For a designer, half our job is to sell ourselves and our work. This is a part of the design realm that I’ve had to learn on my own, through personal exploration and on-the-job training. Half the work is just getting to know people, such by networking or social media. Using cold calls, contacting businesses with prior knowledge or business relationships, can work, but you will spend a lot of time reaching out contacting and calling people, who may not answer or want to talk to you.
Another way to get new clients is by networking through the people you already know, whether they are personal or business relationships. You may not want to push your freelance or personal business to your coworkers if you have a fulltime job, but you can always show your outside work to those who ask, especially if they are exploring other enterprises as well. But past employers and coworkers are a great source of relationships you can build off of. Talk to them about your business objectives, and give them your email or business card that they can give to anyone who needs or may need design work. If you are contact them out of the blue, be straightforward with your reason for contacting them, you can add the small talk after the proposition to lighten the burden.
Because I am a recent graduate, I do not have many business relationships, most of my contacts are personal. This does not mean I cannot network, this means that I will take advantage of my personal relationships. These can include friends, family, or classmates, even professors. The best way is to up front and tell them why you want to use them for networking and about your plans your business. Even if they cannot help you now, they could put a good word in for you if they hear of an opportunity that would fit well for you. Don’t forget to provide them with your business card.
Networking can happen anywhere. It could be someone you met at an event, or someone you meet on the street. The best way to network is by building relationships. People want to connect with other people. Unless you’re Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, you need other people to survive. I have found people like to talk about themselves, and their lives. Get to know people. Find out what is going on in their lives, this way you are showing you are truly interested in them, and they will probably take an interest in you. Don’t always push your business and work, try to learn about the other person and most of the time they will ask you what you do. From there tell them about your work and business, and sell yourself the best you can without being a nuisance—don’t forget to always have a business card on hand.
Remember there is nothing more valuable for your business then strong contacts. So keep if touch with people, and try to keep a positive relationship. As they say it’s all about WHO you know.