But I think the need for freelance writers to network is overstated.
In my experience, ‘networking’ has never been fruitful.
And this is why.
At its core, networking is about connecting with people and exchanging information. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Well, maybe I have a narrow view of networking.
But the word evokes images of rooms full of people shaking hands and handing out business cards. Or worse, walking up to someone cold and introducing myself.
Yes, I’m an ambivert (and a fairly introverted one at that), but there’s something about the intention of networking that doesn’t ring true.
Every time I’ve been to that kind of event (either an identified ‘networking’ event or an event that would offer a networking opportunity), it’s been a flop.
I haven’t approached those opportunities with the expectation of getting writing work yet I leave feeling flat, wondering what went wrong.
Why networking didn’t work for me
Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong events – in my early years as a freelance writer I went to some corporate networking events where I felt out of my depth and couldn’t wait to leave.
It was like an old boys’ club where everyone knew each other and spoke about people they had in common.
I’ve also been to conferences where I’ve struck up interesting conversations with people at dedicated networking sessions, but those connections have never translated into anything meaningful outside the conference setting.
Even at specific events about networking for freelance writers, I never felt 100% comfortable.
Networking for me seemed to focus on what someone could get, rather than what they could give.
For someone like me, who much prefers conversations with individuals or small groups of people, networking events with rooms crowded with people were too much.
Instead of networking, focus on this
This won’t come as a surprise to any of you who read this blog regularly, but having strong relationships with clients, editors and other creatives is the key to being ‘successful’ as a freelance writer.
Think about the kind of relationships you want to have with others. What qualities do you want to share?
Honesty? Trustworthiness? Loyalty? Openness? Helpfulness?
Focus on building individual relationships with others that are built on qualities you value.
Take the time to understand how you can help them, not just what they may be able to offer you.
Be authentic (urgh, I know that word is overused) in interactions. If you want to help them (or not), listen to your gut. Be genuine in the way you engage with editors, clients and other freelancers.
I’ve found that if editors or clients start to regularly commission you, it’s not only because you deliver the goods, but it’s also because they value the relationship.
They know you and like you. They trust you and your work.
It may sound soppy, but when I think about my network of editors, clients and other freelancers, I feel really happy. I feel as though I’m surrounded by good people.
I have individual relationships with them all and they’re not just some people who I’ve ‘collected’.
Lots of the advice around networking for freelance writers doesn’t acknowledge that it takes time to connect and build relationships.
Finding and genuinely nurturing the people who surround you in your business doesn’t just happen over drinks one night.
What do you think about networking?