Building Your Freelance Network — Connect With Success

by Randy Murray on March 14, 2011

My “day job,” the way I earn my living, is by working as a freelance writer. I love the work and the pay is excellent. I have time to work on my own creative projects, I no longer have to show up in an office every day, and I no longer have to deal with the headaches of managing others and dealing with the difficulties of organizations, enterprises, and operations.

I was worried about one thing when I started on this path: how much time would I have to spend selling my services? How much of my time would I spend cold calling, trying to find the next job?  And the answer to those questions are amazingly this: not one minute.

How did I accomplish this?

I’m connected with other successful people.

These people know what I can do and understand my specific “value proposition.” In non-jargon English that means they know what I do, understand that other people need what I do, and most importantly, what my services are worth.  And these people already are working for companies and organizations that are connected to my ideal potential clients.

And these people bring me work.

It sounds simple, but it’s not easy to get this approach started to actually produce paying work for yourself. My “success network” took me twenty-five years to build.  Now that I understand how it works for me, I can see how someone else could do it in less time.

Here are the basic points:

  1. You have to do something that has demonstrated value. You might come up with a new product or service that’s potentially amazing, but if your prospects don’t know that they need it or what it’s worth, you’ll have difficulty selling it.
  2. Be able to demonstrate that you have already successfully delivered this product or service in the past AND that you are currently engaged in doing it. Yes, this is difficult if you’re trying to bootstrap your freelance business. But I’ve been the person inside companies hiring freelancers to get work done. I never once contracted with someone who didn’t have a verifiable client list and demonstrated work. If you can do the work, but don’t have an established track record, take a job with someone who does have the record and do the work with them for an extended period. Yes, to be a successful freelancer you may first have to work for someone else.
  3. You must stay “in front of” people who can bring you work. Study this carefully. Who can recommend you for work? Who can benefit by making you part of a larger project team? Who can earn hard dollars from you by referring you? Once you know who these people are, you need make them a regular part of your social network, let them know the great work you’re doing for others, and keep them clear on point number 1 above.
  4. Do great work. The biggest success builder is happy customers. That also makes the person who recommended you very happy. They look great and they’ll recommend you again. Do only a passible job and no one has any particular reason to hire you over someone else. Maybe they’ll hire someone cheaper.

People hire me and pay my top-dollar rates because I do great work, I’m easy to work with, and I make the process fun. And my network loves that. I make them look good. You have to find a way to do that, too.

If you’re a plumber, you want your prospect or network to think of you immediately and first when the sink starts leaking. You’ll get the call and the job. If they reach for the Yellow Pages first, or worse, go online or ask someone else, “can you recommend a great plumber?” you’ve lost the opportunity. I keep current with my network by making sure that I speak with each one on a regular basis. That means email, Twitter exchanges, phone calls, and yes, meeting for coffee or a meal. I try and stay at the front of the queue in their minds for “writer.” This blog does that, too. Maybe one of you out there will be working on a project tomorrow and when someone says, “We need a writer. Do you know anyone?” you’ll be able to say, “You bet. I know a terrific writer.” I got one of my biggest clients this year in exactly that way.

This approach works. Just yesterday a friend and colleague invited me to coffee to discuss one of his projects. We talk often and I keep him up to date on what I’m doing.  His next project has a very nice writing opportunity and he offered it to me, not because I’m a friend, but because I’m the person he know who is doing exactly what he needs. Are you doing that, too?

Get out there and build your own success network. It works better than cold calling and direct selling and it’s much more enjoyable.

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