Obviously, I’m not encouraging you to find someone to give you money for favors. I am suggesting a way to maintain a steady flow of work is to connect yourself with at least one, if not more, clients who will pay you well for a service that they resell. In short, it behooves the freelancer to become a primary source for someone else’s outsourcing.
In this post, I will share my experience doing this and provide some insight into the benefits of finding yourself a freelancer’s version of a ‘Sugar Daddy’ (or mommy).
One of the biggest obstacles to becoming a full time freelancer is building a sufficient and dependable client base. In my particular profession (web and graphic design), there is usually a pretty good chance that most of my clients will use my services only once, because they seldom need any further designs until years later when they re-brand or redesign their existing identity or website. So, the revolving door that is my client base is always changing, and repeat business is more of an exception.
When I first started freelancing full-time I needed to find a way to bring in new clients on a regular basis as well as some way to generate repeat business for sustainability. As I’ve written about before, being a freelancer means you wear many hats, and the hat of the salesman is one of my least favorites. I contemplated hiring someone who excelled in bringing me clients, but my limited startup budget deterred me from this route. Instead, I spent many hours trolling Craigslist and freelance job boards, sending out countless unanswered emails and resumes and proposals, trying to build a steady flow of work.
An Accidental Solution
While wandering through Craigslist ads I almost accidentally came across a consulting firm that was looking to expand their offerings into web and graphic design. They didn’t have and could not afford an in-house employee for this task, so we struck up a partnership and soon I became, in essence, their ‘creative identity department.’ In this day and age of remote workers it was not an unusual situation at all, and has become very beneficial for everyone involved.
For me, the most difficult part of this arrangement is that they resell my services at a markup that sometimes exceeds 100%. The first few times I saw that they were pocketing the same amount of money I was, while I was doing all the work, it frustrated me to no end. Yet, it didn’t take long to realize they were bringing me clients I would not have otherwise encountered, for the same rates as I charge my own clients, so the fact that they were making a nice profit off of their efforts became less of an issue.
The consulting firm–my ‘Sugar Daddy’–has now helped me build my freelancing business to generate the highest annual income I have ever made in my life (freelancing or not.) Because of our partnership I have not had a slow or dead period in over two years and yet I am still able to pick and choose the projects I want to spend my time on. I enjoy all of the freedoms of freelancing without the worries or hard work of finding new clients. It is definitely a win-win situation.
Since realizing how beneficial this partnership had become, I have determined to build other mutually beneficial arrangements. There are numerous agencies and firms in various niches that are looking for creative solutions for their existing or expanding clients needs, and it’s solely a matter of finding them. I have been able to collaborate with social media marketing people, a non-profit consultant, and an ecosystem preservation organization to provide regular and consistent services that they don’t specialize in, but I do. It takes the load off of their shoulders, enables them to expand their service offerings, and simultaneously gives me a steady inflow of work.
I jokingly refer to these partners as my Sugar Daddies because they offer me otherwise untapped income from their richer financial base in exchange for the services I provide, all the while lining their own pocketbooks along the way. Regardless of the chosen term we have found a way to help each other out. They are focusing on the sales and client relations part of the business while I can focus on the work I love doing.
Find Your Sugar Daddy
I don’t have any great tips on how to find your own Sugar Daddy, but I do know that an awareness of the possibilities could open your eyes to what could work best for you. I believe we live in a time when remote freelance workers can thrive, and one key may be to link up with those that are less obviously associated with the type of work you do in order to help them expand their offerings. I suggest looking at some of your existing clients first, and then start considering other types of businesses or organizations that could perhaps benefit from offering your services to their clients.
Whatever you do, I hope this line of thinking will help you focus less on how to find new clients and instead pursue partnerships with those who will bring clients to you. The potential is expansive, and I believe you will benefit from your efforts.
Do you already have a Sugar Daddy or two? Do you have different experiences or ideas that might help others move in this direction? Please share your thoughts and comments below.