It gives you gravitas. It makes you feel like a big shot. It sometimes actually connects you with even more important work from even bigger clients who can pay you more.
Too bad that is seldom the case.
The work that you get will, indeed, come from referrals, but the marketing directors and creative directors at these larger firms often protect their key assets (that would be you), and aren’t likely to share their good fortune with their brethren.
However, all of us are “invited” to assist many local projects that could really benefit from a good designer’s attention, even though they may not have much of a budget. It’s been my experience that getting involved with these local groups can only benefit you. You should look at this work as your new business investment — one that you might actually a paycheck for helping — that, in itself is a win-win.
…but there’s more…
The folks that run the schools or the Little League or your church group are also connected to a whole bunch of other people. People who have the authority to hire you, if only they knew how good you were — doctors and lawyers and business owners and marketing directors. Frankly, you’re unlikely to know these people in their “day jobs”. To you, they’re just a soccer official, your church deacon or your child’s 5th grade teacher — when in “real life” — they’re a small business owner, the lead partner at a downtown law firm and the president of a area aquatics program (all true, btw, that hired me).
Do your best work for the little guys. Pack 40 pounds of potatoes into a 20 pound sack. You’ll find that your investment will pay off. Make them feel “bigtime” and you may just be able to move yourself up from “smalltime” to bigtime, too
HELPFUL TIP: Make sure that you charge them for your work. Send your bill, AND put the full total on your invoice, then discount whatever amount you think appropriate (the entire thing, if you like). In that way, they know what your work actually costs. This will be helpful on the referral THEY make to their friends who will be next in line to hire you.