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.
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.
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?
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.