Work and income don’t come easy to writers as it is, even more so when the fate of your career is in your own hands. While freelance writing has many perks (making your own hours, choosing your own assignments, working in your PJs), it also has many obstacles.
One of these is networking. How do you network when you’re a writer, a profession renowned for its participants’ reclusiveness? Furthermore, freelance writing is not a job that requires much physical contact, but rather one that relies heavily on online communication.
As a result, it can seem hard to develop new contacts and hone relationships. Nonetheless, there are a variety of ways freelance writers can successfully network and market their abilities. Here are just five ways to get started.
1) Seek out content managers
As a freelance writer, the majority of work you’ll be doing (at least at first), is composing on-site content for companies or agencies. As a result, you’ll want to seek out the content managers at these companies and agencies that are usually in charge of brainstorming the topics and recruiting the right writers.
Since content managers spend so much time doing outreach, they’re typically responsive. In fact, they may even be grateful that you’ve saved them the step of finding a competent writer.
There are a number of ways you can seek out content managers, but the best is to use LinkedIn’s advanced search to search by job title. In addition to content managers, here are some job titles you may want to seek out:
- PR Rep
- PR Coordinator
- Content Coordinator
- PR Specialist
Compose a message template that you personalize for each company these individuals represent, and use it to highlight your specialties, as well as incorporate some writing samples. This allows you to take control and build up your rolodex of contacts.
2) Take advantage of Facebook groups
What better way to network than on the world’s largest social networking site? While you can join local networking groups, these don’t allow you as broad a reach as social media does. There are countless Facebook groups for small business owners, which you should absolutely request to join.
Seek out closed groups, as they’re more likely to focus on making valuable connections than act as an outlet for shameless self-promotion. Furthermore, you’ll definitely fit into these groups, as being a freelance writer makes you a small business all on your own.
Whatever you do, make sure to join in on the conversations that are happening. Don’t just make it a one-and-done opportunity—this is what makes it networking as opposed to advertising. Comment and provide valuable feedback on others’ suggestions or issues, and shed light on how your services can solve or improve upon their existing situation.
These groups are a great starting point, and once you’ve written pieces for one or two members, you can share the value of this relationship with the rest of the group, potentially leading to even more interest.
3) Consider self-publishing
Self-publishing is so accessible, and so nominally priced these days, that there’s almost no reason not to do it. This is more of a networking tool than a networking method, but it’s extremely viable. Self-publishing provides you with the ability to establish yourself as an authority on a specific subject matter. It also allows you to build up your CV.
If you’re a freelance writer with a specialty, whether it’s dog grooming or technology, you should self-publish on that subject matter.
Then, you can bring your published work to networking events. Not only does it act as a conversation starter, but it allows you to give the individuals you network with a freebie. Freebies will contribute to a more positive impression, and remain more memorable than a simple business card.
A self-published book also serves as your “writing sample”, providing you with an easy way to showcase your prowess, while also forging connections. For networking purposes, keep it short and publish a booklet. This will cost you less, and will be more likely to pique the interest of its recipients.
4) Join a Writers’ Association
Networking with fellow writers is just as important as networking with potential clients in this line of work. For this reason, you’ll want to join some writers’ organizations. There is one for every niche, from freelance to specific subject matters.
In these groups, freelancers can come together to share their contacts. Oftentimes, freelancers who have their plates full will even seek out referrals through these associations to give to their clients. This “pay it forward” tactic is highly effective, and even one referral could land you a regular freelance gig with a specific client.
Perhaps the most popular writers’ association geared toward freelancers is the American Society of Journalists and Authors. These associations even include links to, and calendars of, in-person conferences and networking events in different areas you’ll be sure to want to attend.
Pro Tip: Some of these organizations, like Freelancers Union, even offer medical and retirement benefits for freelance writers.
5) Keep clients close-by
If your client is someone who is constantly putting out new content, whether it’s for other publishers or just for their own blog that they like to keep consistent, keep them close to the vest. It’s important to know that your client is most likely troubled by the fact that good writers are so hard to come across. You can mitigate their woes.
If they seem to appreciate and enjoy your work, keep the dialogue open. Check in regularly to see how their content needs are going, and if you can help them with any larger projects they may have in the works.
If you’ve really built up a rapport with a client, you might even ask them for a reference. See if they know of any fellow business owners that could use a freelance writer, and always be appreciative of their praise.
Networking as a freelance writer is a delicate balance between in-person networking events and online relationship building. The key is to utilize the many resources available through the internet to both forge and maintain client relationships.
Join every Facebook group, jump on the self-publishing bandwagon, and use your LinkedIn (or paid PR directories) to seek out industry gatekeepers. Once you’ve proven your prowess, a ripple of references is sure to form.
Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for EveryUSB, a custom flash drive manufacturer that also offers eBook publishing services. She’s a strong proponent of self-publishing for networking and portfolio-building purposes, and helps struggling writers prepare their first self-published work in her free time. You can connect with her on Twitter at @elitzabee.