How to Network, Find Clients, and Grow Your Writing Career

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on May 8, 2012 in Freelance Writing Jobs, Marketing, Networking
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By: Amandah Blackwell

It should be easy, right?

Forget that some writers, editors, and business owners have major connections and networks. It’s tempting to see them as ‘dollar signs,’ but the truth is, they’re complex people with feelings, busy lives, personalities, and quirks. They’re human beings.

It’s a dream come true when you meet people and you think they’ll help you grow your writing career, but a part of you may wonder…

How authentic are they?

“I look at how closely they respond to the topic versus how many times they segue off to self-promotional anecdotes about themselves. It only bothers me if they're excessive or pushy about it.” ~ Christina Hamlett, writer/script consultant.


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Is it possible to grow my writing career through networking?

The truth is you can become successful without people; however, it could take you longer, and you may not get the results you thought you would. Networking with the right people for the right reasons can lead you to writing opportunities and grow your writing career.

Here’s my experience…

How to network

Has this happened to you?

You attend writers groups, conferences, or other networking events. You join LinkedIn and Facebook, but the people you meet aren’t real.

Huh?

In September 2007, I moved to Chandler, Arizona. In December 2007, I answered a job posting for a blogger and marketing analyst. For a writing sample, I emailed my Edinburgh, Scotland travel article. Long story short, I ‘tested’ for both positions and the owners decided I was better suited for the blogging position. I was thrilled!

As I gained my ‘blogging legs’ and got used to the East Valley, I decided to sign up with Meetup.com. Since I was new to Arizona, I was desperate to make connections. By the way … desperation is a strong perfume that can be smelled from miles away. I don’t recommend it.

I joined a couple of writers groups and business networking groups. It didn’t occur to me that some of the writers/professionals wouldn’t be authentic. Sure, on the outside they seemed warm and inviting, helpful even. But deep down inside they were looking to advance their careers. There’s nothing wrong with this, who doesn’t want to advance their career? But there’s an ethical and not-so-ethical way to do it.

After I took off my ‘rose-colored’ glasses, I knew I had been fooled. Some of the people I met weren’t interested in me as a person, all they saw were dollar signs, or someone who could connect or refer business to them.

What did I do? I changed my approach to networking.

How to find writing clients

The key to finding and retaining writing clients is to develop relationships with people. Don’t see them as a sale. Don’t see them as a way to connect with top editors at magazines. They’re human beings, not commodities.

Many people approach networking from a sales point-of-view. Perhaps, you’ve been asked the following questions at networking events:

  • What do you do?
  • How long have you been doing what you’ve been doing?
  • What made you start your business?
  • What’s the number one problem you’re facing as a business owner?
  • How can I contact you?
  • When can we have lunch or meet for coffee?

These are all sales based questions. There’s nothing personal about it. Why?


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Let’s face it; networking is about developing relationships with people. Instead of going in for the sale right away, get to know people. It’s why I do.

Author/writer Nicky VanValkenburgh looks for, “Common ground. Maybe we write about similar subjects or genres. Or maybe they have connections (knowing people in radio, TV or print) that would be willing to have me on their program or write an article about me.”

When I meet people at networking events, I really got to know them. I listen and hear what they have to say. Here are some questions I’ll ask when I meet another writer:

  • You mentioned that you grew up in New York City. What was it like?
  • I noticed you brought your iPad with you. I’ve been thinking about purchasing one. What do you like about it?
  • I think it’s great that you write for non-profits. How did you begin freelance writing for non-profits? What do you enjoy about it?

As you can see, I ask more personal questions. Yes, I want to know about their writing. But I want to get to know them. Why? They may or may not be the ‘right’ connection for me. It’s the same with business owners.

Tip: When I network with people online, I send a personalized email or LinkedIn request.

The best part about my networking strategy is I no longer fear being rejected by others. This is huge! Most people, including me, have had or do have a fear of rejection. But it’s a matter of perspective. Instead of looking as rejection as a negative, turn it into a positive. I now believe ‘rejection is protection.’ Instead of being upset that a business owner doesn’t contact you for freelance writing, breathe a sigh of relief. Why? The project could have turned out to be a nightmare.

How to grow your writing career

I signed up with Reporter Connection, “a free service that connects busy journalists with experts

available for media interviews.” Before I knew it, I was networking with authors, business owners, writers, and editors.

I had the confidence to market my writing services by sending letters of introduction and querying/pitching editors.

The best part about networking is you get to help others grow their career while growing yours at the same time.

It’s exciting to hear about another writer’s ghostwriting deal with a major celebrity, a nomination for an award, or read about them in a magazine. You get to say, “I know so and so,” you get to send them an email and congratulate them on their success.

YOU CAN NETWORK, FIND WRITING CLIENTS, AND GROW YOUR WRITING CAREER!

You can network with writers, editors, business owners, and just about anyone.

Shift your mindset around networking.

“As a graduate of New York University with a degree in Occupational Therapy, I tapped into my hidden talents in 2011 when I authored my first children's book - Aiden's Waltz. I have quickly learned the art of networking and the power of the social networks. Through these channels, I have been fortunate to secure radio interviews and postings as an expert contributor on various websites.” ~ Victoria Marin

Don’t think of networking as chore like washing the dishes, something you have to do.

You can meet some cool, interesting people.

You want to help other writers grow their writing career and grow yours at the same time? You want to help business owners increase their online presence, right?

Guess what? You can.

I know it’s scary and you may think people will take advantage of you. Some will, if you allow it to happen. I know there are people who are genuinely interested in helping others. I know because I’ve met them.

