Stop, Collaborate and Listen.

In this episode, Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Emma Roberts, director at Social Qual.

She says…

“You know when you stumble upon someone fab, and your brain goes ‘Ooh, collaboration potential’
Perhaps we meet on LinkedIn and then organise a cuppa or intro call. We chat, we laugh, we bond over work joys and woes… and then we part with that cheerful ‘Let’s collaborate soon’.

But then… often our busy lives take over.

I’m on both sides of this — an instigator of these types of calls and also someone who people reach out to.
So, I’m wondering…

How can we make these cuppa-time conversations transform into actual collabs? Or should we even bother with these sorts of meetings?

It feels like I need to be more strategic about which invites I accept and who I reach out to.
The social side of me responds to new folk with a Pavlov-dog response of ‘let’s arrange a call’ but I’m increasingly feeling a bit unsatisfied with that approach.

Anyone else? How do I get more strategic about these calls without being a nob?”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:48] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:00:57] – Steve
Hello. Yes. Each episode, we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids Community. But we start each episode by looking back at the last one.

The last one was our 100th episode, where obviously we had lots of questions, but one in particular got lots of people talking and that was… have you ever regretted going freelance?

[00:01:16] – Frankie
Alice Hollis says, “NEVER!” In capital letters.

Alice continues,

“That’s not to say being freelance is easy, because it’s not. If anything, it’s so much harder than being employed because you have to be Chief of Everything. And it’s not to say there haven’t been wobbly moments when I’ve wondered how sustainable being freelance is — particularly over the summer when there was literally no work and I had a mortgage to pay. But, I’ve never regretted the decision. The tough times make it far more exciting than my employed roles because you have to figure out how to solve the problems which my brain likes doing and you have the authority to actually solve them.”

[00:01:47] – Steve
Dan Bailey got in touch.

Dan says,

“There are times when I’ve wondered where I would be in my career now if I’d remained in the full-time game. But equally, freelance has given me so many opportunities and allowed me the freedom to be so much more involved in my daughter’s life. Prior to freelance, there were a lot of late nights and weekend working. There are times when I found freelance mentally very challenging. But equally, the buzz you get from finding your own clients and sending out those invoices is very special indeed.”

[00:02:17] – Frankie
And Anna Bartholomew says,

“On balance, no regrets. I have moments where getting off the freelance rollercoaster seems like a good shout. But then, I think about how work works around my kids and how I don’t like being told what to do and I dig deep and keep at it.”

That’s totally me.

[00:02:33] – Steve
And Jonathan Wilcock says,

“Have I ever regretted being freelance? I’ve regretted taking on full-time roles.”

[00:02:41] – Frankie

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:05:41] – Frankie
Episode 101. Our question today comes from Emma Roberts, director at Social Qual, who use qualitative insights to help charities take action.

Emma says,

“You know when you stumble upon someone fab and your brain goes, ‘ooh, collaboration potential!’

Perhaps we meet on LinkedIn and then organise a cuppa or an intro call. We chat, we laugh, we bond over work joys and woes and then we part with that cheerful, ‘let’s collaborate soon’. But then, often our busy lives take over. I’m on both sides of this: an instigator of these types of calls; and also someone who people reach out to.

So, I’m wondering — how can we make these cuppa time conversations transform into actual collaborations? Or should we even bother with these sorts of meetings?

It feels like I need to be more strategic about which invites I accept and who I reach out to. The social side of me responds to new folk with a Pavlov dog response of let’s arrange a call. But I’m increasingly feeling a bit unsatisfied with that approach. Anyone else? How do I get more strategic about these calls without being a knob? Thanks, Emma.”

[00:06:50] – Steve
See, the thing with Pavlov… So, he rang a bell, then would give the dog their food and eventually the dogs go, “Oh, it’s a bell, that means it’s food.”

[00:07:00] – Frankie

[00:07:01] – Steve
So with Emma, she sees a new person, she’s like, “oh, must arrange a call”. You know, it’s like an instinctive, “New person. Got to speak to them!” There you go.

Also makes you want a pavlova.

[00:07:11] – Frankie
Yeah, right.

[00:07:12] – Steve
But I don’t think they’re related.

[00:07:13] – Frankie
They’re not connected?

[00:07:14] – Steve
No, he wasn’t feeding the dogs pavlova. Weird.

[00:07:20] – Steve
Now. Yeah, because the word collaborate, to stop, collaborate and listen, is…

[00:07:28] – Frankie
God. Yeah, I have lots of questions about the word collaborate. Does it mean they want to employ you? Does it mean their charity is looking for your skills? Or is it more, somebody in a similar industry to you that you complement each other and you want to do a new project together? Is it like… there is mutual PR or marketing exchange to be had? What is it? Because I feel like…

So, she says about — you end the call, going, “Let’s collaborate soon” and then it never happens. And you’re like, is that me, is it them, what? I feel like if it was really obvious that you needed to work together, you would be working together in some way.

