Blogging, Life

The Importance of Collaboration & Working for Free


For the past year I’ve been working for free as an intern for Brandon Gaston. Brandon is the founder and Creative Director of LifeSTYLest and a professional image consultant. By interning for his company, I’ve been introduced to so many different creative individuals in the Portland and Seattle area, and I want to share with you my experience working for free and the importance of collaboration.

*This post is not sponsored and may contain affiliate links. All content and opinions are my own.*


How it all Started

First and foremost, I want to say Brandon wasn’t the first person I worked with for free. Since September 2016 I’ve been shooting with Rachel Cossette a couple times a month. Rachel reached out to me as she’s also a Portland based blogger and was looking for someone to trade OOTD shoots with. We quickly became close friends, which brings me to my first point about collaboration. Some of the people you will meet become some of the most important in your life! And it was actually through shooting with Rachel that I was able to gain the confidence to reach out to Brandon.

I first met Brandon at FashioNXT in October, 2016. I recognized him from Instagram (of course LOL) and even though it was out of my comfort zone, I went up to him and introduced myself. OMG am I glad I did! It’s so hard to put yourself out there sometimes, but the reward can be huge. I used that first introduction with him as the base for the e-mail I wrote when I reached out asking to intern with him five months later! We met to discuss, and lucky for me, he hired me as his intern!

My Experience as an Intern

This was a true unpaid internship, and I’m actually glad it was. Yes, I was (and still am) doing “basic” stuff, like curating content, scheduling posts, editing articles, etc. But I also benefited! I learned how to actually curate content and use applications, like Buffer, that I hadn’t previously been using. I was also given opportunities to show my other skills, like graphic design. Since Brandon didn’t have any other company employees at the time, he was doing a lot of stuff himself. Anything he couldn’t do, he hired out. I was able to offer to do photo editing and graphic design for free, which made me more of an asset.

Interning for Brandon also gave me the opportunity to attend events and meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. From FashioNXT, to the Grey Magazine Awards Party, every event I attended brought a new connection. I had to push myself to meet other people, something that’s always been difficult for me. And finally, after nine months, I caught a break. I met an amazing group of creatives in the Portland/Seattle area that I’ve already started working with. This brings me to my next point: why collaboration is so important.




The Importance of Collaboration

When I work with other photographers, bloggers, hair and makeup artists, etc., I not only learn more about the fashion industry, but about myself as well. It’s almost as if I get to see myself and my brand through someone else’s eyes…if that makes any sense? LOL. It gives me the opportunity to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. This is invaluable if you want to succeed in any career! I’ve learned photography is not my strong suit. I’m just not good at it. And you know what? It makes sense, because when I think about how I feel behind the camera, I realize I’m “eh” about it. It’s not a passion of mine, and realizing that gives me the opportunity to change course, and figure out what I need to do strategically to make up in that area.

Collaboration > Competition

If you’re in the creative field, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “collaboration over competition.” It’s spewed pretty frequently and honestly, it used to drive me crazy. I sometimes feel it can be used as a smokescreen for lack of success. I’ve read some blogs where the author will mention how hard it was for them to find others who wanted to work with them, and how they couldn’t understand why. And this is a valid concern, it’s definitely crossed my mind before when I’m feeling low. I think that’s why it’s important to really identify what collaboration and competition mean to you.

For me, collaboration offers the opportunity to learn from people who have skills I lack. To create something together that’s better than anything you could have done on your own. When I think of the word “competition,” I honestly think of life. Everything we do to improve is a competition, whether we’re competing with who we are in order to become who we want to be, or if we’re competing with other bloggers for a certain collab. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel competition is a negative thing, but rather a normal part of life, and of business. If there was no competition, where would our drive come from? Why would we try to do better, be better, or improve at all if there wasn’t some driving competitive force?



The Story Behind this Post

As you may have guessed, the photos used in this post were from a collaboration between myself and two other creatives. #Shocker LOL. I originally wanted to shoot this look as a New Year’s Eve outfit idea, but it turned into so much more than that. A few days before I was scheduled to shoot with the amazing Rachel Cossette, I was contacted by Lux Artistry Collective, a hair and makeup artistry creative team. They wanted to collab on a photoshoot, so I quickly found a beautiful indoor studio (Studio Northwest), booked it, and a few days later co-owner Shawna Cueller was at my house at 6:00am with coffee and a smile. She not only created this beautiful hair and makeup look, but she also met us at the studio and provided creative assistance and hair/makeup touch-ups throughout the ENTIRE shoot!

Working together on this photoshoot also offered a unique opportunity to get to know each other. There’s something about meeting up at 6:00am for hair and makeup that really gets the conversation flowing haha. It was amazing to learn about Shawna as a person, as well as her company and her goals.




