Freelancers -- where do you find most of your work?

I know that question is sort of like where's your favorite fishing hole. Hi, all -- I've been a freelancer for about a year and a half now, and for the first time, things are slow. I guess I'm on the famine side of the feast-famine freelancer cycle. Two questions:

1. Are there e-learning groups (besides Articulate of course) that have helped you generate leads/work?

2. How much of your work comes through cold calling? (I have an aversion to cold calling, but will pull up the big boy panties if need be.)

I'm guessing that your work comes from a little bit of everywhere (traffic to your site, repeat business and referrals from clients, cold calling, etc), but I don't really know that till I ask. 

Thank you in advance for your time and input. --Daniel

211 Replies
David Anderson

Always a great topic, Daniel. We had a similar thread last year: http://community.articulate.com/forums/p/908/3243.aspx

I've heard from several folks that their Screenrs helped get them gigs while others have received offers after sharing templates and other freebies in the community.

A lot of work can be found from established vendors and boutique studios--companies who specialize in e-learning design and development. Getting into their contractor pool is one way to bring in steady work.

Holly MacDonald

Daniel - I'm coming up on my 5 year anniversary as a freelancer, and all my work comes from referrals - so network, network, network is my advice. I find that the online stuff typically supports or validates your track history, but may provide leads for you. Instead of cold calling, I`d be more strategic than that and figure out if you have any connection to an organization and get a warm intro instead. Kind of like "six degrees of separation". 

The ups and downs are a pretty natural part of freelancing and while it can be stressful, you have to know it's there and plan/prepare for it. Use the downtime to create a business development strategy, otherwise you might get a bit panicky and take anything that comes your way, which may end up being the wrong thing.

Best of luck.

Daniel Brigham

David: Thanks for the link to last year's discussion and the sharing idea. And, of course, for all your help on this forum and youtube (e.g., Audacity tutorials). Mindmapping tutorial was very helpful.

Holly: Thanks for reminding me that this "downtime," which is actually nice to have -- I mean when you're slammed you can't really read about ID or learn new skills -- is the time to develop strategies for new biz.

Congratulations on the five-year mark. That's cool. Hope we cross paths again. --Daniel   

Bruce Graham

Daniel,

At the end of every job that you do - ask your client one question:
"Is there anyone else in your organisation, or your network who could also use what I do?"

My best decision was to get someone else to do my selling for me - so I work for less "per unit", but get into companies that are so large that they bring folks to me, and they have networks.

And so on...

Luck plays a huge part, but as they say..."You make your own luck".

Networking can mean blogging, lecturing, posting, ANYTHING.

Oh - and get some examples onto your website, the "Blog" section is empty, (so "fill it or kill it"!), and let's see some examples of your voice and your eLearning!

As well as cold calling - you need to have a web prescence where people can find YOU.

Be careful of recommending yourself for Copywriting and Editing Services when you use bullet lists that have no fullstops!   

Isn't "Voice Over" just one word?

Why are you DIFFERENT from the rest?

The point my friend is that your "personal advert" needs to be much more compelling (IMHO)

Are you a member of http://www.elearningcolorado.org/?

Hope these spark some renewed interest in self-promotion ;)

Bruce Graham

www.pperf.co.uk

Daniel Brigham

Thanks, Bruce, for the thoughtful comments. Working hard now to fill out the site and agree with all of your comments. If you don't mind, I'll send some voice over sample to see what you think. I enjoy your elearning and voice over work. Thanks again, and take to heart your suggestions. --Daniel

Kevin Thorn

Hey Daniel,

I'll echo the others here. I just finished my 90th day as a full-time freelancer. The biggest thing I've learned thus far is having a full project plate pretty much eliminates business development. 

To answer your first question, this community is by far the best I've associated with in terms of networking and leads. My participation here is not to get leads but to help others and share tips. Occasionally I'll get a ping either directly or as a referral.

As for your second question, I don't cold call and don't anticipate ever needing to, nor wanting to. 

Couple tips that helped me over the past couple years to be able to go out on my own:

1. Follow Bruce's points about your site. Get some visibility. Even if you don't have a portfolio ready, at a minimum have a blog where you can share ideas, tips, etc. to show readers what you can do. 

2. Follow other industry blogs, communities, groups and participate in those conversations and comment on articles. 

3. Take small projects to get used to managing your time. Don't worry about money at this point. Your goal is to show you're a trusted contractor to your client. THAT will bring you return business and referrals. One of my first ever clients is still with me for two years now. 

4. If you can, attend one or two of the big annual conferences. The sessions themselves are fabulous, but the face-to-face networking is invaluable.

5. Set some goals. Max # hours you can work a week. Manage 1, 2 or more projects at once? Learn a new skill.

6. Finally, be patient. It's about your passion for the craft and producing quality outputs. Your work will speak for itself.

Crush it!

Bruce Graham

Some more thoughts....

