Like politicos who have to continually fundraise, we free agents have to continually market for new business. There's too much client churn and too many one-time projects. We could be overwhelmed with assignments today and with nothing in the pipeline tomorrow.
Yet, the business of developing new business has changed. Forget relying primarily on those carefully planned well-orchestrated marketing campaigns. More opportunities are coming from left field and as emergencies. If you prove ourselves in them, you could have a lucrative account for at least a while.
For example, I sensed that my reviewing books would get me attention from movers and shakers. I do that here and my two other syndicated blogs - here and here. Both authors of the books and those with a professional interest in the subject often contact me about my services and fees. Incidentally, I no longer low-ball it. Here in executive communications the recession is over.
Another strategy is simply being open to whatever. That means being by our laptop and iPhone. No, we can't decide to shut off all communications and enjoy a day in the woods. "Can you do this, now?" That's the most frequent way opportunity is framed. And it swings by on weekends also.
Another part of new business development is learning to suck up, absorb the lessons from, and then put in the past what doesn't turn out so hot. The good news is that after a while we can smell a mile away what projects we shouldn't get into.
For example, I accepted an assignment with a highly bureaucratic media company which provides content to a major brandname site. Even during the phone training I sensed this wasn't for me. When the first assignment arrived, there were three pages of instructions. I should have backed out then, nicely. Next time I will. It's difficult but I have had to get a hang of the Silicon Valley ethos that everything is learning. And so professional suffering is a gift. My goal is to try to avoid receiving so many of those gifts.
Sure, I still design and conduct marketing campaigns. The point is that we have to break open to being one with the marketplace, not stuck in some fixed idea about how prospects shop for and buy services.