What Happens to Your Freelance Work When You Ask for Help
Networking is one of the best—and easiest—ways to get high-paying freelance work. Yet, many of us don’t tap into our networks and ask for help when we’re looking for more freelance work.
And that’s a shame. Most freelancers work hard to build trusting relationships with other freelancers and other colleagues. We joint and volunteer for professional associations, participate in LinkedIn discussions, share information and resources, and more.
Why Freelancers Need to Ask for Help
What we don’t usually do is tap into that network and ask for help. We don’t let our colleagues know when we’re looking for referrals to freelance work. Sometimes, colleagues will just refer work to us. But most of the time, we need to be proactive and ask for referrals and leads to freelance work. That’s because our colleagues may:
- Assume we’re fully booked
- Not really know what we do
- Forget what we do when they hear about a freelance opportunity
- Refer the work to the last freelancer they talked to—not you.
Why It’s Okay to Ask for Help
As long as you ask for help the right way, you won’t annoy colleagues or damage your reputation. In fact, referring work to you benefits colleagues because they build a stronger relationship with the person they refer you to, and with you.
How to Ask People in Your Network for Help
NEVER ask anyone you just met to give you work or refer work to you.
Only ask colleagues who know and trust you for referrals and leads to freelance work. It takes time, and effort, to build trusting relationships.
When you ask for help, be polite and always reciprocate. It’s fine to send colleagues a friendly email once or twice a year to mention the type of work you’re looking for, with a little information about your background and experience and a link to your website (or LinkedIn profile if you don’t have a website yet). If you see the colleague at a meeting or conference, discuss this, and follow up with an email so your colleague has details about the type of work you’re looking for and a link to more information about you.
Offer to reciprocate. In your email, say that you’d be glad to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that may be right for your colleague. Ask about the type of work he/she is looking for so you can follow through.
How to Give More than You Take
While sending your colleagues an email once or twice a year to ask for help is an easy way to tap into your network, you also need to give something back to your colleagues.
There are many ways to express interest in, and help, your colleagues, most of which only take a few minutes. Give more than you take by:
- Commenting on your colleague’s LinkedIn update or discussion or tweet
- Congratulating your colleague on an accomplishment (e.g., a webinar or presentation, a published article or blog, or an award)
- Sharing relevant resources, like reports, podcasts, blog posts, etc.
- Sending a birthday card or a card or gift for a special occasion
- Sending a holiday card.
Say Thank You
When a colleague refers work to you, say thank you. Send a card for every referral. Make sure you send a “real” card; a card you have to go out and buy and mail, not an ecard. If the referral works out, send a gift.
People appreciate the gesture, and will be more likely to refer work to you again in the future. A gift certificate to Amazon is an easy gift that everyone likes.