On Tuesday, you get a call. It’s from someone new. Someone who was sent to you by one of your other clients.

It’s a nice assignment. The work is a bit new for you.

You handle it. Everything comes out well.

The new client is pleased.

Happy ending.

But there’s more. You’re just starting.

Right there, tucked into that simple exchange are four or five ways to widen your circle, to locate new work.

You have some new threads to follow. A few of them may have cash attached.

It’s a mindset I learned from a guy who was brilliant at playing out the threads. His work was nothing special. But boy did he have clients. I curse myself for all the times I didn’t do this.

Thread 1

Your original client sent you a referral, a recommendation.

Now, make that happen more often. First, you thank him. Then you tell him how the project came out. And, you say you’d be happy to speak to anyone he sends to you, any time.

And you thank him again. Make him feel good about sending you more and more referrals.

Thread 2

Then, of course, you thank the ‘new’ client for the opportunity. You enjoyed working with her. You had so much fun, you’d be happy to talk to her about anything new that comes up.

You also mention, casually, that if anyone in her department/company/publication might need similar help, you will be glad to speak with them. Make her feel good about sending you referrals.

Then, you keep thinking about her. When you come up with an idea or see an article that might interest her, you send it.

Thread 3

The ‘new’ client’s company/group/business. Maybe it’s a university, which you’ve never worked with before. Or a type of firm, or an industry. Or maybe it’s the size. Your first big company. Or small one. Or start-up.

So you add that to your website, your resume. You’ve done work for XYZ company. Also, you mention you’ve done work in ‘ABC’ industry. That’s two items.

And you start thinking, what other places like that could you contact? Over coffee the next morning, you start Googling around.

You find a bunch more. For some of them, you find someone’s name and email address. So out goes a friendly email. You try to strike up a conversation.

Maybe it’s a dead end. Maybe nothing happens. But anyway, you’re working the thread, doing the smart thing.

Thread 4

This new work, which you’ve never quite done before. It goes on your CV and your website, of course. Maybe it’s the subject matter. Or the genre, the style, the medium. Could you get three different items from it?

You have climbed a learning curve. You’re twelve feet higher, anyway. You have a new arrow in your quiver. It’s just a small one. But so what?

You’re walking the dog, wondering where you can aim that arrow. Who else uses humor/financial/video, or a company website with an integrated multi-user blog? Maybe nothing occurs to you right then. But you’ve hung out a new net in the wind. Something may fly in.

Does sound like a lot of work? It’s a few emails, a quick update to your web site. And an hour or so on Google. It goes even faster when it becomes a reflex, a habit.

There’s always a thread to follow.