Today I was called by a potential client. They’d been in touch a few months ago, looking for a PHP developer to help create the website for their new business. I was too busy to help, but had been very approachable on the phone and had talked about the project a bit try to help them find the right sort of developer, just helping them frame what skills they needed in a more technical way to make the search easier.
They’d talked to some other developers, but couldn’t find anyone they wanted to do the project and wondered if I was available. I’m still not, but I did give them some names of people I know through the Farm who might be able to help.
This is the second time this has happened over the last couple of months. The previous time was a similar situation – someone needed help, found me via search or the Farm website, and although I couldn’t work for them, I tried to give them some help. They couldn’t find what they wanted from someone else and got back in touch to see if I had availability.
This is a not useful method of finding work if you’re new to freelancing. However, even when you’ve been going a while and have built up to a full calendar, you still need to know new work is coming in at some point in the future. If you show interest in what a potential client is trying to achieve, even when you know you can’t help directly at the moment, it can come back as work later. The sales work to turn the lead in to a client becomes easier too, as this is someone who has compared you to other people in the market and decided to get back in touch – a much easier person to sell to than someone talking to you for the first time.
Is this foolproof? No, plenty of times the potential client will find someone else they’re happy to work with. Is it worth 5-10 minutes of your time when the potential work comes in? I think so. I get to hear about a potentially interesting project which I might be able to pass it on to a friend who can do it. At worst, it’ll be a daft idea and I don’t recommend anyone. If the project sounds sensible and I refer a friend who does it, they will likely try to refer some work back my way when I need it. If no one is available or the client doesn’t gel with anyone, I get an offer a couple of months later when I might need some more work.