When networking with other information architects or other UX peeps, I’m often asked, “How do you find your clients?” Here are some answers…
It’s important to note here the type of clients I target. My approach is based around the kinds of people I want to meet. I target agencies looking for an information architect to supplement their project team. They either don’t have one on staff or they have one but have too much work for just that one IA.
My other target client are direct clients: those end clients who need some information architecture consulting and training and already have visual designers, programmers, and business analysts on staff.
I don’t target recruiters. When I first started freelancing, I was working with recruiters to find work, but I can say I did not find one project through them. I also found their rates to be too low. There are some recruiters that work differently, but I still haven’t managed to find any suitable job openings through these recruiters.
There are several ways in which I network. I attend events and conferences as well as directly ask people for introductions and meetings.
When I attend events, I bring my business card and hand them out. Networking events are great because everyone is there to network, to exchange cards, to help each other find work. However, after 8 years, I still find networking uncomfortable. One of my biggest worries is, “I won’t have anyone to talk to. I’ll be alone all night and I’ll look like an idiot.” This thought keeps me from going to a lot of networking events, but I’m learning to counter it with, “It’s a networking event so people will want to talk to me. Plus, I most likely won’t be the only person alone so I can go talk to that other lonely person.” It’s also great to take a friend with you so you’re never at a loss for someone to talk to. You do need to meet other people, but when a conversation ends, you can go up to your friend and introduce yourself to some new people. One great book for networking is “The Frog and the Prince.”
As another way to network, I started the Information Architecture Vancouver Meetup. This is a great way to meet new people and become known to them. It’s also a great way to volunteer to improve our community. If you can’t start an event, you can volunteer to help run them.
I have found in-person networking events to be less effective than what I’d call “direct networking. The most effective way I’ve found to network is directly contacting people I want to know. I look on LinkedIn to find these people and I ask for introductions. At first, I thought people wouldn’t accept my request for an introduction, but over time I’ve found that agencies are looking for contractors almost as frequently as I’m looking for new clients! It actually works quite well. Read my post on LinkedIn a Great Resource for this Information Architect.
Once I’ve met all these people, I connect with them on LinkedIn, ask if they want to be added to my newsletter email list, and stay in touch with them. There’s no point of networking if you’re not going to do anything with the contacts!
Part of finding work is more passive than actively networking. It includes showing my expertise by writing articles (or blog posts) either for my own site or for other sites. You can also use Twitter or any other social media to promote yourself.
I hope this article gives you some insight into how to find work as a freelancer. If you have any questions, please ask!