How I find work

The question I'm asked most often in e-mail is, "How do I find work?" That's a very good question, and being a "practice-what-you-preach" kind of guy, I'll tell you what I've done to find work.

My secret: I give it away, and then people pay for it.

I know it sounds like I'm contradicting myself (something I like to do in my spare time, just for fun), but it's actually practical advice. I start by going to small local businesses and looking around (chain stores and franchise restaurants won't work). I see which areas of their design and graphics need work, then I go home and redesign them. I don't redesign something I think is already good, just the stuff that needs help.

This can work for just about any kind of product or service where you can see how someone else's business can be improved by using what you've got. It works whether this is your full or part time business, and it's great for getting started.

The key is not "how can I get more work," but "how can I help someone else's business," because that's what really leads to more work.

When I'm the one looking for work, I do this "On spec"—meaning free, until they buy it. If they don't like it, there's no obligation.

Once I have something I think is good, I go back to the business and I talk to the owner (and only the owner). I explain why what I've done will help them. I leave them with samples, contact info and a URL where they can find out more. Then I let them think about it. I'm not pushy. I avoid telling them how bad something they're doing is (even if it is). I just let them know why what I'm presenting them is better. Since I only go to businesses that I think are good to begin with, I can honestly say, "Your business is good and I just want to help you make it better." That's flattering, true, and positive.

If they don't call me, I call them (or better yet, visit) in a few days. If they like it, I can now negotiate. In exchange for the final version, setting it up on their computer, or even training them how to use it, I'll get a fee, or something in trade (trade is easier at first).

Restaurants are especially good for this, because you can work in trade for food—that's basically how my wife and I were able to eat out for two years when we moved to a new town.

This works 10,000 times better than going in cold and asking if they want something because you are showing them the results. They don't have to "imagine" it (if they could, they'd probably already have done it). They don't have to wonder if you're any good. They have proof, right before their eyes.

Not everyone will like what you've done. You can explain it to them, but if they don't get it fairly quickly, chances are they aren't going to get it at all, so move on. My wife will tell you I tend to take rejection personally—but I've learned not to (most of the time), because most of the time it's not personal, it's business.

This is especially true about design. Some people appreciate it, some don't. The ones who do will see why what you've done is better. The ones who don't never will. They're "design-blind." And the ones who've designed things themselves tend to think what they've created is genius, no matter how bad it may actually be :). Finally, there are also those people who like what they have, and since it's their business and choice, you have to respect that.

So try not to take it personally—even if they say no, you've had valuable experience, and you've created something you can use to build your portfolio and promote yourself.

Once you've made one sale, you can use this at the next business you try. Again you do the work in advance and show it to the owner. Only this time you can say, "I just redesigned the menu at the Station House Cafe, and..." and now you have more credibility. I can say from experience going to local businesses works. It also introduces you to new people in new cities.

If you do good work, these people will tell other people, or they'll be happy to act as references, or give you quotes to put on your web site about what great work you did, how fast and professional you were, etc.

As you're doing this, you're building a portfolio of designs and/or happy customers. Add all this to your site. A web site can reassure people that you've done other things and other people like them. Your customers appreciate being on your site—especially if you link to them, because then you're promoting them as well as yourself. You can even use the designs and pitches that people didn't want as portfolio pieces. If you're an experienced designer, you know that clients will sometimes choose a version you didn't think was best—add it to your site anyway to show the variety of your work.

If you're just starting out, get quotes from your friends. Just make sure the quotes are true and you can deliver what they say. Create projects for them so you have something to show. The first job many people get (including professionals like architects, lawyers and designers) are for their parents. It's just the way the world works. Your parents should give you a break and be willing to forgive the mistakes you make (your mileage may vary).

I've even followed this route with web sites (though carefully, and only for sites that clearly needed a lot of help). For example, I noticed that a site that sold wonderful and unique architect-designed watches had a terrible site. Their products were great—their site was not. So I sent the owner an e-mail with a design sample of what their site could look like. He saw the difference and I redesigned his site. (You can read more about this here.)

And even with little jobs one thing can lead to another. If you've done a good job, then you'll do more work for these people over time. In the case of http://www.Projects-us.com I'm now designing watches for them (more about them when the watches are ready for sale).

So starting small can lead to big things. Not to mention free meals.

daniel will-harris

Editor, www.FuseLetter.com, www.eFuse.com

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If you've got a cable modem, DSL, other fast connection, or even a regular 56K modem—strangers on the Internet may be getting your personal and confidential files without your knowledge or permission.

No, I'm not kidding or trying to scare you, it's true. Strangers who know how can read, write, modify or even delete files on your computer.

But there's a simple and free way to protect yourself—a "Firewall." I know it sounds like a Schwartzenegger movie title but it's really software that watches what information is coming into and going out of your computer, stops unauthorized entry, and lets you control what info gets out.

In the past, Firewalls could be expensive and complex, but now there's an easy and FREE Firewall you NEED have if you're on the Internet. It's from www.zonealarm.com—go there now and install it. It's free for personal use, low cost for business use.

It's easy to install, and once it is, it will ask the first time a program tries to send something to the Internet. When it asks something like, "Is it OK for your browser to send information," you simply answer "yes" and tell it to remember that, and it does. It only takes a few minutes.

After that, it will alert you if other computers or software are trying to access your computer. It really is easy, and it really is important. Not all the unknown sources trying to reach your computer are malicious, they can be as simple as someone's over-eager web tracking software—but even so, they have no business doing this—so stop them with a firewall. It also stops so-called "spyware" that can track what where you go on the web—without you knowing it.

If you don't believe that your computer is vulnerable, try this SAFE test that shows you whether it can break into your computer. It's from Steve Gibson, a long-time computer-user advocate, so it's safe, but the results can be startling: https://grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2

If you didn't know about this, don't feel badly. Neither did I until recently. But now that I've installed it, I can already see when others are trying to get into my computer. And I feel safer and more secure—always a good thing.

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CoolTips is a new Fusion v4/v5 component that utilizes dynamic HTML to produce a tooltip like effect that can be easily applied to both text and image objects within your web page. As with all Coolmaps software, it's easy to install and use, and gives you results that would otherwise require extension and expensive programming. If you use NetObjects Fusion, Coolmaps components add new features other web building programs can't match. For details, see:


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In the last FuseLetter I mentioned that AOL members can't send blind email. I was wrong. You can—it's just not clear! Sheila Hoffman, at www.inharmony.com told me how:

To send BCCs in AOL, just put parenthesis around the whole group ie: (sheilahoff@qwest.net, richoff@toppa.com) and they'll all be blind.

So the next time you're sending out a mailing to customers (or a chain letter), use AOL's BCC feature. It protects your list, and the people on your list.

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See also, www.makeoverstudio.com where you can take your own picture and change hairstyles, etc. Very clever, too.

If you're a hairstylist—see how this could be helpful? If you're an optician, look at the way it can put different glasses on the same face.

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Do good for free with just a click

NOW is the time to visit these sites, and click to donate for free. Make sure to visit the sponsors who support the site--that's why it's free to you.

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I've always dreamed that people would just come to me out of the blue and ask me to work for them. If you consider the web "out of the blue," then now they do. Of course, it takes initiative and work but YOU CAN DO IT, too.




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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.