We’ve all dreamt about working for big brands. Microsoft, Google, Apple, McDonalds, Coca-Cola…they all have one thing in common; they’re household names. But getting their attention can be tricky. Many of them hire thousands of employees and have offices all over the world. They probably hear the same pitch a hundred times from the same potential freelancer hoping to get that lucky break to create something millions of people will see, rather than just a few.
So how do you get their attention? What are the major brands looking for from a potential employee or freelancer? We’re going to look at some practical suggestions to get noticed by major brands and what to do once you have been noticed. Whilst these may not work for everyone, they are tried and tested methods that have been known to catch the attention of some of the biggest companies in the world.
Build a strong portfolio
Ultimately, the first thing that any major brand is going to want to look at is your work. Even if you have a CV brimming with accolades and testimonials, the major brands will want to see examples of work, not words on a page. They’ll read through hundreds of CVs boasting about how great a person is. Sure, having a masters degree in a particular subject is beneficial, but a picture paints a thousand words! Major brands are much more interested in you and your past work, than they are about how many good grades you got when you were a teenager.
Make sure that you build up a solid portfolio of examples that really showcase what you’re about and let your work do the talking.
If you are just starting out, offer your services to some of your local businesses at either a discounted rate or for free. Even if you’re creating something for Mrs Brown’s small cupcake shop down the road, go above and beyond the call of duty. By doing that, you’ll make something that you’d be proud to add to your portfolio. You never know, Mrs Brown may be married to the decision maker of a major brand, and her referral might just get your foot in the door.
Whilst we’re talking about portfolios, don’t feel like you need to show every single piece of work you’ve ever done. Six to eight great examples of your best work will help define you a lot better than forty average examples will. Big brands don’t have time to plough through heaps of portfolio examples, so just pick out a handful of work examples you think best show off your skills and elegantly display them either digitally or in print.
Give away freebies
Everyone loves free stuff. And you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll get noticed if you give out some freebies. If you’re a designer, simply offering some free icon sets, or a couple of template PSDs will get you noticed. If you offer marketing services, write up a free tips ebook. Whatever services you offer, you can usually think of something that won’t take too much of your time to create, but will be useful for others.
Take full advantage of sites like behance.net and dribble.com to be the platform for these free giveaways. You’ll be surprised at how many big brand employees look at these sites – especially if they’re looking for a freelancer!
Stand out from the crowd
Bear in mind that big brands speak to hundreds of prospective freelancers and they receive numerous emails from hopefuls on a daily basis. You need to make sure you stand out from the crowd. One way to do that is with your approach. If you notice that a big brand is looking for a freelancer, rather than simply emailing them a cut-and-paste cover letter and a link to your portfolio, go into their office dressed smart and give them a printed booklet of your portfolio of work. Print may be a dying art, but the fact that it’s now such a rarity will make you stand out from others.
If you really want to stand out from the crowd, use companies like Burgopak to create some unique packaging for your portfolio of work, and send it to them. You can guarantee that you’ll catch their attention and they’ll be calling you up to speak.
Freelance for agencies
In a lot of cases, big brands would rather work with an agency than an individual. That’s usually because they get the added benefit of a team of great minds, rather than just one. Most larger projects will be outsourced to an agency, so make sure you get into the books of as many agencies as you can.
You can use the same attention grabbing methods mentioned above. Get a suit on, create some sort of leave-behind that gets people looking at your work, and then go into their office directly. You’ll catch their attention a lot more than a generic email sitting in their inbox.
Alternatively, search for some decent design agencies in your country (yes country, not area; quite a few will be happy to work with you remotely as long as you’re in their timezone!) and write them an email. Don’t be tempted to write a generic email and spam it to fifty agencies – you’ll get zero replies.
Rather, pick out a few agencies that are already boasting about having worked with major brands and write them a bespoke email. Compliment them on their client list, and then blow your own trumpet. Make them feel as though they’re missing out by not having you on their freelance books. Mention how you can add value to their business with your own services and experience. If you have the time, and you’re really committed, maybe even show that service directly to them!
