Bringing in the leads--contract work?

Subject: Bringing in the leads--contract work?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 09:06:23 -0500

Bill Burns reports: <<... it was a dismal month. I started strong in
September after I was laid off from Scriptorium, but the contract work seems
to have dried up. I say "seems" because I suspect that I'm simply not
getting the word to the right people... For those of you who have been
freelancing for a while, what do you do to generate leads?>>

Networking through the local STC chapter has been an excellent way for me to
get an idea of what's going on in my area: who's hiring, who's firing, and
who you really don't want to work for. I'm employed full-time, but I still
keep an eye on my many contractor friends to see what they're up to, just in
case my employment status suddenly and dramatically changes. Any of your
local colleagues looking for a partner to reduce their work load or expand
their business? Another thing that's well worth doing is keeping an eye on
the employment and business sections in the local paper: companies that are
expanding (hiring engineers or programmers, or building a new office, for
instance) are often going to need someone to document whatever it is that
they're developing, so contacting their documentation or product development
managers is a great way to introduce yourself to people who may want to hire
you. (I've gotten 2 of my 3 jobs thus far in this manner.) As they say, the
best jobs go unadvertised.

Don't forget to think outside the box. If you've spent a number of years in
software or hardware development, it's easy to forget that there's lots of
other types of work: for example, there's usually interesting science going
on in any big city's universities and colleges, and professors often need
help writing up papers, editing grad theses, and applying for grants. If
you're interested in editing, check out the local university's publishing
operations. Government offices often contract out services, so if you can
find your local government office's purchasing department, they can probably
tell you how to apply; in Canada, you're looking for the Department of
Supply and Services (DSS, federal) and I'm not sure what the provincial
equivalent may be, only that they exist. There are undoubtedly U.S.
equivalents you can locate. Contacting DSS is going through the back door;
finding the communications or publishing arm of a given government
department is usually a faster way to directly reach the folks who work with
words and who occasionally hand out contracts.

Last but by no means least, consider offering training courses. As I recall,
you're an expert in WebWorks Publisher and Frame (didn't you do a book on
this subject for Scriptorium?), so you could extend the range of employment
opportunities by advertising your services as a trainer via the local STC
chapter. But don't stop there; look into the International Association of
Business Communicators, any local associations for Personnel Managers, the
Chamber of Commerce, and so on. Don't forget the possibility of riding along
with other consultants: for example, anyone doing ISO 9000 consulting
undoubtedly has clients who need help writing or documenting procedures, and
they might be willing to refer you to these clients for a fee or "future
considerations" or even just out of the goodness of their hearts.

Last but not least, if the pickings are truly slim, why not look into the
local headhunters?

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
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