How to Build Your Love Bank

Feb 7, 2014

I wrote this piece for last September's issue of Computer Arts, but I was thinking about it again recently. This idea of a "Love Bank" is so important in becoming a 360 Freelancer. How's your Love Bank doing?

Freelancers know that relationships are everything. They can get you leads or be a support network when you’re in the depths of a lull. People are always asking for tips about how best to develop these relationships, and that conversation usually devolves into tips and tricks for becoming a better networker.

Whipping yourself into a frenzy working a room at an event isn’t necessarily the best use of your time and energy. You build relationships by giving—info, help and (eventually, with trust) shared work.

I call it Love Banking.

Often when people think of networking, they think, “What can I get?” That leads either to obnoxious networking or to anxiety-ridden encounters where you feel you failed if you come away with “nothing.”

Change your mindset to, “What can I give?”

Start by thinking of all the ways you can be helpful, and start building up your LoveBank account.

Let’s say you just took on a big-ticket client and are overwhelmed with work. How about subcontracting? Hack that gig into pieces and contract a fellow freelancer to do portions under your supervision.

Get someone good at time-consuming tasks like transcribing or photo research, or someone starting out who needs experience and mentoring.

Make sure your agreement specifies that you’re the intermediary with the client and they can’t go around you to be hired directly. (Talk to your accountant to make sure you comply with tax requirements when subcontracting.)

Of course, you’d never subcontract to someone you don’t trust. You build trust through relationship. You build relationship by giving—info, help, and eventually, shared work.

After some robust giving, you can start to ask for help, advice, brainstorming, et cetera. It is, in fact, a virtuous circle.

These relationships aren’t business transactions so much as the out­growth of how you choose to live your life, working and playing with people you enjoy and care about.

Here are a couple of other unwritten rules for Love Banking:

  • People don’t appreciate those who expect a “get” for every “give.”
  • When someone gives you something—a lead, and introduction, a tip—don’t ask for more.
  • Practice creative (not creepy) contact. Don’t be one of those “only-calls-when-they-want-something” net­workers.
  • Send an article or video clip they might be interested in. Congratulate them on something. Ask them a question that shows you value their opinion.
  • “Thank you” has boundless power. Especially when someone gives you work leads, thank them and let them know what happened, even if it didn’t work out.

Reciprocity is most powerful when the gift is unexpected and costs the giver something in time, energy, or other resources. It’s doing a good deed not because you have to, but because you want to. It’s Love Theory in action: Build your LoveBank account, and your relation­ships will compound in value over time.

Sara Horowitz

As the founder of Freelancers Union, Sara has been a voice for freelancers for over two decades.