Recommendations, reflections and pie charts

This week I got asked to attend a networking event. I’ve been to a few of these in the past and have not really had a great deal of success from them. I make a few contacts, I offer up a lot of design advice but rarely manage to convert that into paid work. Plus I hate networking. There, I’ve said it. I’m a great designer, great at project management but rubbish at networking. But better to know what my strengths are and play to those! So I respectfully declined the invite and explained that most of my new business comes from recommendation and word of mouth.

Now that got me thinking; just how many of my clients have come from recommendation? And where else do I get work from? It’s easy for me to forget that I’m a small business when it’s just me sitting in front of my computer. I'm just as guilty as the very many business owners that I have worked with over the years who get so busy in the here and now that they forget to take a step back to look at the business as a whole. To plan where it is going next. And how it is going to get there. So I thought I would practice what I preach and do a spot of reflecting. I keep really detailed spreadsheets of all the jobs I work on; hours, money, invoice dates, enquiries, follow-ups, potential opportunities – you name it, I log it. So crunching the numbers was easy.

I kinda already knew this but not the specific breakdowns; 41% of my business over the last 18 months of freelancing has come from people I already know, have worked with or worked for in the past. And another 41% came from recommendations. Those are the ones I’m most proud of as they mean I’m delivering on what I promise. 12% have come from LinkedIn and 6% have been enquiries through my website.

It’s interesting that whilst there’s a 50/50 split between contacts and recommendations, when I look at the actual monetary value in the projects, 76% of the income has come from contacts and 19% from recommendation. This makes sense. If you have not worked with me before, even if I come highly recommended, you are probably going to try me out on smaller projects to start with.

The most encouraging stat of all is that 88% of all the clients that I have picked up since starting out are still clients today. Some I don’t work with very often, but if they need design, they come back to me. And they refer me to others. This is helping me to build a strong foundation for my business, spread my risk and work on all kinds of projects that I could never have imagined when I started out.

It’s been a very busy summer so it’s good to take a step back and think about what comes next. Just like with all businesses, there is no point me being a busy fool. I know the sorts of projects I’m good at. I know where I can add the most value. I’m also learning which projects to walk away from.

So if you’re a fellow freelancer thinking about where the next job will come from, it might be worth taking a look at your data. If you don’t have stats, start that spreadsheet and know your numbers! And if you’re not a fellow freelancer but are looking for design, take a look at a few of my case studies. If you like what you see, let’s have a chat. I would love you to be the next entry on my spreadsheet. I come recommended and I promise not to treat you like just another number!

See some recommendations