This morning I modified my splash page (what you see when you go to allisonkoberstein.com). I’ve had this variant with the ‘portfolio’ section since I first designed this site, but I somehow have not gotten around to actually finishing my web portfolio yet. Even though I know I should have one (everyone says you need one!), people just keep coming to me with jobs via word of mouth! So finishing my portfolio is not exactly my top priority at the moment.
I still plan on posting a web portfolio eventually, especially if I decide to apply for another co-op job or in-house office job (since for those it’s probably required), but I figure in the mean time I will at least post a notice that anybody interested can email me to see my work before deciding to go with me or not, since this is what has been working for me lately.
Old splash page:
New splash (I updated the blog description as well!):
I’ve actually been pretty surprised by how many people have asked me to work with them without even asking to see my own work first (?!) but for the ones that have asked, I’ve just been throwing jpgs into a zip folder and emailing it to them. Maybe not the most professional way of doing things, but it does have the added advantage of you being able to customize your portfolio to the client based on what you think they would be most want to see.
Anyway, the bottom line is… word of mouth is powerful! Personal recommendations go a long way!
How to make clients/collaborators/coworkers/teammates love you and recommend you to others:
- Communicate early and often. Tell them when they can expect to hear from you next.
- Be up front about what you can do, and what you’re unsure of (but offer to look for the solution!)
- Listen, follow instructions accurately (or at least have a good reason for going beyond the directions), and ask questions if you don’t understand something.
- It’s okay to make mistakes if you own up to them and fix them. Nobody expects you to be perfect.
- Under-promise and over-deliver. Remember that things often take longer than you think they will so try to account for that!
- Do what you say you’re going to do.
- Once you decide on a price estimate, don’t raise it just because you can. Personally, I would rather do a couple extra hours of work unpaid rather than raise an estimate at the last minute, and take that as a learning experience for the next time I estimate how long a project will take.
- Treat human beings like human beings. It’s okay to be friendly, chat, call people by their names. (Of course, use your judgment.)
- Always tell them how much you appreciate them! ESPECIALLY when they recommend somebody else to you!
I really try to follow my own advice here since it makes working more pleasant for me as well! Even though most of these things sound really obvious and you’ve probably heard them before (so many times), it has taken a lot of practice and experience actually working with others in order for me to get it through my head how valuable they are and actually apply them consistently.
It’s easy to find to the motivation to be a good person to work with if you get most of your jobs through word of mouth. Since my network has grown organically, the people sent my way are tied to someone I know personally, and I don’t want to make them look bad or regret recommending me by flaking out. Every interaction is important to me!
Building your network
It can take a while to build up your network to the point where your email inbox is regularly filling up with opportunities, but it’s an exponential growth process. People in the field you want to work in know other people in that field. For the first couple years you might only get a few jobs, but then all of a sudden everyone will be calling you at once!
It’s been approximately three or four years since I completed my first paid freelance design job (though I did small illustration commissions years before that), and the person who I worked with has since referred me to at least four other people, and three of them have referred me to other people… and so on! Each job has let me gain experience, confidence and has let me build my portfolio a bit more (even if it only lives on my computer… for now). Once I gained confidence, I started feeling less shy about telling other people “yeah, I’m a designer and illustrator!” which has opened up even more opportunities.
Three years might seem like a long time to commit to something if you’re just getting started, but for me it was okay because I wasn’t in a hurry and the time was going to pass anyway. I never put tons of effort into marketing myself or pounding the pavement looking for leads, so when I wasn’t doing a job for a client, I was working on school or my own projects or off having fun and not worrying too much about it. When a job comes to me, I am excited to do it (“yay, look, I’m making money doing designy things!”) and so far all of my projects have had happy endings. That method of marketing seems to be enough.