Remember that class? I think it was History 101 or something like that. Those “Hunter/Gatherers” who wore animal hides and hunted for food (bears, mammoths, sloths, rats, ants, unwary slime) and/or gathered enough organic food (nuts, berries, mushrooms, saltines, ants, unwary slime) to propel themselves into the next day, full of protein and ready to take on more of the exciting game of staying alive, were our beloved ancestors.
They evidently did a pretty decent job at their work because here you are, letting your coffee grow cold while you hunt for ideas that will propel you into your next day—full of protein (that Hershey bar melting into your mouse pad) and excitement in doing what you love.
You do love freelancing, don’t you? Well, you do. Maybe, at this very moment, you’re not totally in love with your vocation. I can understand that. Hunting can be very lonely. Gathering ain’t a lot of fun either, when you’re trying to add $2 + $2 and keep coming up with less than $157.
But, my job right now is to inspire you. We can all use a bit of inspiration from time to time.
Like you, I’m in love with my art. Would I do it for nothing just because I love it so much? You can answer that, too. Would you? Yes, you would. You’ve probably been doing that all your life … like the rest of us. Whether it was designing the homecoming float, drawing the cool car for a friend, designing the poster for the stupid guy running for president of the 9th grade (he lost), or just making a neat wreathe to hang on your front door, you’ve given yourself away freely all the time. Think about it. And, honestly, you’ll do that free stuff until they pull the sheet up over your face and say something like, “sorry, we did all we could do”. So, hey, stop dripping into your keyboard. You love it. BUT! Enough is enough.
Nobody’s asking you to really do your art for free. Freelancing contains that awful word but, don’t give your talent away. Use your free time to prospect, hone your skills, learn, … anything but wait. Face it—you’re going to be working on something (there is that cool, Happy Hysterectomy card you’re working on for Aunt Nancy) even if you have nothing to do! So, make yourself more valuable when the next project arrives. You can even make that next project arrive! “I’ve been checking my E-mail all day and nothing’s shaking. I don’t even have a forward from my cousin in Detroit. I’m totally out of work. I have no prospects”. Yes, you do!
Make that next project arrive at the mouth of your cave!
For the past week I’ve been working on a booklet to replace the god-awful booklet that came with a product I bought. No, I’ve not spent an inordinate amount of time re-working the booklet … just enough to show that I can do a better design, think deeper and write better copy than the poor schmuck who did the original.
Why? I want as much of the advertising/design work there is to be had from this company. That’s all. Am I asking too much here? The poor schmuck did all my prep work. The poor schmuck left holes I can fill. Thanks, poor schmuck!
So, yesterday, after phoning the company and politely squeezing out the name and E-mail address for the Director of Marketing’s secretary, I wrote a friendly note to accompany the PDF of my (fabulous) re-design. The letter was just as important as the booklet design. I wanted the person-in-charge to know I’m a neat, caring, fun and intelligent sort. The letter was my “presentation in the board room”, complete with five-piece suit and marching band … without the bath robe I normally wear. I had to show the person that I know the product (did my research) and honestly cared about the company and how it would profit by hiring me to re-design all their print. Yes, the positive audacity cloud that follows me around was thick above my head yesterday.
Then; I waited.
This afternoon I received an E-mail from my newly-acquired contact with the company … “ Michael, I have forwarded your e-mail to the person over the manuals. We will be in contact when he makes a decision”. Not a long letter but enough of the key words I love to hear. I like the simplicity of the note. It sounds positive, with the “person over the manuals” term to let me know there’s not a whole heck of a lot of typical corporate double-speak in this company.
I’m excited. My prospecting for free may net a nice relationship with a good company. They may end up hating me. I may end up hating them. Who knows at this point? What I do know is that this little experiment in “what if?” has given me a bit more confidence—more excitement in what I love. You can do the same.
Confidence will get you a lot farther down the road than sour grapes or “they probably wouldn’t care to hear me out”.
Your Assignment: This week, find something you’d like to bring home for dinner. I’d probably not try to do this little exercise with Coca-Cola, McDonalds or any of the global companies. I’m pretty sure you’d be wasting your time. But, why not pick up the phone and talk to a human at some point this week? Find something or some product you can sink your meat-loving teeth into and grab hold. Do some noodling and maybe submit a redesign to the appropriate authorities at your chosen target.
I can give you more examples of good, long lasting, lucrative client/agency relationships I’ve had that started with, “would you mind if I presented a few of my ideas to you?”. If the prospect answers, “no”, just move on toward people who actually want to improve their image. The ones who are sure they will never be able to do better than what they currently have are the folks you don’t need wasting your free time. It’s worth a couple of minutes to call and say “Hey – who do I ask…” and then just send them some ideas. Hunt – you might gather.
Also; while you’re out there hunting and gathering, please bring back some fire and a couple of sharp sticks.