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Here’s what I think is a major problem when you are attempting to be a freelance (creative or otherwise). People are reluctant to work with or hire people whom they don’t know. At the very least, they want you to be recommended by someone you have in common.
So sadly, no matter how good your resume, how wide-ranging your experience, how exciting your successes, how masterful your email subject lines and how persuasively crafted your cover letter, it is depressingly difficult to stand out from all the other talented people knocking on the same doors.
You would think that as skilled as you are in building a brand you would have a better sense than most of how to get a future employer’s attention.
But there is the same major obstacle: I don’t know you. I don’t know if we will work well together, I don’t know how much you actually contributed to the successes you claim, I don’t know if you are difficult, egotistical, or plain lazy. And I don’t care how many endorsements you have on LinkedIn, because I know that my own LinkedIn endorsements, for the most part are simply people trying to be nice, or hoping that I will endorse them.
So now that we’ve entered “Bleak House,” what to do about it? Well, there are no magic answers; you know what to do, but you actually have to do it. You have to network, mine your LinkedIn contacts, join associations, maintain relationships with everyone you work(ed) with, ask current clients who they might refer you to, and, in spite of the odds, keep sending those emails.
The bottom line, though, is that over 90% of the clients my ad agency has acquired over the past twenty-two years has been through referrals. From someone providing the answer, “Porte advertising,” when somebody they know asks if they know anyone who does marketing/advertising. And yes, 10% has come from our “clever” mailings—like sending flowers to prospects and asking for a blind date—but the meaningful long-term work has come from referrals.
So now that I have thoroughly depressed you, may I suggest two things? One, go out and order a perfect Manhattan, straight up, stirred, with a twist, and preferably Maker’s Mark. And second, remember that for some inexplicable reason, if you are talented, it usually eventually works out.