YEY Kevin (!) - here's to another 90 - seems only yesterday you were thinking of taking the plunge

There are two ways to fill your days - find work, or alternatively, (and much more fun in my opinion...), have people find you. This second one leaves you with much more time, and there are a variety of ways that you can certainly increase your chances of this. 

1> As Kevin says, get involved, locally, on boards, at conferences etc. To quote Kevin:

"..My participation here is not to get leads but to help others and share tips. Occasionally I'll get a ping either directly or as a referral...". Each "ping" can generate loads of work.

2> Selling yourself is about many things, being trusted, being liked, doing good work, being an advisor etc. Many websites say WHAT people do, few explain WHY PROSPECTS SHOULD CARE.

For example Daniel - your site has a good intro, (you focus on behavioural change on the front page - that's great...), but then your Services page just says the same, and is a "Shopping List". What I want to know is how are these services linked together to form a cohesive product that changes behaviour? Tell me about when you did this - what was the (measurable business) result.

What are you? Are you an eLearning developer, or are you "Denver's Business Communication Expert". IMHO your site is unclear in this respect - it seems to me that "...you do communications stuff". Is your website where people go to find you, or is it where you send them to learn more, AFTER you have made contact?

3> You need to know what you do, and what you do not do, but be able to "spin" it positively. make sure you know how to sell visions and ideas that you can deliver on. I am not a Flash programmer, I do not "do" Flash. A while ago I was approached to create some Flash via an online auction site, I turned it down. I gave my reasons, explaining that I did work with Flash producers if necessary, that I actually thought the focus of the request needed amending, and that Flash was just one tool in the box. We left it at that. Long story short - they came back with a $40000 dollar production budget for a suite of courses using my skills instead, (with me project managing the skills of others). A guy I used to work for in the UK (now a multi-millionaire...) used to LOVE the concept of "...reframing the debate". Be brave enough to explain to a client that they may be wrong (in parts), and how you can help them to the right answer. I am there to take away their business pain.

Know your elevator pitch. Know your USP. My Corporate "slogan" is "eLearning - made simpler". It's simpler because I can do (or project manage...) everything you need, it's simpler because I use Storyline, it's simpler because I do not get you tied up in the "extras" that big corporations sometimes do.

This last section is soooo important, and all part of getting work.

4> Know how to say "Come to me - I'm the best" without being disrespectful to the local competition. You need to be respected by the local competition, (so you need to know them!) because one day when that big contract comes in - you will need their help.

5> Be prepared to invest. An existing client rang me yesterday and asked if I couldd provide a service to them. I said "No - but I will find someone for you". Actually, on investigation, I invested $300 in software and now I do offer that "thing", and it fits really well with my existing offering - but it is a part of my Gestalt, part of my package, all part of a coherent whole. (WOW - that sounded GOOD  )

6> Sometimes, the client just wants simplicity. I have one client who knows they are not creating leading-edge eLearning, but they know they will travel along a path. He keeps apologising for the "boring" content they keep giving me. He think that I always need to be using Javascript and multiple layers/branching. Nope. Not all the time. Saying that, I absolutely will make it the best, most beautifully designed, concise, focused, behaviour-changing 12-slide linear course that I can, if I have to, after discussion and debate.

That said - following on from the delivery of some of those courses, he has now also withdrawn from another supplier and handed me a lovely course where I have been completely free to do anything I want to do. That course is an internal "exhibition" course, designed to show the business what they get for a certain price, (and therefore hopefully more work for me in the future).

Always delight the customer, and they will tell others.

I appreciate that you did not ask for a website critique, however, as your "shopfront" it is tied up with the whole "getting new work" thing. Getting work is all about people knowing your capabilities, your strengths, and whether you are a "good bet".

What makes you special? Sell that - and you will find that the work comes in one way or another.

Again - hope this, and the other ramblings help.

Bruce

Daniel Brigham

Bruce and Kevin:

Well, first, Bruce: Thanks, man. I guess I was sort of looking for a kick in the pants. I've been busy and just put stuff off, but you can only do that so long. I agree with the suggestions regarding the website. And now, the site is my priority. Nice work, btw, on that link done in storyline. Good idea. Once I get over this head cold, I plan on posting some vo stuff for critique. While I'm thinking about it -- what audio equipment do you use (preamp, mic, software, etc.) Your stuff sounds good. I'll be sure to recommend you, if the client is looking for an international flair.

And, now, Kevin: Thanks for reminding me that money is important, but maybe not so much when you're at the beginning stages of proving yourself. One has to take time to learn new skills, and really mastering the skills is the most important thing. Congratulations on being 90 days self-employed. My client really dug your turf grass project. Man, how long did that take you to put together?

Thanks again, Bruce and Kevin. Be seeing you. --Daniel    

Kevin Thorn

@Daniel, yes money or your potential income is important. But if you have the ability to work on building your side business while holding a full-time job, then you have the luxury or focusing more on quality. That extra attention now will pay off eventually to the point you may be in a position to go full-time with what you love to do.

Time if flying! Can't believe it's been 90 days already. 

