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I currently freelance and have one main client. However, work has been slowing down and I'd like to add more long-term clients instead of chasing one-offs. What is the best way to go about this?

I have tried reaching out to my network. I haven't had success with any of the usual online sites and those places don't pay very well (I'd rather not waste my time on cheap skates). I have also written hundreds of targeted, personalized cold-call letters to various companies that I would like to work with in my area. No success with that either. As I understand it, no one wants to be cold-called no matter how charming your letter is and how it explains that you can help them with their needs.

Additionally, I want to work off-site permanently. For some reason, even though I live in Silicon Valley, almost no one is open to this. Any insight on that? My main client lets me be off-site and we've had no problems.

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SasS yourself. Next time you're proposing something tell them you'd rather work with them long term on a retainer fee. X hours a month for Y dollars. Read up on it and make a plan. Emphasize the benefits to them - you can offer a lower per item rate, and most importantly it establishes a long term mutually beneficial relationship where the success of their business in turns mean more success for you. You get to learn their business and help them grow.

As for the Cold Calling dilemma. That's a lot more difficult. Bars and an outgoing personality can go a long way. Happy hour, happy hour and more happy hour. Those companies you want to work with - figure out where their decision makers congregate after hours to unwind.

  • Thanks for your reply! Regarding finding the decision makers, do you find that the HR Manager is a good target or is it better to get someone on marketing or higher up the ladder like a Director or CEO? My experience is that HR has no clue what's good for the company, but people who do real work at the company have more vision - however, seems like HR is the gatekeeper. Thoughts? – TCDesigner Sep 6 '16 at 6:26
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Try this. Approach an intermediary who works with the potential clients you are after, someone who has the reputation and scale to bridge the initial contact and confidence. At the beginning, I positioned myself with architects (they design offices and buildings not brochures), printers (many customers come in with nothing, not even a logo), and bigger, full service creative agencies (as an overflow or to complete work that is off kilter for them - e.g. print for a web design company). One particular printer I worked with for 10 years and the other benefit was that they backed me up financially on significant jobs e.g. $20,000 of print, I wasn't out on my own in the wind.

My biggest success in this area was with a private export manager who initially needed a brand / website for himself, then presented me to his own clients on a markup - he got a cut and could control the end marketing of his products (on their behalf) so wasn't let down by local limitations. This is how I got into producing language versions of brochures and printing abroad, China, Poland and Czech Republic. Opened new doors for me. You have to think out of the box though.

Cold calling doesn't really work for designers as there is a certain amount of trust / confidence the client needs before they are going to commit a budget to you. However, I wouldn't knock this. From a 100 leaflet drop on a commercial estate I had 2 replies, although one of them stayed with me for 7 years. Make the effort to market yourself effectively and invest in your practice, it will come.

Best of luck

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