Here are five areas where my professional opportunities have come from:
There is no doubt that most of my clients have come from being introduced by friends and colleagues. The strangest example of this would be a former student introducing me to her mother, who ended up working with me for several years and hiring my company to work with her research lab during the Olympics last year.
Sometimes you hear about an opportunity that sounds interesting but, unsurprisingly, the client wants someone with a lot of experience. Volunteering gives you experience you might not have been totally qualified for but now you have the confidence that comes with having actually done something (not just reading about the theory from a textbook) and you have results that you can point to. In my case, I served as the editor-in-chief for a magazine and this helped convince several current clients that I was qualified to work on their publications.
3. Asking for chances
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not shy about asking for an opportunity. I believe in what I do and that's why I am not ashamed to reach out to people I know or to new people through friends in my network. In March, I will be going to Turkey for the third time to give some talks. This all came about from a friend in Japan recommending me to someone she knew in Istanbul and my network growing from there.
4. Being available
Leaving a full-time job at a university was hard. It's not easy to give up a monthly paycheck. But aside from not having to ask permission to do outside work, one of the best things about working as a freelancer is being available when other people are tied up. I might be the tenth person a client calls but if I'm the only one available then I'm getting the gig.
5. Looking where others don't
There are lots of places that people post jobs and short-term opportunities these days. Some of them are public sites that anyone can access and others are in closed forums and groups. Sure, you have to filter out a lot of jobs that don't match your criteria but if you see an ad that your competition doesn't, you have a much better chance of landing it.
What you might have been expecting to see on this list but didn't is advertising. I don't advertise for two main reasons. First, its hard to reach my target market because I perform a variety of services and work with people in different countries. It's not easy finding a place where enough of them would look to justify the cost. But second, and more importantly, advertising is like a cold call and I prefer to work with people who either know my value or have heard about what I can do from someone they trust. Most of the people that have found me online through a Google search just want a quote for my services and then never respond again. This is a huge waste of time. I'll stick to the best kind of advertising for my business, word of mouth. It's free and the opportunities that come from it only serve to strengthen my network as I get a new client and the people who recommended get more credibility for recommending a good freelancer.