How to find work: nepotism

Here’s the next installment in my series on the many ways to find work as a freelancer. So far I’ve covered the following:

Next up is one that may sound somewhat fishy but can be an excellent source of work if the conditions are right: Nepotism.

Calling this “nepotism” is admittedly tongue-in-check to get your attention. What I’m really talking about is networking with family and friends to find work you’re qualified to do via those networks.

Some people stay away from this for fear of the appearance of impropriety, but as freelancers who are always on the lookout for new clients, we don’t tend to have time for such compunctions. 

If you’re really good at what you do — say, writing — and your sister’s organization is looking for a writer, why not hint that you’re available? Or at least say “yes” when she asks you, unsolicited, if you are free to take on some work?

I’ve gotten more than one gig this way. My brother recommended me to the marketing director of the company he worked for, which landed me a gig with that company and then with the company that the marketing director went to next (see my post on piggybacking). In another instance, a high school friend referred me to his wife, who is the director of an organization that was looking for a good editor and ended up giving me thousands of dollars’ worth of work.

As far as best practices, it is a good idea to shy away from working with any family members with whom you have a difficult and/or dramatic relationship. If you’re working directly for your friend or family member — as in, your brother will be the one cutting the check — it’s best to have your arrangement in writing with very clear expectations.

It’s important to be transparent with everyone you work with in the organization about your relationship with the person who is referring you.

And if you’re working with others who are colleagues of your family member, it’s important to remember that your behavior and professionalism reflect directly on that family member. If you’re a consummate professional, you’ll give them some shine. If you’re demanding, disorganized, or allergic to deadlines, your family member will be very sorry they referred you for the gig.

All in all, nepotism is never going to be one of your most prolific or promising sources of work,  but it’s worth considering as you look high and low for new possibilities.

Just remember to be as professional when working with family as you would be at any other time, and you’ll be set up for success.

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