I feel like, if I had an hour-long chat with someone who was interested in collaborating with me, say, about Doing It For The Kids, for example, it would be obvious by the end of that chat that we had a connection, and there was, I don’t know… Maybe we would have come to some sort of list of ideas of ways we could collaborate, which we could then actually act on. I feel like the fact that the chat just ends suggests that it’s not obvious what the collaboration is?

Or, is it that… Like, I know I’ve been on calls with people — for those kind of explorative getting-to-know-you type conversations — and nothing’s come of it because I didn’t want anything to come of it. But I couldn’t say that on the phone call, you know?

[00:08:50] – Steve
Yeah, I also know those people are now listening and going, “hang on, shit, is that why?”

[00:08:59] – Frankie
Because, I’m much more comfortable writing in an email three weeks later, “Actually, do you know what? I don’t have time for this,” or “I don’t need the work or whatever,” than I would be saying that on the phone. My point is, is nothing coming of these because it’s not that good a fit? Or, is it just that you’re both not jumping on it enough?

[00:09:18] – Steve
Yes, that’s so true. Sometimes we don’t take action on things, and other people don’t take action on things, because actually, deep down, we don’t want to do it.

[00:09:27] – Frankie
Right. It’s not the same. But, when we started doing our co-mentoring thing…

[00:09:31] – Steve

[00:09:32] – Frankie
… it was week two or something where I was like, “we should make a podcast”, something like that.

[00:09:35] – Steve
And she did it in person, so I was trapped!

[00:09:38] – Frankie
Yeah, that’s a good point. You can’t really say no, can you? Shit.

But, I did it in person because I knew that it was the right thing. Do you know what I mean? This is the point I’m trying to make. It’s like, I had the balls to do it in person, and then, we actually saw it through because it was just obvious to us that we should be doing something together, do you know what I mean?

[00:09:57] – Steve
But also, you see, that was quite a few ‘dates’ in, if you see what I mean?

[00:10:02] – Frankie
Also true, yeah.

[00:10:02] – Steve
Because we had obviously been going back and forth online and then I said, “how about we meet up for a coffee in real life?” I bought you some Marmite on toast at a heavily inflated price because it was near Liverpool Street station.

[00:10:18] – Frankie
Good toast, though.

[00:10:18] – Steve
I’m so glad. I do remember walking away from that going, “Oh you know, we could maybe do Instagram lives together, be in front of each other’s audiences in that way”. So, ideas were sparking. You didn’t necessarily want to do too much because…

[00:10:33] – Frankie
I was pregnant!

[00:10:34] – Steve
You were pregnant, right. Whereas by the time we actually started meeting up, co-mentor wise, you’d just had a baby. Which goes to show, doesn’t it? The months that passed between this first kind of, like…

[00:10:45] – Frankie
So, what you’re saying there is don’t rush it? It doesn’t all have to be obvious immediately.

But also, I do advocate for that gut feeling thing, where it’s like — if it was obvious you needed to be working with this person, it would be happening. Why isn’t it happening? Is that because you’re talking to the wrong people? That sounds really like black and white. It’s obviously not that black and white.

[00:11:07] – Frankie
She talks a lot about being strategic. “Should I be being more strategic about who I’m talking to?” And maybe, the fact that often these aren’t leading to anything yet is because you need to be more strategic about who you choose to have that conversation with?

[00:11:20] – Steve
Yeah. You’ve hit on something there about being strategic. As in, are there people you can identify on LinkedIn, for example, who would move your business forward — if that’s what we’re talking about — or people you might like to collaborate with? Because, if you’re starting to get to know them online and then you reach out and you book a call… Like, softly, softly, getting into their circle.

[00:11:42] – Frankie
But it doesn’t sound like Emma’s struggling to connect with those people in the first place.

[00:11:46] – Steve
No, but what if she is? Because you just said, what if she’s connecting with the wrong people? So, what if she’s just accepting this chat, that chat, this chat. If she’s being more strategic, there might be somebody who’s slightly out of reach at the moment — or it seems that way — but if she starts chipping away and then maybe, eventually, she can get on a call with the right person.

Do you know what’s just sprung to mind? There is a thing out there in the online business world.

[00:12:10] – Frankie
I know what you’re going to say. Go on.

[00:12:12] – Steve
Go on. What am I going to say?

[00:12:13] – Frankie
No, you go on.

[00:12:13] – Steve
No, go on. What am I going to say?

[00:12:14] – Frankie
I wrote down the ‘Unoffice Hours’ thing. Are you about to talk about that?

[00:12:17] – Steve
And it’s called — Unoffice Hours.

[00:12:18] – Frankie

[00:12:19] – Steve

[00:12:20] – Frankie
Cool. Good?

[00:12:21] – Steve
That’s actually what I was going to say.

