So we have the why; what about the how? Well, the answer to how can be distilled in a single word: “friends”.
The 12 years I spent in France after high school left me with a network of friends. I had some cultural “shocks” in my first couple of years as I discovered the culture but that didn’t stop me from building close friendships, which was clearly not the case for all my friends who came at the same time as me.
I still remember the first of these “shocks”:
In my home country, if you invite a friend for a lunch, or give him a couple of bucks when he doesn’t have any cash, you don’t ask for it back. He eventually returns the favor but nobody keeps tabs. So, I must admit that I was really taken aback when in my first year in France, I asked for 50 cents to a classmate for a vending machine and he asked them back the next day. He flatly told me; “what about the 50 cents you took from me yesterday”. Of course, I didn’t flinch and gave back his 50 cents but I still remember it today after almost 20 years. It is not that the French are not generous, on the contrary they can be very generous, you just have to qualify for their generosity: i.e become good friends.
I had the chance to meet people who became very good friends and it is them who make this endeavor possible today. While waiting for my family to join me, I am living 3 weeks a month in France and when in France I stay with a friend. Besides giving me a roof, he also does everything in his power to help me by introducing to friends and professional contacts. And he is not the only one: I have other friends who did, and continue to do big favors to help me without asking anything back both in France and my home country.
Besides the enormous help of my friends, this endeavor is also helped by the times we live in: today with just a computer and internet connection, you can start to work thanks to all the online services. I don’t think that it would be possible 20 years ago. Of course, you might ask “how do your potential customers trust you if you are just a punk working out from a friend’s house?”. I guess the answer would be professional attitude and some props to back that up. My experience taught me what was critical when a service provider is evaluated:
The person representing the company is very important: no problem on that front, I have a professional attitude, I know how to talk, ask relevant questions which inspire confidence… Besides, I love what I do and I think it shows.
Material: The material I send, be it proposals, diagrams, presentations, are spotless, well written and designed which inspire confidence.
Perseverance & organization: I forget everything. Even people’s faces I met earlier in the day (I know it’s a huge disadvantage). But I know this and use tools to prevent it; at the end of the day I never forget to follow a lead and this until getting a firm answer and I think this goes a long way.
So all this involves a lot of legwork and I guess experience makes it possible because without it, everything would take much more time with a much bigger potential of fuck-ups.
To sum it all up about “the how”, I think it would be best to say: “By leveraging my network and experience”. We will see if that will be enough.