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The hard truth about getting projects from large corporations as a freelancer / small business is very simple: it's not easy and an uphill battle though there are some things you can do. First let's talk about this truth, what it's really saying and then we'll go into some tips on how to help get you there.
The hard truth about getting projects from large corporations as a freelancer / small business is that you're not likely to get it (a contract or project). There are a few simple reasons:
- Large corporations have a lot of established relations with requiting agencies, direct talent and media firms. (established relations)
- They usually have teams in place for most things. (existing resources)
- Their projects tend to be bigger things which require teams of people to make the project happen & a success. (size)
- What you're offering (in general) can and will usually be done by someone who's already there and on a full-time salary. (price)
There are also a few other potential issues:
- There is always someone better than you, stronger than you, faster than you, smarter than you who can get the job done a lot better than you.
- On the flip side: there's also always someone who can do it cheaper (for less money) than you can.
There's not much you can do about there being people better than you or cheaper than you. A lot of experts had this to say on the topic:
They won't get you, you won't meet their requirements to be approved as a supplier. If you had your own small agency, then that would be different, but freelance? No way – who do they hold accountable and get work done with when you're sick? How do they know you're paying your taxes and have been around for a while? How can they trust that you're doing the work and not outsourcing it – where do they go to for a meeting to see what your company is like and how you work? Your home?
There's only ONE way you will get them – someone in there refers you and says you are way better than XYZ agency.
Remember in this case cheaper is not better. Marketing teams have a budget, but they want to use up most of that budget so that they have an argument to keep that size budget the next year. If you're super cheap and get the same job done… They will have a dreadful time asking for more when suddenly they can't have you one year down the line.
You will most likely not get these big clients you mention if you're a solo freelancer. They work only with agencies already on their record. Your chance of working on a project related to these companies can only happen if their agency outsourced a project to you. This means you are not directly in communication to the client only to the agency. The client will not know that you were hired by the agency.
Thankfully this isn't impossible:
That's not always true. I've done lots of work with agencies where they've been upfront with my position and our relationship, and more often than not they put me in direct contact with the client. I've worked with several national banks, and a few Fortune 500's. Right now I'm doing a project for GE but no client contact, thankfully.
I never say that I'm a freelancer, though. I own a web development agency or digital marketing firm (or whatever) and we're a “strategic partner” with the agency.
It's mostly who you know, rather than what you know. There are thousands of people out there who know what you know, and most will be cheaper than you are and/or closer to the client than you are.
My advice would be to really learn your trade (we're talking rock-solid skills in whatever your strengths are), build a good looking (and responsive) portfolio, decide to either join an agency or go completely freelance, and keep networking. Keep building those relationships and contacts. I've been doing this for 7 years, and I can tell you the biggest clients I have gotten have 100% come from networking/past relationships. Coca-Cola aren't knocking on my door because they heard I do good WordPress development, but I make the effort to chat to the manager of a local restaurant I like to go to and suddenly he's asking me to build their new website for them and develop their new marketing strategy.
Is it who you know or what you know? It's both.
- The more difficult and unlikely way: gradually raise the level of your clients and your book, waiting for the big guys to come to you.
- The less difficult and more likely way: develop a marketing plan where you're pitching your skills to agencies that already have such clients. When said agencies get busy or short-staffed they'll bring you on as a contractor.
Edit: I've both worked on large accounts and worked for an agency that hires contractors. Now I work in-house at a large company and we hire contractors all the time. Downvote if you want, but what OP is asking isn't impossible. It's doable if you have the chops for it.
Essentially it boils down to a three things you HAVE TO do if you really want those bigger clients:
- Have a game plan. Know who you want to work with and how you'll approach them. The game plan ties in closely with the next two items.
- Know their need and solve it. Every company and person in the world needs something solved. Find out what the companies pain points are, offer a viable solution with clear cut steps and results and it's a good chance they'll pay attention.
- Establish relationships and credibility. Networking! Get to know people in the industry, get to know industry leaders, get to know agencies who work with larger firms … heck, even go as far as going to their events so that they get to know you. This starts building your credibility, though there's only so far you can go without showing some proof: so have a portfolio to back up your works. Don't just talk the talk, but walk it.
Believe it or not, but not every agency can do everything by themselves. They do often hire contractors/freelancers or as we like to call them “strategic partners” and “experts” to work on select projects. Get to know these agencies, what they do, who their clientele is and wiggle your way in. But have a plan for this. Don't just send them generic B.S.. Send them portfolio pieces, articles and letters that's customized to them. For example, if an agency primarily works with large soda producers creating graphics for them don't go around sending them the books you've written about audio production! Kinda obvious, but not many people go this far. It's like sending a generic resume when you're trying to get hired! Customize it and they'll pay attention more.
Find big events (networking events, trade shows, events they run, parties, sponsored events, ect…) where the company (and it's partners) are and start introducing yourself to staff. Get to know people bit by bit and eventually you'll form relationships with them. Don't think networking works? It does, you'll just have to talk to the right people about the right things. Maybe you're not at events that work for you (or them)? Test, explore, fail, and repeat until you find something that works.
I used to go to a lot of events with my wife for her wedding related business. For me those things sucked (except for the food and drinks) because I could never relate to anyone. Even after crafting my pitch specifically to that market I never got any bites. So, I started going to events that fit my personality and business better and what-do-ya-know: I made connections, relationships and have been getting great leads from those.
I'm curious, what has worked for you to get the attention of bigger fish?