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how did you get your first paid piece of freelance work?

(4 Posts)
fluffles Mon 26-Sep-11 09:13:17

i'm trying to go freelance (my previously full-time job has gone down to 4days a week and will go down to 3days in November).
i've spoken to another freelancer i respect and many people in the industry have said they hope i'd be interested in consultancy. i've started a blog which is getting read and i'm presenting a paper at a conference in november. and i'm working with an organisation on a funding application for work.

but still nobody has actually paid me to do anything!

so.... how did you get your breakthrough first piece of work? i'm looking for lots of positive stories that might spark ideas...

Helenagrace Tue 27-Sep-11 10:47:10

Most of our work has come from forging personal links with prospective clients. We've worked hard at networking and building links. Our actuarial work is cyclical so we send targetted emails out at key times. I've just sent one tailored to our January to March year end peak. In fact we only have a few days of availability but if anyone wants anything doing I will find another freelancer to do it. I'll send another at the end of October suggesting they contact us to book in peer review time for March. We try to work 2-3 months ahead as that seems to fit in with how our clients are planning. It keeps us in their in box in a non-annoying way. Building personal relationships takes time but we started doing this two years ago and had £170k business this year from these relationships alone.

We have targetted certain companies and have tried to buy key decision makers a meal or coffee at conferences and seminars. We're good at getting hold of table plans or looking out for key players and getting to sit next to them!

It's good that people are reading your blog. Keep that up as it builds community (says she who doesn't have a blog yet!). Are you using LinkedIn, twitter and facebook? Are you networking?

I think you also have to accept that some people are naive about the cost of a consultant. They don't really think about how much their permanent staff cost as it's now put in front of them in the same way. We charge up to £1400 a day and a few people will recoil at that but a permanent person in that role might well cost £120k plus on costs, they just never see it that way. There will always be those people who will ask you to cost a project and then not follow through because it's going to cost more than 25p. They are unrealistic and you will get better at weeding them out before wasting too much time writing proposals and bids.

Do you have any recruitment agencies in your field? They can be worth contacting for small pockets of work that they can't usually place. It works for us from time to time.

Hang on in there - that first cheque is out there!

Laugs Tue 04-Oct-11 15:29:49

It sounds like you're being too nice! 'Working with an organisation on a funding application' - that is consultancy isn't it? They should be paying you.

watersign76 Tue 04-Oct-11 20:16:09

What do you do?

I'd agree with Laugs.

Doing stuff for free is ok if it is a real profile raiser, but beyond a first meeting and a proposal for your services, I'd be inclined to try to draw a line under it. However good you are, I'd worry that in their minds they will always think of you as "the free person" so may never feel that happy paying you a proper rate.

If they get the funding does it result in potential work for you? Will it definately be you that carries it out or is there a risk they might decide to use somebody else?

Try milking your contacts as Helenagrace says - networking can bring you contacts to bring the work in.

My first piece of paid work was for somebody I know. I also did a bit of touting around peopleperhour.com etc, which isn't paid much but gave me a few testimonials for my website.

If you have a "following" try to make the most of that too.

Good luck.

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