It’s the gap between projects that most freelancers (and full-time employees of consulting agencies) fear.
It’s the downtime between projects that you were too busy to worry about when you were putting out fires for your clients.
Even the best freelancers often find themselves in this situation, especially if you have committed nights and weekends to solving your client’s urgent problems and ignored your own (which I am often guilty of).
So how do you get through the famine-cycle quickly and not sell your self-esteem in the process?
The answer is organization.
As I am wrapping up a project in September, I am reminded of three groups that worked especially well in my outreach.
1. Former customers/Past Clients
- Established relationship and expectations
- Honest communication of project scope and outcomes
- Higher pay-rates for you, lower bill-rates for your customer
I’ve found that reaching out to my favorite clients have resulted in the most honest talks about upcoming projects, timelines, and potential work.
After all, you have already worked hard to build trust on both sides.
Sending the occasional email to check on their progress or to ask for a referral will often yield better results than convincing a stranger who is unfamiliar with your work.
2. Trusted Network
- Like-minded professionals with similar work ethic
- Builds good-will for future opportunities
In addition to former clients, you will be surprised who in your network will go the extra distance and vouch for you and your work.
I discovered this trusted group of friends during a prolonged period between projects. It’s amazing who will go out of their way to help make new connections and opportunities for you.
It’s also inspiring (and energizing) to see a good friend succeed and share her success with you (often over great food and amazing drinks).
As a result, I am fiercely loyal to my trusted group and often think of new ways to better their business.
- Value-based vs Margin-based
- Large network of relationships
- But little visibility into project expectations
Better than online job-boards but no where near as good as previous groups, the various staffing agencies have a large network of clients that may (or may not) have a need for your expertise.
While these agencies may label themselves as “Global SAP Partner” or “SAP Technologists” to imply a large team of highly-experienced professionals, the reality is that they rely on freelancers to augment their staff (both in number of bodies and depth of knowledge).
When dealing with agencies, be aware that you’re competing with a pool of candidates. This is true even if you have earned well into the six-figures for the company and they regard you as their go-to subject-matter-expert.
The term “race to the bottom” applies to both rates for you and quality for the end-customer.
The majority of your prospecting will involve reaching out the above three groups. The quality of your leads will be proportional to their familiarity to your work, with prior customers having the strongest potential for new work.
So now that you’ve organized your outreach into the three major groups, what are best tools to reach this audience?
In other words, what is the most efficient use of your time (today) and how can you systematically and easily incorporate these tools into your routine (for the future)?
More to come in a future article.
I believe there’s an incredible story hidden in every team. The way I share the lessons in these stories is through conversation and data. I just happen to build the analytics that asks the next question.