talented, creative and artistic, but they do not have the work ethics of a pro. They will end up slowing you down and hurting your project. No matter what your industry is, you must learn to recognize and avoid Flakes!
By Flake, I don’t mean someone who has a tendency to show up a little late to meetings, misses the occasional deadline or takes a day to answer their email. I’m talking about the ones that commit and enthuse, only to fizzle out and forget their enthusiasm and offer whatever excuse for letting you down. Flakes are repeat offenders, and the more energy you waste on them, the quicker they will grind you down.
Luckily, there are tells you might look for when encountering new potential partners. Here are three of them.
1. Vague Answers to Specific Questions
A classic tell is that the Flake doesn’t really have a firm grasp of what his role is, or what is expected. He will pay you lip service until you ask a specific question. When put on the spot, he will cover his own insecurity or lack of knowledge with a vague answer. Most flakes know what they are. Even if they aren’t conscious about the term itself.
2. No Work to Show
Many Flakes are well spoken and may dazzle you with words, ideas and promises. Ask to see examples and references. The more eloquent and sweet the promises are, the greater the need to see the work. The best you can do is ask others that have worked with that person in the past, and if there are no references to ask, it’s a sign you won’t be the first to cut this Flake off.
3. The Me-Motivation
Flakes are selfish creatures. They get involved with projects they think will better their position, whether it’s to make a quick buck, meet influential people, or just to get attention. Again, they might talk about teamwork and mutual benefits, but ask for details. What was their role in their last collaborative project? What were the results of that project? If the answers are vague, you’ve got a Flake!
Flakes are impossible to avoid, and just because someone flakes out once, doesn’t mean they are bad people to be shunned. Take circumstances into consideration before you pass judgment on others. If it’s a one-time thing, don’t judge too harshly.
It may be that the creative partner who let you down had a good reason, so talk to her before you cut her off. But don’t be afraid to do so if that’s what it takes. It’s easy to be nice and forgiving, but you end up hurting your project and personal credibility by misplacing trust in someone who will ultimately let you down.
I’ll leave you with Frank Zappa’s “Flakes”, about … well, you know…
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