Long-time readers of this blog might note that I don’t talk a lot about business development or marketing as a freelancer. There are a couple of solid reasons for that: 1) I’m not particularly good at it, but also 2) I’ve been lucky enough to have clients seek my services without me contacting them directly. However, it’s not entirely luck, so today I’ll be discussing how I created my own luck.
Networks > Resumes
I’ve discussed this formulation before, but I’ve learned to believe it through experience: your network matters more, in the long run, than your resume, however neatly packaged or impressively filled.
Yes, the resume will show where you worked. It might also talk about what you did and what you accomplished. However, it will not tell potential employers or clients what it is like to work with you:
- How diligent/timely are you about getting your work done?
- Are you pleasant to be around, or would people rather avoid you?
- Is the quality of your work high?
- How is your behavior on or off the job–do you get along with your coworkers?
- Do people trust you to do a good job, not share sensitive information, or deliver good work in the time frame and format they expect?
All of these answers–and more–cannot be answered by a resume. They come from the testimonials of other people who have worked with you on a daily basis for weeks, months, or years. References are not typically included on resumes anymore, and even “references available upon request” takes up a couple lines on the page that could be better employed showing results. However, when the request for references comes, you should have a clear idea in mind about whom you can refer potential clients or employers to so that they will hear things that make them want to hire you.
Beyond serving as references, yes, there is the possibility that the people you work with now might seek you out years down the road. If they don’t have an interest in hiring you, they might refer someone else to you. However, that should not be your priority at the time you’re doing your work; it smacks of using people, which is not what you want to be doing. That’s also a very “transactional” way of dealing with your work relationships. If the only reason you’re making friends with others is to get some sort of quid pro quo out of them, they will notice that, too. Bottom line: do a good job now because you wish to do a good job; any future clients you pick up down the road should be looked upon as a nice bonus or a testimony to your character.
Making Your Own Luck
You can’t depend on luck to pay your bills. One client found me just as I was about to run out of money. The first check hit my bank account the day after I spent my last two non-retirement dollars to tip a taxi driver–that was pure luck!
However, if those calls from former coworkers, managers, or customers don’t come in, you’ll still have to hustle to find clients on your own.
Looking back on it, I’ve seen where I could have done my marketing more effectively. If your previous peers are not calling you out of the blue, you might need to call them to see if they know anyone looking to get writing work done. And if you did a good job for them, they’re more likely to hire you if they have work or to refer you to someone else. That’s where your actual past performance and behavior matter. Again, the resume will tell employers or clients where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Only your network can tell them how you did things, and the better you are at doing your work and working with others, the more likely you can make your network work for you.