I conducted a Q&A with authors and writers such as Christina Hamlett, Nicky VanValkenburgh, and Victoria Marin about networking. I actually met Christina a few years ago when I posted a query on Reporter Connection about screenwriting. Since then our paths have crossed many times. In fact, she asked me to collaborate on a book. I was thrilled to help!

See … You can network with great people.

Have faith and believe in you, your writing, and networking ability.

Start networking or revisit your strategy.

And yes … I mean start today.

About the Author

Amandah Tayler Blackwell is a freelance writer, ghost writer, and creative writer for markets such as travel, magazine, the arts & entertainment, real estate, personal and professional development, and more. She’s collaborated on many eBook and book projects. Amandah’s personal projects include screenplays, YA, fiction, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Visit Savvy-Writer.com to learn more about Amandah and her writing.

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10 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller May 8, 2012 Reply

    Amandah-I love this line ~

    Instead of being upset that a business owner doesn’t contact you for freelance writing, breathe a sigh of relief. Why? The project could have turned out to be a nightmare.

    Wow-what a great attitude! If we all get there, it will make networking so much easier. As writers, most of us are naturally curious anyway so why wouldn’t we want to find out about the person instead of viewing networking as a means to an end?

    Enjoyed this post, Amandah!

  2. Amandah May 8, 2012 Reply

    Hi Cathy,

    Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I never thought about ‘rejection as being protection’ until I heard a life coach say speak those words. It changed my perspective.

    I agree that networking isn’t a means to an end. I love meeting people. It’s one of the reasons why I love travel. You get to meet different people from different places around the world or in your area. You never know what you’ll learn from someone or teach someone.

  3. Amandah May 8, 2012 Reply

    “Thank You” to Jenn for accepting my guest post for All Freelance Writing.com. I really appreciated the opportunity.

    Writing on…

  4. Matt May 8, 2012 Reply

    Interesting article. Yeah, many of these events are loaded with people selling you stuff. I remember going to some a while back and I’d bet 75% of the people I met had zero interest in the topic at hand and were only there to shove their biz card down my throat. Sure, one could suck it up and just be patient, realize that’s the way it goes, but I’d usually end up putting up with it for 30 min max and it’s bottoms up, moving on to something else, anything is better than that black hole environment, your energy feels wasted, like you’ve just answered 50 telemarketing calls straight.

    But you’re right, getting involved on a longer term, more regular basis is definitely the way the go, eventually sorting through and finding fellow cohorts moving in a similar direction you are. Great story, thanks for sharing!

  5. Chamois May 8, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing this post. You provided networking points I can consider at the next event. But, I’m still a little raw about attending. Like Matt, I despise the telemarketing approach with a large percentage of businesses. It’d be more fun and easier if the events required no selling and just appreciating one another on a personal level. I’m looking forward to finding a decent group or association where I can volunteer and spend quality time with other “like-minded” individuals.

  6. Amandah May 8, 2012 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the comment!

    I can relate. I attended networking events that were held at restaurants in the evening. This didn’t work out. People were more interested in eating, drinking and having a good time. I’m all for having a good time, but when you sign up for a networking event and expect to network, it’s disappointing when the majority of people leave or are too ‘tipsy’ to carry on a conversation. I learned my lesson and stopped going to events that were in the evening at restaurants.

  7. Amandah May 9, 2012 Reply

    Hi Chamois,

    Thanks for the comment!

    Have you checked out Meetup.com or local groups on Facebook? When I moved to Arizona, I signed up with Meetup.com to network and meet people since I was new to the state. Some of the groups have policies and procedures and members are required to sign a form stating they received and read the information. Some groups charge a monthly fee. But it could be worth it in order to meet like-minded people.

    From my experience, I learned that it can take some time to find the ‘right’ networking events and groups.

  8. Frank Rawland July 18, 2012 Reply

    The comments seem to cut off a day after this post was published. If you’re still checking for comments, the point you’ve made about the distinction between a “sales” connection vs a personal connection is outstanding. I’ve never been much good at networking. One, because until now I was in a position where I didn’t have to do it, and two, because I admit I always have kind of associated it with sales and have never been comfortable giving or receiving a sales pitch. Most people aren’t I suppose.

    Thing is, making an authentic personal connection is hard enough when you’re trying to do it for its own sake, let alone when you have a business development agenda attached like a small boil (Yeah, there we go. Yet another metaphor for bad networking meetings: a place where people go to show boils. No one is really interested in seeing anyone else’s boil, but everyone hopes to find someone interested in seeing theirs.)

    But that, admittedly, is a pretty grim view of the matter.

    So OK, you’ve mentioned Facebook and Meetup. Using “Freelance Writing” in the FB search box returns four pages and five groups. Do you recommend any of them? I’ve seen references to LinkedIn on AFW but haven’t tried using them to advance my profile as a writing (I’m a barely active member, and what little presence I have there is related to my t-shirt design business). Are the AFW forums a good place to network? Where else? Anyone have any other recommendations (I of course mean the good kind of networking, not the kind where everyone shows off their boils.)

    • Jennifer Mattern July 18, 2012 Reply

      We’re certainly happy to have new members on the AFW forums. They’re free, so why not pop by and start chatting? :) I try to kick up a discussion there most mornings, and at the very least we try to answer questions colleagues might post.

      I’d also recommend Lori Widmer and Anne Wayman’s forum at www.AboutWritingSquared.com. It’s a premium forum ($5 per month), but there’s a great group of folks posting there, and it’s more active than ours is currently.

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