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How to maximize your clientele through joint ventures

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Clients come, and clients go. But as a freelancer running a creative business as your livelihood, you can’t afford the income to go. That has to keep coming.

To ensure that it does, you have to continuously build (and rebuild) your list of both active and potential clients.

The deeper your clientele pool, the more apt you’ll be to have consistent work — and, of course, the income that goes with it.

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One very exponential way of doing this is by forming a joint venture (also known simply as a “JV”). So let’s explore exactly what a joint venture is and how you can use JVs to increase your clients, your workload, and your income.

What is a joint venture?

A joint venture is a business agreement between two or more individuals, in which case the individuals have teamed up to work on a particular project.

Please note that a joint venture is not a partnership — at least, not how the word “partnership” is traditionally used to describe a business entity.

In a traditional business partnership, two or more individuals own a percentage of a single business. The partners completely share the income, expenses, and responsibility of that business. And, usually, the partners have an equal say in how that business is run.

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In a joint venture, the individuals own their own separate businesses. They maintain complete autonomy over those businesses.

Where their minds meet, instead, is on a specific project. There, they combine talents, skills, and resources for the betterment of both sides. And one of the pros of forming such a relationship is the potential to make your business colleague’s clients your own — and vice versa.

It’s important to understand the difference between the two, especially since a JV allows you to reap the benefits of working with another person, while also avoiding the pitfalls that often come when owning a business with one or more partners.

For example, most freelancers enjoy being their own boss. Owning your own business means calling the shots on how work is done, making the executive decisions, and directing the path of the business.

In a traditional partnership, however, there’s only compromise.

You can’t just do things your own way; there’s always your partner to consider. Two (or more) people have to figure out how to make decisions and run the business in such a way that everyone is satisfied.

If that can’t be done, dissension among the owners can cause the business as a whole to suffer, or even fail.

Many actions within a partnership require everyone to be involved, which can slow up processes. Different personalities and views must be dealt with — and might not always mesh.

On the other hand, with a JV, you retain your right to make your own decisions for your own business. It’s only on the immediate project at hand where you will be working with another individual. And that project can be as long-lasting or as short-lived as the two of you decide it will be, without destroying your entire business or your associate’s in the process.

You can also use an initial joint venture as a “testing ground,” to decide if future JVs with this associate would be worthwhile.

How to use joint ventures to increase clients and revenue

One advantage of using joint ventures is that they give you — and your colleague — access to each other’s resources. In this case, the resource you want to be exposed to is his or her contact list.

You and your JV associate are working together to introduce each other to the other person’s contacts.

You do this by creating a specific JV project directed at your contacts who need and want the skills and expertise of your JV associate — and where you, in return, are needed and wanted by the contacts your associate brings to the table.

However many contacts your JV associate has will now be contacts that you also can reach, via your newly created joint venture. And now yours will learn of your JV associate as well.

An example of a joint venture

The following is example of how a joint venture can work to increase clients for both parties.

A photographer teams up in a joint venture with a copywriter.

On the surface, this doesn’t really seem like much of a pairing. What can a photographer and a copywriter offer each other in the way of clients or — practically speaking — in the way of anything?

Well, the photographer — let’s call him Sam — isn’t just a photographer. To create residual income, Sam has developed some online photography courses.

He has been selling one of them — his course on creating an online photography portfolio website — to a number of people on his email contact list that he’s been building over the last two to three years.

But in teaching his portfolio class, Sam realized that something important was missing from his course. He wasn’t addressing the written content that a portfolio website still needs beyond just the photos.

And he wasn’t doing so for a very good reason: He isn’t a writer, and he doesn’t feel skilled enough in that area to teach it to others.

Enter Sally. Sally is a copywriter.

She, too, has become interested in online courses. She wants to teach others what she knows about writing for websites. But many of her contacts come to her instead to learn how to build a website.

Not being a designer, Sally couldn’t help them.

And then she met Sam at a creative business convention.

Over a couple cups of coffee, they realized they could help each other by introducing themselves to each others’ contacts and offering their courses as each other’s missing links.

The JV project they created was a live webinar. Via email, each associate invited their own current, past, and potential clients to climb on board the webinar.

In it, Sam teaches some interesting facts for people who want to build an online portfolio website. Sally, on the other hand, teaches some important points about good website writing.

Together, they wrap up the seminar by pitching their own appropriate online course to the appropriate viewer.

Sam and Sally both had 500 contacts each on their own. But through their JV webinar, they contacted 1,000 leads for each other.

So together, they doubled the amount of people they would have normally reached when trying to sell their individual courses.

This is just one example of a joint venture. Sam could have been a website designer. In his agreement with Sally, Sam recommends her — exclusively — to serve his clients who are having trouble writing copy.

Sally, on the other hand, refers only Sam as her go-to website designer for her clients in need.

Perhaps their JV agreements even state that, when one of them does such a referral, the other provides a percentage of the sales as a thank you.

The JV possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Be careful with contact lists

If you are going to be sharing contacts and clients, you have to make sure that the people actually want to be contacted.

That is to say, no spamming.

Just because you have a list of contacts doesn’t mean you should just hand them off to a colleague in exchange for their list.

You probably promised your contacts from the get-go that you would never share their information with or sell it to a third party. So don’t do it now, either.

However, what you can and should do is create a situation — that being the joint venture — where you are specifically giving your clients an opportunity to “meet” your JV associate — whether that be online or in person — as someone who can work with them and provide them with necessary services and/or products.

This allows you to introduce him or her to your contact list. In return, your JV associate will do the same for you.

Then, it becomes the responsibility of these potential clients to contact you — to click a button or pick up a phone, and take action. You are giving them the chance to know, like, and trust you and your JV associate. After that, the rest is up to them.

Your associate is still the go-between for his or her contacts. You maintain the same between your own contacts. All is done for the other’s benefit — but you do not swap contacts outright.

Get your JV agreement in writing

Yes, casual joint ventures are possible and exist. But like anything else in business, upfront, clear communication in writing is the best way to prevent misunderstandings and protect the interests of both sides.

In the written JV agreement, make sure you include how the joint venture will work, the roles and responsibilities of both parties of the venture, what will be received by whom and for what, and an exit plan — a quick and easy way for either of you to walk away from the joint venture, if and when desired.

Multiply your exposure by getting creative

By joining up with another creative business owner, you multiply your exposure to leads who already want your services. Your JV associate worked hard to find these people.

But now, thanks to your joint venture, they come easily to you. Of course, your JV associate is rewarded just as quickly and easily with exposure to your contacts.

As you continue to explore joint ventures, you’ll discover that JVs come in all shapes and sizes, with many means to the end of increasing your clients, your work, and your income. So do what you do best: Get creative, and develop a joint venture of your own.

What kind of joint ventures have you explored with your business? Tell me in the comments!

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About Patricia LaCroix

Patricia LaCroix has had a career in marketing and publishing for longer than she cares to admit. But, despite that it reveals her age, she’s willing to say that she’s been working a creative business from home in some way, shape, or form since 1986. Her creative skills run the gamut and include expertise in both visual and written forms of communication. Patricia’s entrepreneurial yet giving spirit drives her to help others learn how to work from home and create their own “lifestyle” careers.


More about Patricia’s business: LaCroix Creative is a full-service creative business in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Patricia leads a talented team of associates who assist her in creating effective graphic design and written content — in print and online. Decades of experience — partnered with caring, personal attention — make LaCroix Creative especially well equipped to serve solopreneurs, start-ups, educators, coaches, healthcare professionals, and self-publishing authors.

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