Spread the Word About Your Freelance Work

Freelance Finesse Tip 1: Spreading the Word

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It’s estimated that 80% of all design jobs are found through word of mouth. For freelancers, that number may be even higher. Unfortunately, many consultants operate under the misconception that if they do great work, everyone will hear about it. But if your clients aren’t natural networkers, they may not actively spread the word.

How can you encourage your contacts to extol your virtues? Sending regular emails and checking in periodically can help keep you top of mind. Also, be sure to provide former clients with the tools they need to easily refer you, such as copies of your resume, business cards, a link to your website and leave-behind items from your portfolio.

While it’s wise to keep in regular touch with all past and present employers, pay particular attention to those who are especially enthusiastic about your services, advises Kalamazoo, MI-based freelance designer Christopher Shamus. "Find the person who is your biggest fan, and build a great relationship with that person," he says. "I have clients who take comps of mine around to show people. These are the clients I’ll drive several hours to brainstorm with or take out to lunch."

Your social circle is another good source of referrals, since those within it are apt to sing your praises without prompting or persuasion. "Your friends and family are the best resources, but they really have to understand what you do in order to help you," says freelance creative director Sara Papas, who’s based in San Francisco. "Have them review your portfolio, and let them know the types of projects you’re seeking. Give examples of clients you’ve worked for and what you’ve done for them. The more specific you can be, the better."

Here are some additional tips for encouraging referrals:

  • Create a distinctive business card. A banal business card can be a career saboteur. If people don’t comment on it when you hand it out, develop a new one.

  • Branch out. You may report to the creative director for a project, but that doesn’t mean you should only approach that person when seeking new opportunities. Others within the creative department or outside of it may know of business leads.
  • Follow up. Always thank those who recommend you for a job. A personal handwritten note—preferably one you’ve designed—leaves a memorable impression.

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