There are many ways of finding work when you're self-employed, here are three of the most effective ways of expanding your circle of colleagues, partners and referrals.
Networking involves getting together with people from other businesses and talking about what you do and what they do.The idea is you either meet someone who needs your service, or they will know others who will want it and refer your name on to them.
Networking meetings take three basic forms: casual networking where people chat in small groups, more formal networking where attendees each make a short talk about what they do, and meals where you talk to people on your table. Some groups will have a short lecture from a successful person, with a mix of networking afterwards.
When going to a networking event it is important to have two things: a clear idea of your service or offering, and business cards to aid the memory of whoever you've talked to. It is helpful to have a memory for names and faces, or at least a pen so you can take notes about people you have met, but these are skills you can build up as you practise making an impression over several events.
There are many different groups offering networking events, including BNI and local Chamers of Commerce. Valley Business Builders (Pembroke chapter of BNI) meets every Thursday morning at the Pembroke Best Western. It is worth checking their website for more information. GallantMEDIA has been a BNI member for over 5 years. We'd love to have you come out to a meeting as our guest, just let us know when you're available.
An important thing to remember is people who go to networking events often go to more than one. If you make an impression, they will often be happy to refer people to you who have a need for your skills. Effectively they become your sales force, and all they ask you return the favour and refer people you find who need their skills or services.
Get together with someone with complimentary skills and share work and bid for larger projects together. The classic example in the web world is a designer and developer pairing up - they can each handle different parts of the same job and together can pitch for jobs that individually they would not get.
Within a partnership it is important for the personalities of those involved to mesh and also that the balance of work is well distributed. If one person gets most of the work in, the other could take on more administrative duties, or offer that the person gaining clients takes a fee within the project money for doing this work. This helps keep the relationship as a partnership rather than it becoming that of a manager and worker, which often does not work out when both parties are coming from an independent freelancing background.
Networking events are good places to find someone that you can get on with and have compatible skills in a relatively relaxed atmosphere while avoiding the feeling of a formal interview.
The holy grail of freelancers and small businesses; getting a referral from a previous client means you don't have any expenditure on advertising and the potential client is going to be much happier to talk to you as they all ready know you've done a good job in the past. The best way to get referrals is to have clients who are very happy with your work. Hopefully when you have a few clients where you have done good work that they like, and that you have a good relationship with, they will refer to you any enquiries they get that match your skills.
By using a combination of these three methods of finding work, GallantMEDIA has been swamped with work since our inception in 2004. We've built up a network of contacts, created partnerships with interesting people, and gained many referrals without the overhead of traditional advertising costs. If you're willing to give them a go, I'm sure you will too.
Some content by Paul Silver