If you’re just starting out, you likely don’t know the best kept secret to getting freelance work. Everybody knows you’re supposed to network with other professionals whose functions compliment yours but that’s only part of it. If you’re just starting out, it may surprise you to know it’s your “competitors” who can help you the most. Here’s how to make the most of it.
- Forget “competitor”, aspire to be a COLLEAGUE instead. Perceiving yourself as a competitor implies you think you are good enough to be a threat and if you’re new, well, you’re not in a position to pose a danger to anyone other than yourself.
- Approach consummate professional colleagues, the bigger the better.
- Leaders in your field are committed to the industry and care about its broader reputation. Accordingly, they care about the quality of services offered by their peers in the interests of elevating the profession. This puts you in a position to be mentored with an emphasis on best practices.
- They have more on their plates to share. The better and more prominent they are, the more clients they turn away so they have more resources to share. Plus, they know everybody and everyone knows them meaning people with needs are likely to go to them first.
- It is more important to cultivate relationships with people a level above you for two reasons. First, you become the habits and practices you see everyday. Second, hanging with a better crowd guides your aspirations to attain better skills particularly if peers don’t present a challenge beyond crass competitiveness. Like attracts like, birds of a feather flock together and you want to be a better bird.
- You’re more likely to get more work from colleagues than from satisfied clients. If you’re a service provider, you’re a designer’s competitive advantage. It is rare a designer will tell another designer who makes their patterns or sews their products unless it’s one on one and you produce a dissimilar line. Conversely, colleagues refer customers to other colleagues all the time. If the person to whom you aspire to be a colleague is aware of your particular skills or lack thereof, they’re usually happy to pass you appropriate work
- If you’re rebuffed it’s possible they are too busy or your approach is off (see #1). You may not be ready for a relationship; follow any advice they give you. Alternatively, this person might not be as professional as you think. If they perceive your approach as a threat, they likely don’t know as much as you think they do so you can’t lose by finding someone else.