Freelancers: Aspire to be “the one”

When I make a referral, I don’t usually have to think about it very much. I know who does a good job and whom I can depend on.

If you need a hybrid publisher, I’m going to send you to Amplify. They’re not the only good choice. I’ve worked with Wonderwell, Ideapress, and PageTwo and they all do a great job and have their specializations. And it’s not that Amplify is perfect. It’s just that, after working on several books with them as a writer, ghostwriter, and editor, I’m secure that they’ll do a good job at a fair price, so I don’t have to worry about it.

If you need a ghostwriter (and I can’t do the work myself), I’ll send you to Gotham Ghostwriters. They’re a solid outfit that treats both writers and those who want to hire them fairly. There are others, but I know Gotham will do a good job.

Want a copy editor? I’ll send you to Merlina McGovern.

Looking for a book publicist? There are a lot of good ones, but Jane Wesman works miracles.

Need a cover designer? I’ll refer you to my favorite designer. (She’s shy, so I can’t put her name here.)

Why just one?

When it comes to these recommendations, I know my behavior is unfair. There are lots and lots of people who can do these jobs well. I can’t be sure I’ve found the best ones.

I just know that these people are talented, fair, and never let me down. Also, I like them. It makes me happy to send them business.

Knowing the one to recommend is a shortcut. It saves me time and keeps my risks low.

I don’t think I’m unique in this way. We all know who we’re likely to recommend. It’s just a lot faster to identify the one freelancer or services firm that you know does the best job at any given task.

What this means for you, a freelancer

If you’re a freelancer, wouldn’t it be great to be the one that somebody well-connected in your industry recommends?

You’d have a leg up on getting your next job.

You can do this. Here’s how.

First, be obsessed with networking. The people with the most friends and connections in your industry are the ones most likely to be in a position to send work your way.

Second, treat referrals like gold. If you get a referral, finish that work fast and well at a fair price. The referrer will hear about it, and that will make them comfortable next time.

Third, do not screw up — even if it is the client’s fault. Do not miss deadlines. Do not blow past cost estimates. Do great work with great enthusiasm. If you disappoint people, word travels fast.

Fourth, set your prices high. Unless you enjoy living on a treadmill, you want a reputation for doing great work, not cheap work.

Fifth, specialize. Be able to describe what you do in one quick sentence. (Steve Woodruff’s book Clarity Wins: Get Heard, Get Referred tells exactly how to do that.)

And finally, be alert to the work of complementary freelancers. Cover designers will get questions about who’s the best editor. Digital marketers will get questions about who writes the best ad copy. If you’re on a project, pay attention not just to the client, but to the other freelancers who are contributing.

It’s not fair that most people only have one strong recommendation every category. Unless that recommendation is you — then it seems just fine. So do what it takes to be the one.

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