Question: Ask Ken – corporate clients and small biz
Hi there. I am a freelancer who has a DBA and has been freelancing for 15 years. I have always had either a short-term onsite corporate assignment or corporate work from home via my agent (high level work), which has kept my cash flow steady. Last year much of that work went away and I am trying to land my own corporate clients. I love my small business clients but I cannot live on their work alone.
Any suggestions as to how to get a large corporation to take an independent, experienced designer/project mgr seriously and actually award projects? And how to get my foot in the door?
It sounds like you already have your foot in the door, now it is a matter of getting them to open the door wider. What I mean by that is, you have been freelancing for fifteen years, you have been working on short-term onsite “corporate” projects and some from home during that time. So you have some inside contacts (inside these companies). Sounds like you just need to leverage your network contacts. I may be over simplifying or I may not have enough information about your situation, but I agree for a lot of freelancers it is about getting your foot in the door or about getting corporate experience under their belt or on their resume. These don’t sound like they are issues for you.
I would suggest that maybe you need to work your network a little. I assume that in your corporate project/assignment work you dealt with someone on the inside and should have developed a good rapport with them, they liked your work and you have continued to work on assignments off and on. These network contacts are your foot in the door. If they were happy with what you did then they and who they know are your best ways into the company. We have all heard the adage “it’s not what you know but who you know”, business is as much about the relationships as it is the work. We are all willing to suggest a good restaurant to a friend or a good company when we have received good service or had a good experience. These contacts are your best advertisement for more work. I would tread lightly though, there is a fine line between networking and being annoying. I would definitely keep in touch, let them know what you are doing or trying to do but no one likes to be continually bugged or harassed. Foster the relationship, call or e-mail periodically, whichever gets a more favorable response. If you can, do lunch every so often, be visible and you are more likely to be remembered next time an assignment come up.
Beyond that, network, network, network. Join and frequent groups that are attended by your clients (future and present). A lot of corporate client work is awarded through marketing teams, and a lot of corporate marketing people frequent AMA (American Marketing Association) and BMA (Business Marketing Association) meetings, events and conferences. You might also expand your network by joining the AIGA (assuming you aren’t already a member) or the Art Directors Club of Houston. There are studio owners, agency members and some in-house creatives that might also give you an in to some companies. These are all great organizations to be a part of and not just for networking. You don’t even have to join if you want to check it out first. Just find out then the next event is and go, check it out and see if it is something worth your time and money.
Lastly, make sure that your resume/bio/credentials, whatever you are using, is set-up and targeted toward corporate clients as well as your portfolio/work samples. You need to come across as someone professional that can support their business.