How to Find The Best Projects for You

Tom T bugAfter nearly eleven years of full-time freelancing, I’ve had an epiphany. I’ve realized that nearly all of my best business comes from people.

Sounds obvious, right?

Specifically, my best-paying, most satisfying, heck-yeah-I’m-living-the-freelance-dream assignments have come from personal relationships I’ve built over the years: referrals, friends, people I’ve met at conferences (more on this in a moment), folks I had the guts to introduce myself to when opportunity knocked, and on and on.

Not mailings, not advertising, not a spiffy website, not SEO, not cold…er…research calling, and only a little social media surfing (hint: no revenue has come from Facebook).

Living. Breathing. PEOPLE.

But it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I sat down and asked myself: if all my best business in the last decade has come from in-person networking, why am I spending most of my development time holed up in my cozy writer’s room?

So I started stretching my comfort zone. I decided that I needed to shoot for at least one face-to-face meeting a week. That may not sound very ambitious to you extroverted types out there, but bear with me. I’m a shy person taking baby steps here.

First, I scheduled a few low-risk lunch meetings to start breaking the hermit habit. My criteria wasn’t exactly “meet someone with a pulse,” but it was close. I reconnected with some colleagues from an old networking group; folks I hadn’t seen for several years. After two weeks of that, I moved up to a slightly higher but still “safe” level, reaching out to current clients. Not long after, I started getting together with people who are completely new to me. Some are potential clients, others are simply people I’d like to know better, even if we never do business together.

But here’s the really wild thing: by the first week of March, I had more new work flowing in than I could have imagined—and so far most of it has come just from talking to people I’ve known for years.

I’m not saying you’ll have the same results, but if you’re sitting alone in a home office wondering when the work will come to you—like I was—you probably have something to think about. (And many thanks to Lyn Menke at HOW for reassuring me that I’m not alone among creative types for missing this for a long, long, time.)

One of the big ways I’m planning to get out of the office this year is to attend CFC in San Francisco. There’s still a few days to sign up before the Early Bird discount expires tomorrw, March 15.

And don’t forget: if you’re a shy type too, a low-pressure way to practice reaching out at the conference is to introduce yourself to me! See my post on why I’m going to CFC for more details (plus a secret code that will get you an extra $50 off in addition to the Early Bird rate). I’ll be easy to find, because I look like the guy in the upper left corner of this post.


Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for creative agencies and green businesses. He publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month and periodically shares more casual wisdom on the WordStream of Consciousness Blog. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at