It IS who you know.
High school classmates. College friends. Work colleagues. Former agency clients. Fellow Little League coaches. What do they all have in common? It's where my work comes from.
As a freelancer, I get asked all the time about my work -- or the lack thereof. "How do you get it?" "How do you keep it?" "Don't you get scared?"
There's one answer that covers it all -- people. My network of people. When it comes to my livelihood, they're my lifeline. From birth announcements to brand launches, there isn't one bit of work I've done that wasn't based on a good relationship -- either directly or by having someone I know well refer me. My freelance career started literally 27 minutes after I sent an e-mail to all my close contacts that I had been laid off.
Twenty. Seven. Minutes.
That's how long it took for my reputation and my network to give my idle hands something to do. Eight years later, I could not be more thankful. Thanks to people who know me and what I can do, I have a living. It still has ups and downs and ebbs and flows (I'll cover this panic in another entry), but I never feel like I don't have somewhere to turn.
So my point to budding freelancers is this: keep a good contact list (LinkedIn is OK, but I still prefer my personal contacts app), don't burn bridges, and don't be afraid to ask for work. If that former co-worker doesn't have anything, he or she might have a colleague who does.
It's great to have a sparkling portfolio, technical know-how, or tons of creative or strategic experience, but it doesn't mean much if no one knows about it.
© Kwame DeRoché, 2014