Sometimes the best client referrals come from colleagues you've never met.
One listmate from an e-mail list for editorial professionals and I corresponded offlist a few times when times were tough for her. When I was recently worried about income in my household because the poor economy has made things difficult for my husband's relatively new business (and that's still an ongoing concern), that listmate e-mailed me and gave me the name of one of her most lucrative clients, plus contact information for the person there whom she deals with. She also e-mailed that person and recommended my editing services. I took the company's editing test, and yesterday I received a message from that person welcoming me to the company's pool of freelancers.
A male listmate from that same e-mail list has kindly given me several referrals to new clients in the fairly recent past. One other female listmate from the same list, with whom I developed an offlist friendship a few years ago, for a time held an in-house position at a publishing house. While she was there, I did a few projects for her as a freelancer.
By referring me, these folks have helped out their clients/employers, helped me out, and renewed my faith in the kindness of my fellow human beings. There are lovely people to be found everywhere, and it pays to get to know as many e-mail listmates offlist as possible. Don't be afraid to strike up offlist conversations with them, no matter how little or how much (like me) experience you have. I don't mean that you should start out by asking for work. Develop a friendship, which is valuable itself even if you never get a referral. We all need friends.
You never know who will be in a position to help you out or how much satisfaction you can feel when you have a chance to help someone else out.
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