Monday, March 24, 2008

If You Build It, They Will Come

When you're a kid, adults tell you to worry about your reputation. As a kid, you generally think the adult is full of it and "what does it matter?!" As an adult and a business owner, I can tell you: it matters a lot.

Next month will be two years since I made the jump and started my freelance writing business and landed my primary client. I worked hard to find my first client. Since then, I've gained two additional [writing/editing] clients (one is brand spanking new) that were people I know, based on their hearing how much my primary client loves my work. Then today, a business management consultant I've recently met (at my primary client's office) has said that he occasionally has technical writing work and if I'm interested, he can offer me some work. Also today, in a testament to actually being useful, a former colleague contacted me and asked what my schedule is like, because he knows someone who needs a technical writer, and if that someone can get funding then he would like to "meet/hire" me.

It's worth noting that prior to hiring me, only one of these clients and possible future clients actually saw any of my work before offering me work. My second client, who (in disclosure) is a friend, hired me based on knowing me and hearing the raves (through me) of my primary client. My fourth client, also a friend, has recently given me some work as a sub-contractor because he can't keep up with everything he has. The former colleague knows my work style and ethic, though the project we worked on showcased little of my writing talent.

Much of last year, I was starting to wonder if I should just haul my butt back to corporate America, so that I could work full-time (even though I detested the thought). The main draw Big shocker, I know. I live fairly well working about 20 hours per week, and I can save and pay down my debt. Though, my condo downpayment fund is quite low and not rising very quickly, and I'd really like to be maxing out at least one retirement fund.

Yet things started picking up a bit this year, though there have been a couple dead weeks. Now, on the brink of imminent recession, I potentially have another two clients.

This just goes to remind me of one of my favorite quotes (yeah, I know it's corny -- I really don't like Kevin Costner all that much, but I do love Field of Dreams): If you build it, they will come. I've plugged along with my little business, doing a good job, getting the word out with people I know and on linkedin, and it's suddenly starting to really take off. (I do hope I'm not jinxing myself by mentioning the two potential clients!)

So to anyone else who's freelancing or thinking about it, know this: it may start slowly, it may be erratic, but if you do a good job and get the word out, your client base will grow. Really. If you don't talk about what you're doing, people won't know and they won't know to contact you for jobs.

I've written before that in high school I thought networking was a Stupid Yuppie Thing, but I've since learned that it's soooo very much not. Networking is vital to a professional career. I've also learned that without networking, it's incredibly more difficult to get work as a freelancer. I can't count the number of times I've gotten different jobs just by knowing person X who knew person Y who needed a person with a skill that I have. It's much easier (and less costly) for an employer to hire an employee that has been vetted and recommended by someone they trust.

I'm feeling pretty pleased with the amount of work I have right now, and even more pleased that my client list has grown recently, and may be growing more in the forseeable future -- without any searching for clients on my part!

So, despite the imminent recession, things are looking pretty stable and optimistic for me. I'm very thankful.

1 comment:

tehnyit said...

I have to agree with you. Networking is almost essential to landing that next job. Even if it doesn't really get you the next job directly, you can still use your network to give you solid references.