New freelancers ask this question when they are starting out: “How do I get my first client.” The typical answer that they get from others is “Oh, just network. Get your name out there.”
I get annoyed when I hear professionals give this answer, because although this is the correct answer, it gives the wrong steps for designers.
Personally, I hate the word “networking” because designers think “If I spam my name all over the place, people will pay attention to me and my work and I can get work that way.” Sadly, the professional world is not that easy, and just because it isn’t easy, it doesn’t mean it’s not simple. When people hear the word “networking”, they think of going to conventions and handing out as much business cards, which inevitably turns into a numbers game; a number game that you are not going to win any time soon.
Instead of focusing on numbers, focus on building relationships.
Relationships = Quality Networking
Pitching your services to companies who are in need of your services, believe it or not, do not care about you, your skills, or your portfolio unless you have a world beating portfolio, but assuming that you are starting out, I highly doubt that will be the case. It has been proven that people mostly do business with people that they personally know. know. You may have seen graphic designers who skills are crap, messy portfolio, and can’t seem to know anything about color to save their life, but have a massive list of repeating clients. It’s because they have a long list of people that they have built relationships with.
Stop chasing clients. It will only lead to disappointment. Instead, let them come to you by getting to know business owners. For example, whenever I go to a restaurant or a shop, if I am talking to the owner for whatever reason, there will come a point where they will ask me what I do for a living. Overtime this question is asked and I reply with “I’m a web developer”, Ninety-nine percent of the time, either that person will ask you for your service, or knows someone who needs your service. They are more willing to work with you because:
1.You’ve established a personal relationship with a potential client and will make it harder for them to refuse your services.
2. You’ve managed to promote yourself without making it terribly obvious (people hate that, and business owners can easily detect if you’re desperately trying to sell something.)
Get the term “networking” out of your head. It does not work for what you do. Build relationships. Relationships create more results than blindly throwing your business cards everywhere.