Just Do Stuff

If work constantly lands on your lap; way to go. Let me know what you did. If you’re like me and it’s not always there, what are you doing to change it? Sitting around waiting on work to come your way isn’t a solution. Here’s some stuff I’ve been doing to get more work in—either directly or indirectly.

I kickstarted this process a couple of months ago when Ashley Baxter wrote on Twitter,

There is no shame in reaching out and asking for work. There is more shame in sitting back and expecting things to come to you.


Make sure your portfolio is in check. Do you show pages and pages of everything you do? Consider just showing the projects you enjoyed and are proud of. If there’s a certain type of work you want to attract make sure you have something along those lines in your portfolio. If you’ve just starting out or have never done a project for the sort of work you want to do—make something. More on that later.

Find a Friend

I’m a designer. I’m comfortable with front end code but when it comes to backend development I’m out of my depth. If you’re in a similar position—where there’s stuff you struggle with—find a friend who can help you out. Work with them on a few projects. Expand what you can offer your clients whilst finding someone who you can learn from. Meetups and conferences are a good place to start if you don’t have anyone in mind.


I’m making a conscious effort to write more. I send a newsletter to tens of people every month with what I’ve been up to and a summary of what I’ve been writing that month. It’s not much at this stage, but it is growing, and I’m sure it’ll pay off in the long run. I keep a set of Trello cards with what I plan on writing one day so I have topics in reserve. I add notes to them as time goes on and when I have time to write something I dip into the cards and select one.

Now you have your portfolio in check, a friend to expand your offerings and a little blog gaining traction—go get them!

Do Some Work

It’s time to make something. If you’re not in the middle of a project what’s stopping you just making something? Perhaps you could redesign a popular site. Maybe you could create a product of some sort. Even reach out to a local charity and offer them your services for free. A few months ago I made a speculative site for a restaurant. Just do stuff.

Ask For Work

As Ashley wrote, there’s no shame in asking for work. This could be reaching out to new potential clients you’d like to work with, agencies, or even going back to old clients. Is there a site you done a year or two ago for someone that could do with a once over? Maybe their business has moved on since and they need some help to get things up to speed. Chat to other freelancers and let them know what you’re all about. Head along to that local meetup and meet some potential future partners.

There’s plenty of job boards like Authentic Jobs, We Work Remotely and Smashing Jobs. Consider subscribing to them, or check them regularly.

Get in Their Heads

If there is a particular client you’d like to work with, check out their site and their competitor’s sites. Reach out to them and ask them if they’d mind telling you why they picked the designer or developer they did. Was it their portfolio, the impression they made, or someone they worked with before? How did they find them? You can use this to work out what your potential clients might want and expect. The goal is to find out what their criteria was for a completed project and use that as your target going forward.


If you got in their heads and were able to setup a meeting with them, spend an hour the night before going through everything you can. Check out their own site, any articles posted on other sites about their company, and their competitors. Come into the meeting armed with data and insights. You might even want to critique their current site without them even asking for it. For the sake of an hours work you could roll up to this meeting with a strong advantage over anyone else they might be talking to.

The Challenge

Don’t be waiting around for work—generate yourself a new lead every day by asking for work. Even if you get a just a 5% success rate, that’s a job or two a month you didn’t have before. Once you’ve sent off your email or made that call trying to generate a new lead get back in touch with someone. Perhaps an old colleague, someone you met at a conference, or someone you’d like to meet up with—connect and reconnect.


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