“I hear you can do Photoshop and web stuff”
“Do you have a resume you can send me?”
“How about a portfolio or anything online that you send over?”
“But you can work in Photoshop?”
“I have a job that’s due tomorrow, are you able to have something ready, do you have the time?”
That was pretty much how my conversation went when I got my freelance gig for Live Nation – the largest music promoter in the world.
I have never had a resume, a portfolio and barely a website. Yet I have still been able to land freelance gigs since 1997. I tell students that I am the worst example for the to follow in terms of resumes, portfolios and having a website. I’ll admit at the very start I tried to have that for a short while but quickly found that I would have to update everything whenever I finished a job and I just didn’t have the time for it.
I took a short 3 and a half month course in desktop publishing and had jobs 3-4 weeks after the course had finished – with zero experience. I’ve been self-employed since and have worked on projects for Visa, Ticketmaster, House of Blues, Rogers, Cadillac Fairview, Canadian Tire… No resume, no portfolio, no website.
People say that it’s hard to get a job – I think they’re lying.
Here’s what has worked for me, it might work for you, it might not, just this is what has worked for me.
Give work away!! …. sort of…
While I was a student I was volunteering (yes working for free which so many young adults today think they should never have to do) for a restaurant and food show on Talk 640 radio. I had to be up at the station – which was ridiculously North of where I was and a long commute by transit – early every Sunday morning. Yes that meant getting up super early on a Sunday which meant not going out late the night before. I would hang with the guests in the green room making sure they were taken are of and bring them into the studio when it was their time. They would ask me “what do you do?”. I would say Im a student in desktop publishing and design. Many often said that they were looking for someone who did that as they needed new menus. I’d then say something like, “well I don;t really know this stuff yet but give me a card and I’ll see if I can help you in finding someone.” I’d then go into class Monday mornings and hand the cards to either the instructor or the teaching assistant and say – do you want a new client, here’s cards of people who are looking. The look on the instructors face was of amazement, he said “you’re not taking these and you are just giving these jobs away?”.
Again – I have worked for a lot of different cool projects no resume, no portfolio, no website…. I haven’t looked back.
Here’s the deal and this is the basis for all of the work I have had.
Instead of telling the potential client simply “no I don;t do this the of work yet” and leaving it at that. I helped them find someone. Building a relationship that if they needed something else they knew, they still could come to me. The person I gave the work to – in almost all cases without me taking a cut or a finders fee – made money.
I wasn’t greedy.
But the main point is a helped out 2 people.
For the client – they learned I can help them find whatever they need.
For the freelancer – I became a valuable contact, they were making money from knowing me. And again, I;m not trying to come off with ego here just saying it how it is.
Say I did this 5 times with different people. I then had 5 clients that could keep coming back for me asking for help or advise and in some cases the work would be what I can do. For the 5 freelancers, I was put first on their list to contact if they had a job offer that they couldn’t do. So basically I had a group os “sales agents” that would then start sending work my way.
My first gig a few weeks out of school was for Vistek working on their catalogue. This one the school I went to called me said they knew of a job.
My second gig was scanning in and colour correcting over 1700 images for an online art database. This was given to me by the teaching assistant because he didn’t have the time. It lasted over 4 months and I made good money allowing me to buy the computer and printer I needed to get my freelancing started.
The third gig was taking over the teaching assistant role at the school – this one the TA called me and said if I wanted a job, to come to the school asap as he was going to be quitting and they would need someone asap. That job lasted a couple of years and then I was offered a teaching job at the school which lasted around 13-14 years.
I then went on to work for a designer working on the annual report for Cadillac Fairview (they own all the malls across Canada) which was a referral from Vistek.
And it goes and so on, and son, and so on.
Referrals. All of my jobs have come to me because someone else said I could do the job.
I am such a strong believer in giving work away to the right person. It helps in the karma dept.
I also do believe that there is something that builds momentum for you – there’s is something that can;t really be defined – people have talked about “The Secret” and I believe in a lot of the theories mentioned. If you help others you will be rewarded. You will build momentum.
When Canadian Tire was launching their website (around 2001), they called me and I had a similar discussion as I did with Live Nation.
“Hello, I hear you do Photoshop”
“Are you available, we are under a tight deadline”
“Ok come on in”
I asked how did they even find out about me and they said it was a photographer who had taken my course that mentioned me and gave them my contact info. They didm;t even know his name, so I still don’t know who referred me but I am grateful.
It’ crazy but here is also why it works.
If someone says I can do something, that’s an endorsement. If that person has a good relationship and credibility with the client, they believe them. No need for a job interview. I also have found out that most professionals are busy as hell – they have no time to write up a job listing, post it online or at schools, wait for responses, go through responses, arrange interviews, go through interviews, and make a decision. That would take forever!!!
They just want to pick up the phone and call someone they trust and ask, “who do you know that can do Photoshop?”. Their friend has just saved them all the hassle of a job posting. It is their friends credibility that is on the line, not mine. Everyone wins in a situation like this – the client saves time and gets what they are looking for, the person doing the recommendation is helping a friend or colleague, and hey, I get work! THe bottom line though, you absolutely have to do a great job and deliver above expectations, otherwise you will never get a referral from that person again.
So here’s another trick.
Hang out with cool people, people that are in the business you want to be in, people who are at a higher level than you, respect them and learn from them but most important of all, be friends with them. Help them. Become valuable to them.
Do this and you will have a world of opportunities ahead of you. I’ve been very fortunate and I thank my lucky stars all the time – it isn’t always easy or my phone isn’t always ringing off the hook (those times I call a holiday and go somewhere if possible) but you would be amazed at what can happen.
Some of the memorable jobs have been:
having to go to Bermuda to teach people at Yellow Pages on how to make websites
helping launch the Canadian Tire website by delivering 1700+ images in less than the required 4 weeks
teaching at Humber College
designing the logo for Live Nation which is probably one of the most seen logos in the entertainment business worldwide
getting to go across Canada tour managing a band
So it’s simple really.
Help others, don’t just say no to a job, help the client find someone while helping someone get work, be open to possibilities, be grateful and put yourself into places that you can meet quality people, talk to people, increase your circle – volunteer if necessary!!! That’s pretty much it, the road ahead will be full of opportunities.