Because one of the free agent’s biggest challenges is finding enough work, I decided to write about the incredible value of volunteering. I thought back, and can confirm that close to 90% of the work I do and have done in the past has come my way because of a volunteer connection.
Start by joining a group or organization in the field of your interest and then volunteer your talents. Yes, it does take time and effort, but I submit to you that you will get more business this way than ever doing the dreaded cold calling, direct mailing, and/or advertising. First of all, people like to do business with those they know and like. Secondly, if you have proved your credibility by doing what you commit to, you will stand out from all of the rest. I became a newspaper editor after writing as a volunteer for the paper for less than two years. Volunteer work is never a waste of time, and it is also a great way to meet potential clients and/or those who will recommend you to potential clients.
If you are going to volunteer, make sure that you will be dependable and will always go “the extra mile. ” Never, never say you will do something and then not follow through. When you do follow through, make sure that what you are doing is topnotch. You will be amazed at how quickly the word will leak out about the job you do and your expertise. It is unfortunate that so many volunteers do not choose to do an exemplary job. This fact is what makes your quality work stand out above the rest. Remember that the impression you make will follow you forever.
Know when to volunteer for “free” and when to start charging. Yes, there is a time and place for free volunteer work. But there is also a time and place for charging. For example, one of the groups to which I belong and where I have devoted many volunteer hours, needed a website. I gave them a proposal in which I lowered my usual fees - making note, however, of the break they were getting - and even though my price was higher than those of other proposals submitted, I was chosen to do the website.
Realize that volunteering provides a wonderful learning opportunity. When we volunteer to take on a specific job, we will gain experience and learn something new. Often we will be asked to perform a task that we haven’t done before, take on a new leadership role, or teach something - and there is no better way to learn than to teach. The skills we acquire are more valuable than any book learning in a school or college, and can even be included on our resume. We can use people we’ve worked with in volunteer situations as references - just make sure you ask them up front if it will be OK.
When volunteering, we are not only networking, we are also making friends for life. When we are working together with others on a common project or goal and without the competition that so easily crops up in a business setting, we form wonderful friendships. We get to know others in a special way that also leads to future opportunities for all of us. We learn to trust and care for each other, besides gaining all of the other benefits that accompany volunteering.
So, what are you waiting for? Next time they ask for a volunteer, do it! You will thank me in the future.
Chris King is a free agent, professional speaker, storyteller, writer, website creator / designer, and fitness instructor. You will find her freelance living website at http://www.freelanceliving.com and her business website at http://www.creativekeys.biz