As you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun together LOL. It’s pretty amazing to me that most of the opportunities I’ve had have stemmed from my willingness to work for free and collaborate. I really hope this post inspires you reach out to someone you admire, join a creative team, or just get an insight in to the world of blogging 🙂 Leave me a comment below with your thoughts, and I’ll talk to you soon!



Photographer: Rachel Cossette Photo

Hair & Makeup: Shawna Cueller – Lux Artistry Collective

Location: Studio Northwest

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  • Reply daneen rogers

    I totally agree with working for free–I did it in the beginning and I still will occasionally. To me, it’s not all about getting paid–it’s about creating relationships and being accessible. Your photos are beautiful!

    January 29, 2018 at 12:19 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Thanks Daneen, I totally agree 🙂

      January 30, 2018 at 10:14 am
  • Reply Rachel Cossette

    Aww I love this!! Seriously working with amazing brands, discovering new products you love, and especially working with other creative people is the best part of blogging for me. I think accepting what you are lacking in and working with others who can fill in the gaps is essential to making any business successful, but also focusing on your own sh*t and realizing the only competition you should be aware of is the one you are in with yourself and your own creative output. If you start comparing you become blind to the great work you yourself are creating. On that note I can’t wait to shoot with you again and collab with more amazingly talented people!

    January 29, 2018 at 1:45 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Thanks baby girl <3 Can't wait to see your face and shoot together! xoxox

      January 30, 2018 at 10:13 am
  • Reply Amanda Maynard

    This is so true! So many people out there to learn from… enjoying following your journey here in Portland! 🙂

    January 29, 2018 at 2:40 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Thanks so much Amanda! You’re bookmarked in my “Blogs I Love” folder ;p

      January 30, 2018 at 10:13 am
  • Reply Jennifer Maune

    You make some really great points. You never know where your contacts are going to come from and if you turn down unpaid opportunities out of hand you may miss out on some great ones.

    January 29, 2018 at 5:01 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    I think collaboration is very important. I try to make it a priority for me.

    January 29, 2018 at 5:47 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Agreed 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      January 30, 2018 at 10:09 am
  • Reply Holly

    Loved reading your story and some of the things you have learned from working for free! I worked for free while I was in college at a local lifestyle magazine and, while it isn’t something I’d like to pursue now, I’m really happy I did it! I remember some people criticized me for the fact that I wasn’t getting paid, but I knew that the experience was worth it. It’s all about gauging the opportunity and if it’s mutually beneficial to both parties, I think! xx

    January 29, 2018 at 6:15 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Yes that’s very true! As long as you are benefiting in some way (and it doesn’t always have to be monetary), then it’s worth it!

      January 30, 2018 at 10:09 am
  • Reply Jessica Bradshaw

    These photos are GORGEOUS. Wow. You look incredible. I loved reading your points. I am a big fan of collaboration and working with other creatives too.

    January 29, 2018 at 8:33 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Aww thank you so much girl! xx

      January 30, 2018 at 10:08 am
  • Reply Valerie

    Thank you for sharing this! It defines gives me a new perspective on working for free and colab! Its all about meeting new people and connections!

    January 29, 2018 at 11:09 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Yes for sure! I’m so thankful for the people I’ve met through collaborating!

      January 30, 2018 at 10:08 am
  • Reply Aditi

    Great post!The skills you gain, the contacts you make, the relationships that last. I’m all for collaboration and in fact have a very popular blog on that topic.

    January 30, 2018 at 4:58 am
    • Reply Brittany

      Thanks so much Aditi!

      January 30, 2018 at 10:07 am
  • Reply Stephanie from a Sparkle Factor

    I definitely think there are times we need to work for free. Value isn’t always monetary. Sometimes, the payout is a relationship or experience that you can’t put a price tag on. Love this cool collab!

    January 30, 2018 at 10:01 am
    • Reply Brittany

      I couldn’t agree more Stephanie! Thanks for reading! xoxo

      January 30, 2018 at 10:07 am
  • Reply Ashley

    What a fun collab! Outside of my mom blog, I have a human resources consulting business, and to entice I give them a free initial consultation to assess their business needs. The kicker though, is when they get their first invoice and realize they received an additional two hours for free (I’m usually researching their industry during this time)…it immediately gives me trust and credibility, and that word of mouth makes it so I don’t need to spend anything on actual advertising, which is expensive. Working for free is such a taboo subject, but the payouts in relationships and integrity make it so worth it. Thanks for bringing it to light!

    January 30, 2018 at 12:24 pm
    • Reply Brittany

      Wow yes it does sound like relationship building would be extremely important in that line of work!

      January 31, 2018 at 9:22 am

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