Every freelancer needs sponsors. Sponsors are people who will talk about you when you’re not in the room and are incredibly valuable – but I wasn’t expecting Dermot O’Leary to be one of mine!

Our sponsors can go wider than our primary networks, when a compelling narrative takes on a life of its own … which is exactly what happened on Saturday morning when my ears started burning as I received several messages saying they were talking about me on the Dermot O’Leary Show. WTAF?

Why? He had Kylie coming on the show, and that’s one compelling narrative about me that lives on…

Going back to my teenage years, it happens that my father was Controller of BBC One. I and my schoolfriends got hooked on Neighbours during lunchbreak; my father found out and he moved the show to 5.35pm so all the kids could watch it after school, thus making Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and all the cast household names in the UK.

My Ears are Burning...As someone who has deal-making pretty much blueprinted in my DNA, connecting people up who could work together is a hobby I thoroughly enjoy and is something I’ve done without thinking throughout my career. However, until recently I’d not really considered how much of my work comes in through people who act as my sponsors. So I thought I’d do a quick review and of my current slate of new client work it’s about 80% from sponsors. Interestingly, some of these are people I’m working with daily as we have existing projects, such as Sarah McCaffrey from Solas Mind, but it’s also from people I know but haven’t spoken to several months and at times years – thank you to Mike Southon, Caroline Percy and Dawn McCarthy-Simpson for your recent introductions to name a few! 

As freelancers it can often feel like our marketing efforts to reach out and connect with clients, both existing and potential ones, fall on deaf ears. It can be really hard to work out why. Have we done something wrong? Has the client found another person (or company) to deliver the work? Being outside the company we are generally not privy to the day-to-day ups and downs in the company that can mean the best intentions to reply to our email or return our call get postponed by other more urgent business.

But for our all efforts in reaching out, be it via email directly or our social media activity, what tends to be overlooked is that every client we reach out to has their own network that they are having ongoing conversations with. Whilst that client might not need our services now, if we have a compelling narrative and can keep our name uppermost in their mind then they can offer something extremely valuable to us. The compelling narrative is important as that helps the sponsor remember us and pitch us in.

Sponsors are my favourite people as they are using their reputation to sell me to a potential client that I’ve never met but they know – and every freelancer needs them making our ears burn, when they aren’t in the room.

So a big thanks to Ben Sutherland (@bensutherland) for being my sponsor on Dermot’s show (@radioleary) this week. And I’d love to take you up on that invitation to come on next week’s show!