For example, if you’re a website designer, redesign a small part of their website and explain how your redesign will improve their site. If you’re a marketer, do some competitive intelligence and tell them what their rivals are doing and what they’re missing out on. After you’ve sent an email, if you don’t hear anything, don’t be scared to give them a follow-up call to make sure it didn’t fall into their spam folder or get lost in amongst others. Whilst it may take some of your time, with no guarantee of getting a return, if you can get even just one major brand project via an agency, you’ll start drawing the attention of others.
Don’t be scared to take the initiative
It can be a bit daunting trying to get the attention of major brands. But don’t be scared to take the initiative. If you offer a service that truly is unique, they may not know they need your services until you tell them about it! You’ll need to push your way into the view of the major brand. In some cases, the best method might be to bulldoze your way into their office and request a meeting with a decision maker; other times it may require a more subtle method.
If they’re reluctant to see you at first, keep pushing. You may need to vary your approach and try something more tactful. Find the name of a decision maker within their office, and send them a keepsake with your name and brand on it. For example: If you’re targeting major brands in the car industry, find a company that creates customised toys (they’re normally relatively cheap if you buy a few in bulk) and sent out some toy cars with your branding on and a little cover letter explaining who you are and how you can benefit their business. They might not have a need for your services immediately but it’s likely that the toy will sit on their desk with your branding on, and remind them every time they look at it about you. When they then do have a need for your services, you’ll be the first person they contact!
What if you manage to catch their attention and you’ve been invited for an interview or meeting with some of their team? Heres some tips on how to nail the conversation and continue to capture their attention…
Do your research
The advantage of speaking to a major brand is that they will have a very public history. Make sure you do your research. Even if it’s a brand that you think you know well, be sure to check up on what they’ve done in the past and their future plans. If you’re pitching a particular service to them, research statistics and figures that will back up your claim that they need you.
Don’t forget to do research on yourself too! That may sound stupid, but they definitely will be googling your name and checking your past work. If you do the same, you can anticipate questions that they might fire at you and work out how best to answer them before the meeting or interview. Make sure you’ve got a clear view of who you are, what you’ve done and what you can offer them.
Be confident and enthusiastic but humble
There’s a fine line between being confident and being cocky. You need to be able to walk into the room and instantly capture their attention with your demeanour and your understanding of your industry. Enthusiasm is infectious, so make sure you’re enthusiastic about working for them, but be careful not to come across like a hyper-active squirrel!
You equally need to make sure that you don’t come across as over-confident, as this can instantly detract from your presentation. It can be difficult to do a self-assessment of our approach, so get your partner or a trusted friend to ‘rehearse’ the meeting with you, and then ask them to feedback on how you come across. Rehearsing anticipated questions and responses will help you be confident without coming across as arrogant.
Don’t be scared to admit that you don’t know the answer to a question or that you have no experience working with something they need you to. Bear in mind that the person you’re talking to is likely to be your boss, or part of the team you work with. They’ll be much more likely to warm to someone who is humble enough to admit they still have things to learn than someone who claims to know everything. In a lot of cases, they’ll be quite impressed that you have the desire to learn more and that you have the drive and passion to push yourself – even if you are already very good.
Make them remember you
As mentioned earlier, major brands speak to hundreds of people a week. Particularly if they’re hiring a new employee or a freelancer, they’ll quickly forget you if you don’t do something to make them remember you. Of course, you want to keep it professional. Turning up in a chicken suit will get you remembered for all the wrong reasons!
Never underestimate the power of a leave behind. Even if you have a digital portfolio, make a simple printed copy in a smart folder and give it with them to look through once you leave. Tailor your approach to their brand and how you can improve it. Turn up with enthusiasm and confidence but be humble enough to admit if you don’t know an answer. Most importantly, don’t forget they’re human! Whoever you end up speaking to, they’ll have a personality and a sense of humour (sometimes not a very good one!). They’ll have families, homes, concerns and stresses just like you. In a lot of cases, they too will have had a lucky break somewhere along their career to get them to their position, so they’ll sympathise with you. And if you show potential and initiative, you’re very likely to get noticed by major brands.