• Jenny Stallard

Sharing and collaboration feels

Are you keen on collaboration? I must confess I am quite bad at sharing when it comes to work things… like contacts. Perhaps it’s middle child syndrome. I was the youngest sibling for the first ten years of my life, and had all my own Barbie dolls, which meant I didn’t have to share them. Perhaps I’m just a bit of a non-sharer. When I say non-sharer, clearly I don’t mean my feelings because, well… My portfolio and Freelance Feels, right? But when it comes to information, contacts or skills, I’ve always found it hard to share.

Recently, though, I have found this challenged repeatedly and I think the universe is trying to tell me something! Because when I do share more, good things happen. When I share my knowledge or time, I realise how it benefits me as well as the other person.

In journalism, everyone wants contacts. They want the name of the right person to pitch to at a publication. And those contacts can often be hard to find - some people who commission like to be under the radar. (Yes I know that’s strange when ideas are their bread and butter but what can I say, it’s true. I heard a commissioning editor say on a podcast recently not to phone her!).

I think I find it hard to share contacts in my industry because they are often so hard won. In fact, a Facebook group I co-admin has a ‘no contacts’ rule.

This is partly because, with nearly 5000 members, we’d be allowing people to pass on emails to those we don’t know and therefore in some way can’t trust.

But I digress. Because this no sharing contacts rule extends to me personally. I find it SO hard when someone asks if I know a name at a magazine or newspaper. I also find it hard to ask other people for similar information!

So, is collaboration a dirty word? Collaboration, perhaps not so much, but I find it hard when I’M asked to share but the sharing doesn’t go both ways. There’s only so many contacts you’ll give someone else without them giving one back before you think ‘HOLD ON I’M NOT A DIRECTORY!’ Well, that’s how it has sometimes felt for me. But is there something in the ‘long game’? Yes so I might know an email for an editor right now, and the person who asks might not have a ‘fair swap’, but they might do in six months’ time. What is it that makes me sometimes reluctant to share, I wonder. Is it that I don’t see the ‘return’ on my sharing investment straight away? Yes, I’m impatient so that’s a part of it, I think.

Is it the competition thing? Where I think if I share with the person who asks – and this relates again to contacts – they’ll get the work that would have been ‘mine’? funny how I think I’m the only person that might have an ‘in’ with that contact anyway! We are all so desperate to make money and connections, I’ve found I’ve been asked if I know someone and as soon as the information is imparted, the person asking trails off…

I’ve been known to feel my heckles rise when I’m asked if I can do something for someone, but with the podcast launching I’ve found that really I need to ask people more and more – to be guests, to mention it on their social media. To meet with me and be interviewed. I am asking people to share their thoughts, feelings and advice for the podcast – and that’s partly made me realise that it’s time I opened up to being more of a sharer myself when it comes to things I know that others might not – including a contact – which would help them on their way and help them remember me as a good, kind, helpful person.

I’ve realised that not sharing and not collaborating is really bad idea if you want to be a happy and productive person! I think that it’s partly my industry, partly me, and partly freelancing which has got me to a point where I didn’t want to share - but also the freelancing in particular which has led me to realise that I really should.

Journalism is extremely competitive. You pass on an email to someone for a contact, and you might find that you’re not commissioned again. That they grab those all-important ‘yesses’ you have worked so hard to get. But what’s the flip side? Well, someone else passing your name on to an editor. Someone recommending you for work because you gave them that email.

This has really come to the forefront of my mind as I develop the Freelance Feels podcast, as I realise how much the podcast world is about sharing. People in the podcast world love to share – information, advice, tips – and it’s so refreshing to me as someone who comes from the ‘hands off! It’s a secret!’ world of journalism.

People I’ve been interviewing for the Freelance Feels podcast tell me they share ‘just because’. I found myself the odd one out in all these different chats, and realised that there are loads of us sharing everything from time and knowledge to contacts and insider info.

It’s hard to put into words, but I’m realising the power of collaborating and how sharing can be a good thing. I feel increasingly bad, as someone who doesn’t always share ‘my precious’ information or contacts, and I still do so with caution (after all the person who then sends the email is likely to say that I handed it over!). Is it selfish or savvy to not share a contact? I have some which I’ve spent years developing – but does that devalue just because I pass it on? Surely not – and I need to remember that.

It’s something I’m trying to shift in my own mindset – after all, changing a behaviour isn’t an overnight thing. I’m trying to apply it more, and to see how it pans out. Perhaps there’s some scope for honesty there, too, in the ‘transaction’ of the sharing. By saying ‘Yes, I can put you in touch with so-and-so, but can you put me in touch with someone at ‘insert name of company here that I know you write for?’. If the answer isn’t forthcoming, then there’s a question mark over whether it’s a sharing collaboration, or a one-way street where I’m being asked for information! But generally, it is a two way street, as I say not always right at that moment, but often perhaps when you least expect it, too. That person might not have the lead you want right now, but they might pass your name over in a meeting that leads to more work.. and so on.

Sure there may be times that I share something and that person goes on to a win and I don’t. I’m sure there will be times I don’t want to share – times when that contact is hard-won and the competition stakes might be high. But I’m learning to see it as a good thing. Just don’t ask to play with my favourite Barbie.

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