You often hear that one of the main benefits of utilising a co-working space/startup hub – such as ICE – is being able to network and collaborate with your fellow members. In some instances, it makes perfect sense: an online marketer and a web designer are likely to form an alliance and pass each other potential work, an opportunity that would be otherwise missed if you’re working from home or holed up in an office on your own somewhere.
But the added benefit of being in such a creative and ideas-flowing environment is that sometimes, collaboration ideas come out of the unlikeliest of places… And they can work really well.
I’m a freelancer trading as Morgan Online Marketing. A few months ago, I had the idea to write a guest blog post for a major industry blog about a first-hand experience involving a client: their website’s homepage disappeared from Google, and in addition to looking into the possible cause, I took steps to help Google to re-include it in its index during the same day. While I was writing the post, I had the random thought that comic book-style visuals would suit it really well, given its writing style (which in parts took the form of a story). Fortunately for me, Cosmic Anvil – run by Huw and Hannah – are also based at ICE, so I ran the idea by them, asking if they would like to provide the supporting visuals for it. They loved it.
In return for a fee to cover Hannah’s time (who illustrates Cosmic Anvil’s Age of Revolution comic), I received comic panel sketches in line with my ideas, which included illustrations of me talking to a client, a panda and a penguin (it’s a Google thing!) and me high-fiving the robot mascot of the website where the post was to be published. As you do.
Hannah did a cracking job on the images, as you can see above. She did rough sketches at first (the left-hand side) to see if she was on the right track with what I had in mind, and then converted them into proper inked drawings (the right-hand side), including additional details such as shadow and filling-in.
A few weeks later, Panic Stations! was live (full title: Panic Stations! A Case Study on How to Handle an Important Page Disappearing from Google). In addition to receiving good feedback for containing useful info for other online marketers, many of the readers celebrated the drawings.
In addition to a fee for their time (which I was happy to pay, coming out of MOM’s marketing budget), I mentioned Cosmic Anvil and Age of Revolution at the end of the post, linking to their websites, social media profiles and a site where you could buy a copy of their first comic release. According to the post’s individual analytics data, to date the post has been viewed over 5,000 times (pity it’s not over 9,000 eh Huw?) and it’s been shared on Twitter almost 500 times, so it’s been seen by a fair few people on a global scale – especially as Moz is a US-based site, but with a global audience and fan-base.
The reason I wanted to blog about this story is that there is simply no way that I would’ve gotten the comic-style drawings produced if I hadn’t already known Huw and Hannah, and the reason that I knew them both is because we’re members of Welsh ICE. It was great that I was able to run the idea by them and that they were on-board with it, and from there we were able to take it further.
I asked Huw for his comments, from his and Hannah’s side of things. This is what he said:
“The beauty of all this is that it took place in one office, between two companies. Steve didn’t have to play trial-and-error finding an artist – he had one sitting right in front of him. We held our meetings in the café/restaurant next door to our co-working area. There were no awkward misunderstandings over emails; all communication happened face-to-face or over lunch.
“The main plus of collaborating in a co-working space is that you are working with friends. No need for meetings to get to know each other, just friends working together towards a single goal, and the result was a huge hit.”
So while an ICE-based startup may readily utilise the more obvious skills of their fellow members (such as ICE’s resident web designer, online marketer, finance advisor, etc.), you never know where else you might find a collaboration opportunity…