If you are a freelancer, an entrepreneur, work for yourself or a salesperson of some kind, leads are likely the lifeblood of your business. Well, more specifically, cashflow is, but you can’t get paid without bringing in leads.

Leads are people who have demonstrated an interest in buying from you or hiring you in some form. In other words, leads are the embodiment of opportunities.

Each and every person we reach out to, whether it is a cousin, a friend of a friend, a past employer, a neighbour, or a marketing manager at a company who does not know you from Adam, is a lead or will point to a lead.

It’s very easy to get impatient with the process of getting to know people over time. We want clients now and if someone doesn’t appear to bring us that client immediately, we jump to the next.

Or we send out 2000 bulk emails. Or we stop contacting them.

How about this: with patience, consistently following up with individuals, building connections and friendships, helping others, sharing value and otherwise nurturing relationships with people – you will be eventually rewarded with either a new client or a new lead.

At the very least, every person you get to know can provide value for you in some way down the line.

Perhaps the Japanese teacher you connect with can’t link you up with an illustration job right away, but they may be able to give you excellent advice on losing weight. Or something.

If you stay in contact long enough, that teacher will likely find you a lead in any case.

Every person leads to a lead.

And so it pays to put effort into all the interactions you choose to make with people. You have to know when to ask for it, and you need to regularly be asking.

Life is too short to never ask.

Imagine for a minute that for some reason the government banned you from being able to communicate with anyone but your old school friend Jeremy Guthry.

You’re a graphic designer in need of paid client work.

Jeremy is a plumber. He’s your only contact. What do you do to start bringing in design work?

With restriction comes creativity.

You start talking to Jeremy. You tell him the benefits of working with a designer to help him create an identity for his business and you add value by learning about marketing and making fliers. He doesn’t see the need for a designer right now, but he has a close friend, Paul, who is a painter/decorator who has just started his business.


You talk to Paul, agree to work with him, and draw his company mascot and you design the fliers they go on. You also help him market his business through your expertise.

You can then talk to Paul about sending you client work from friends he knows, especially having seen your excellent work for Paul’s business.

Paul likes you and thinks hard about people he has recently met that could help you. He links you up with a dream client of yours – an advertising guy he painted a house for, who works for BBDO London.

Does knowing this mean you need to prioritise building a massive list of prospects or does it mean that you need to build relationships with a smaller selection of people and those you already know?

Learn the exact steps I take to find, develop and nurture new leads and opportunities in my new course: How to Win Creative Clients.

If you are an illustrator, you can read the version of the course specifically for illustrators: How to Get Illustration Clients.


Posted by rlcmoonape

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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