Shy bairns get nowt (or how to get clients)

Posted on September 15, 2010


There is a particularly Geordie woman I work with who loves the phrase “you can take the girl out of Jarrow but you can’t take Jarrow out of the girl” when referring to herself.

In fact, the Geordie language is one of the best regional dialects for homespun truths and phrases that will make you stop in your tracks. There’s something earthy and honest about everything that comes out of a Geordie mouth, straight-talking northernisms that cut to the heart of the matter.

One day she came out with a phrase I’ve often heard but just as often forgotten, and it’s one which is perfect as a creed for freelancers. “Shy bairns get nowt.”

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of stepping out in Newcastle, it means “shy kids don’t get anything”. And it’s true. If you’re a 13-year old whose birthday happens to coincide with the recent release of the new Halo, then unless you asked your parents to get you it you’re likely to be disappointed as you blow out your candles.

People aren’t mind readers. Despite what you might think, work isn’t likely to just fall in your lap – it’s that old Geordie principle again: shy bairns get nowt.

If you’re looking for work, go out there and market yourself. I’ve just completed a job for a client who I found asking for a good copywriter on the comments section of a blogpost on Freelance Folder. An email or two later, and I have not only a completed job, but a fantastic contact in the design world to whom I can push work (and he can do likewise for me).

A major marketing company in London was looking for a digital marketing manager on LinkedIn via someone who I used to do free work for as part of an online magazine. I replied to the call saying I was the perfect guy for the job. I wasn’t – and they told me so. But they had some copywriting work which needed doing on short notice; could I do it? Since then they’ve kept up a decent stream of work for a variety of interesting companies in many sectors.

“Don’t ask, don’t get” is what it boils down to. There are millions of people using the internet every day, and a surprisingly large number of them claim to be freelance writers, photographers and designers. Some devote their lives to it, some do it on evenings and weekends. But you can guarantee that the ones that market themselves; who have a LinkedIn page; an online portfolio; a Twitter presence; who email companies, magazines and prospective clients about work are the ones who get the most business. The shy bairns? Well, they get nowt.

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