[00:12:22] – Frankie
But that’s it, because that’s the other end of the spectrum, isn’t it?

[00:12:25] – Steve
No, go on. After you…

[00:12:27] – Frankie
Sorry! But there’s being approached and approaching others just like, all the time and doing all these calls all the time and saying yes to everything. And then, there’s the Unoffice Hours thing, which is scheduling in time where anybody can sign up, but it’s boundaried — in the fact that it’s a particular part of your week, and that’s it, right?

[00:12:47] – Steve
Yeah, so, if you don’t know what Unoffice Hours is…

You have it very clearly, like I dunno… Wednesday at 4.30pm I have a half-hour thing in my diary. Anybody can book in a call with me, and it’s there every single Wednesday at half four, for example. Dave Smyth is a big proponent of this. It was him that introduced it to me first of all, but I know quite a few people who do it.

And the thing with that, Emma, is that if you do that, it means that you could look at people and you could say, “Okay, this is one which I really want to talk to right now. This is great. I can see there’s an opportunity here, strategically speaking.” You might choose to talk to them whenever, and it might be sooner rather than later, whereas with somebody else, you might go, “I don’t know about this one, but they seem nice enough. And then you point them in the direction of your Unoffice Hours diary — your Calendly link. And then, it might not even suit them at half four on a Wednesday, or it might not suit them until, like, four weeks time when you finally got a gap.

[00:13:49] – Steve
So, it means that you’re not… Because, this is the danger — is that we spend too much time on these calls that go nowhere. And the fact is, our time is precious when we’re running a business and running a family at the same time. So, yeah, you are a sociable person. I don’t think you should stop having these calls, but maybe be more strategic about who they are and strategic about when you do them? So, by having the Unoffice Hours open, you might kick that slightly unnecessary call a month down the line.

[00:14:19] – Frankie
But also, increasing the layers to reach you. As in, making it harder for people!

It’s very easy to just ping a LinkedIn message, isn’t it? “Oh, hi, I do this thing. Let’s have a chat.” Great. But, if I then respond and say: “That’s fantastic, I have these parts of my week open for these sorts of conversations, please go to this form, answer these questions”… Are they actually going to go through that? Will it weed out some people, is my point. Do they really want to have that conversation? Are they really that excited about working with you? Or, have they just blanket emailed a million people who work in your industry? Do you know what I mean?

[00:14:54] – Frankie
And, there’s also, and I think, I hate to say it… but there’s an ego element to this. You want to say ‘yes’ to all those approaches because it’s nice to think that people want to collaborate with you. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you or your business, because it makes you feel good. On an ego level, does it make you feel good? Does it make your business gut go, “yes, there is marketing to be had here,” or whatever.

[00:15:21] – Frankie
Yeah, it needs to feel stronger than that. And maybe, by pushing people; making them jump through more hoops — continuing the dog analogy — making these people jump through some more hoops to access your time might then mean that it’s a higher quality of person.

And you could introduce screening if it’s through Calendly or something. You ask them questions about what it is that they want to actually talk to you about, because that’s half the problem sometimes, isn’t it? You agree to a call and you’ve chatted to somebody for an hour, and it’s like, what do they even want? I don’t even know what they want. Do you know what I mean? Do they know what they want? They know that there’s something to be had, but they don’t know what it is.

And sometimes that’s okay. Like an example of you and me, Steve, I think that’s okay. You want to talk to this person and that’s great, but sometimes you don’t have that instant connection, and actually, what you really need to know is what it is they’re asking of you. Preferably, before that conversation happens.

[00:16:18] – Steve
And, by putting it in that Calendly form — other schedulers are available — but it makes the person booking the call have to think, “Oh, yeah, what am I asking them for” and then that might make them back off if actually they’ve got nothing.

[00:16:33] – Frankie
Yes. So true. And that applies to other things as well, like just clients approaching you about a job, making them vocalise what it is that they want. “What is the brief?” is always a good exercise for people, isn’t it? And, yeah, sometimes they might go, “Oh, yeah, actually, I don’t really know. I’m going to come back in six months’ time”, or whatever.

[00:16:51] – Steve
Also, you say: “How can we make these cuppa-time conversations transform into actual collabs?” Now, we’ve already said, we don’t quite know what collabs means in this instance, right. But I also don’t want you to feel like everything has to come to something. As in, just being on that person’s radar, starting the relationship, them knowing who you are, you might recommend them for something, they might recommend you for something…

Like, it doesn’t have to be utterly transactional and lead to Marmite on toast and a hundred podcasts, and a distinct lack of pavlova.

[00:17:29] – Steve
Okay, well, I tell you what, talking about collaboration, we need your responses to this as well. Like, what would your answer to Emma be? Maybe you’ve been in this situation, you’ve experienced it before. Maybe you’ve set up something. Maybe you’ve been doing the Unoffice Hours, maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t. Get in touch!

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation over in the DIFTK Community.