Holiday Hustle: New Clients for the New Year

Look, either the world will end in two days and clients won’t matter because they will hopefully die first while we get to laugh at not having met their deadline (no pun intended) but still have the up-front deposit or life will go on and we’ll be fighting those same clients for the final payment come the new year. Why chance the easy outcome of quick, albeit painful death… which would be the end of the world part… for most of us… and take advantage of the holiday season to find new clients and make 2013 a great year!

With endless holiday parties and being forced to visit with family, there’s opportunities for meeting people, getting referrals, and, with those too much to drink kind of parties, blackmail-a-plenty to start a flood of projects from happy and/or frightened and regretful new party pals.

You have a friend who works for that big ad agency in town? Well, if you asked nicely, don’t you think they would invite you to attend? If you threatened to post those photos from Mardi Gras on Facebook, I’m sure they would welcome you with open arms. You do, of course, have to remember not to be pushy about networking at office parties. Subtle and loose is the best approach. Wait for someone to ask who you are and what you do and let them to ask for your card. Once that ice is broken, then you can ask for their card and leave it be for the next month. That doesn’t mean wait until January second to call them. Wait until the second or third week in January to call and causally mention where you met and could you get 15 minutes of their time to talk about some business and you’ll bring some coffee and donuts. More often than not, that works fine.

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Always remember to ask for referrals. If things go well at your meeting, ask if they know anyone else at the agency they think you should meet. Maybe they know someone at another agency? Word of mouth referrals are always the best link to new clients. Actually, come to think of it, the best link to new clients is to make out with the head creative director or VP of marketing at the holiday party. Yeah, yeah… call me cheap and trashy but I have better clients than you have.

Lest we not forget the compulsory get-together with close friends and family. While your family is busy making suggestions about why you don’t design a web site for MicroSoft because they will pay good money, they usually don’t have the brain synapses firing enough to remember that Uncle Squinky was a college frat brother of the CEO of some huge corporation or Great Aunt Flippsie was the biggest trollop at Yale and slept with men who are now the majority of CEOs for the Fortune 100. It just takes some gentle questions and a bit of digging and you’ll find family can hold a wealth of connections.

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Most of us have a couple of hundred Facebook friends and while some might not be real friends, if you have a dozen really close friends, why not ask them if they have any connections that could help you? Ask them to repeat the advice of the family connections. Surely they have slutty aunts and drunken frat uncles, too! Good friends are here for us as we are for them. You will find yourself closer to those who will go to bat for you and what better way to start the new year than an appreciation for those who love us for ourselves and not a blood relationship?

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All over your town, there are events and volunteer opportunities for the holidays. Get involved and show you care. You will meet others who care and appreciate you for your generous nature. If nothing pans out from those you meet, at least you’ve helped others and, of course, the people you meet will know other people. In my experience, when you tell someone you are a designer, they immediately blurt out how they know the creative director of this agency or the president of that company. Keep the conversation going and tell them you’d appreciate an introduction or phone number.

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Have you kept up with existing connections? Did you send out holiday greetings? You still have time to send at least an ecard to those email contacts you haven’t heard from in a year or more. Buy a $1 seasonal stock image and slap some type on it and BINGO! You can revive those old relationships. It’s also acceptable to create an actual card and send it out with New Year wishes, which gives you another few days to design something and have it printed. Get on it because people do like being remembered. My years dealing with greeting card companies proved people love getting cards because they’re so out of the ordinary. Give it a try!

There are always lots of options for networking but we tend to forget those that are closest to us can be the most valuable for quality connections. As with the presents you will receive this year, keep the best and return the rest. Best of luck, happy holidays and here’s to a great , prosperous new year.

Images ©GL Stock Images

Speider Schneider

Speider Schneider is a former member of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine and has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. Speider is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild, co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee and a former board member of the Society of Illustrators. Follow him on Twitter @speider

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