I've learned over the years that the "It's not what you know, it's who you know" motto that many people live by should actually be reversed.
It's not who you know, it's what you know.
Networking and making connections is extremely important to land a job or reel in potential clients, but solely depending on others to "get you in the door" or land freelance jobs, isn't the right path to success.
What is the best way to enter a bid or approach a client for work? Trust and believe in yourself. At the end of the day, you should let your work speak for itself.
I spent just over 11 years working for a daily newspaper and this is where I discovered my passion for design. While I had the print and editorial design down pat, I wanted to improve my skills. I always wanted to transition from working in the media to being a full-fledged graphic designer, although I think the two industries work well together in today's tech-savvy, social media world we are so fortunate to live in.
I took it upon myself to do so in 2017, spending hours on end to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator — a program heavily used in the graphic design industry. I knew if I wanted to succeed in the field, I had to put in the work.
However, the manual labour was just one aspect. To be successful, I specifically studied branding design and product design — two areas I am extremely passionate about now. I spent more time learning about the art of graphic design, from typography to layout and composition to logo design.
The work started to produce results in early 2018, when I landed my very first paying client. Shortly after, another client followed, then another and another. By the summer, I found myself swamped with work — a good problem to have.
Which takes me back to the whole "It's not what you know, it's who you know" thing. If you're looking to excel in whatever you set forward, do it on your own terms and don't depend on anybody. References are fantastic to seal the deal, but your work ethic comes before anything. I certainly appreciate it more when I see people put in the extra work to succeed.
It's not going to happen overnight. It could take weeks, months and often times even years to really reap the benefits of your hard work.