I’ve been in this field for, I hate to admit it, almost 40 years now. In all that time there have been dozens of freelance clients and, probably, eight or nine full-time jobs. I’d say that over 80–90 percent of that work — whether freelance or full-time — came about because I knew someone who knew someone who needed what I had to offer.
I’m not saying that it’s a waste of time to apply for jobs found on ZipRecruiter or to advertise or make self-promotional websites and that sort of thing, but from my experience, that’s not where most work originates. Most seems to arise out of extended networks of people who know each other and trust each others’ opinions.
I’m not really referring to the LinkedIn kinds of casual connections or someone you bumped into at a conference. Instead, I’m referring to, for example, that co-worker from 15 years ago who calls up to mention the new position at her new company and how she thinks you’d be a perfect fit. Apply for that kind of job, and it’s yours to lose. However, if you’re just another one of the other perfectly qualified but anonymous applicants with a good portfolio, it’s a much longer shot.
The problem I’m hitting now is that most of my extended set of connections that slowly grew over the years is now rapidly shrinking due to people retiring. It sort of sucks.