And thanks on the Turfgrass project. That was and still the best project I've worked on to date. How long? Geez....since I was building it for myself I wasn't has keen on tracking time. I do recall many, many late nights and overnights getting that thing put together. Since I wasn't officially freelancing at the time I didn't have any other projects so I would work on it every night and weekends (still had a day job). All in all I'd say there's close to 300+ hours from start to finish.

Glad you and your client liked it!

Belen Casado

I really enjoyed this debate.

I'm one step before @Daniel and I noted down all the tips given by @Kevin and @Bruce.

Bruce, first of all, excuse me for my English, I'm Spanish and get amazed when I listen to your site audios

I navigated through your website and I really found interesting to develop it with Storyline. This way, people can see a great example of what you can do. I loved your examples cause they're joyful and at the same time they allow to understand what can be done.

Well... I have a lot of work to do, but with this guidance I think that I'll be able to go step by step.

@David, thanks for the link to the last year's thread.

Bruce Graham

@Belen,

Many thanks for your kind comments - very glad you enjoyed it. I guess that is my point...when was the last time someone enjoyed a website? What do they have to be so dull? A website is an advert of YOU as a person. It should project your personality, skills and abilities. I have been very surprised at just how many people have contacted me wanting to know more because of the website. It is the best investment I ever made.

Just come back and ask any questions you want as you make the journey - also PM if you do not want to post on open forum.

@Daniel - I use a Samson C30 USB microphone + Podcasting Pack, in conjunction with a Harlan Hogan Portabooth Original, soon to be upgraded to a PortaBooth Pro . No pre-amp, and I use Audacity for recording software, having moved from NCH Wavepad Pro.

Hope that helps.

Bruce

Rudolf Haug

Hi Daniel,

what kind of special expertise do you have in storyline. Any specialties? Send me the link to your website and give me a rough idea about your way of working (e.g. hourly fee, project, how much would be the price per hour, what do you charge to hand over the source file, etc.). We are expecting some more work coming in shortly and take precautions concerning resources to buffer peaks.

best regards

Rudolf

Daniel Brigham

Kevin Thorn said:

@Daniel, yes money or your potential income is important. But if you have the ability to work on building your side business while holding a full-time job, then you have the luxury or focusing more on quality. That extra attention now will pay off eventually to the point you may be in a position to go full-time with what you love to do.

Time if flying! Can't believe it's been 90 days already. 

And thanks on the Turfgrass project. That was and still the best project I've worked on to date. How long? Geez....since I was building it for myself I wasn't has keen on tracking time. I do recall many, many late nights and overnights getting that thing put together. Since I wasn't officially freelancing at the time I didn't have any other projects so I would work on it every night and weekends (still had a day job). All in all I'd say there's close to 300+ hours from start to finish.

Glad you and your client liked it!


That's funny -- I guessed it took you about 300 hours, figuring out the structure, graphics, voice overs, editing, etc., etc. Good stuff.  

Daniel Brigham

Rudolf Haug said:

Hi Daniel,

what kind of special expertise do you have in storyline. Any specialties? Send me the link to your website and give me a rough idea about your way of working (e.g. hourly fee, project, how much would be the price per hour, what do you charge to hand over the source file, etc.). We are expecting some more work coming in shortly and take precautions concerning resources to buffer peaks.

best regards

Rudolf


Hi, Rudolf: I'll put a few links to my work and rates in a private message. You should see it in a few minutes in your inbox. Thanks for your interest. By the way, I studied a good deal of German in school. -Vielen Dank, Daniel       daniel@brighamcommunications.com, 720.884.6837

Rudolf Haug said:

Hi Daniel,

what kind of special expertise do you have in storyline. Any specialties? Send me the link to your website and give me a rough idea about your way of working (e.g. hourly fee, project, how much would be the price per hour, what do you charge to hand over the source file, etc.). We are expecting some more work coming in shortly and take precautions concerning resources to buffer peaks.

best regards

Rudolf

Kevin Thorn

Daniel Brigham said:

Kevin Thorn said:

@Daniel, yes money or your potential income is important. But if you have the ability to work on building your side business while holding a full-time job, then you have the luxury or focusing more on quality. That extra attention now will pay off eventually to the point you may be in a position to go full-time with what you love to do.

Time if flying! Can't believe it's been 90 days already. 

And thanks on the Turfgrass project. That was and still the best project I've worked on to date. How long? Geez....since I was building it for myself I wasn't has keen on tracking time. I do recall many, many late nights and overnights getting that thing put together. Since I wasn't officially freelancing at the time I didn't have any other projects so I would work on it every night and weekends (still had a day job). All in all I'd say there's close to 300+ hours from start to finish.

Glad you and your client liked it!


That's funny -- I guessed it took you about 300 hours, figuring out the structure, graphics, voice overs, editing, etc., etc. Good stuff.  


Probably more. I do remember it taking all summer over the course of three months. I intend on keeping better track of the time for the next one - yes, there's more MISSION courses in the hopper!