Since I spoke quite a bit about networking and connections in the last post, I thought it made sense to follow it up with some networking pointers. I started out not knowing what to do at a networking event but eventually figured out a few things and it is here for you to learn:
The most important thing to take with me to a networking event, apart from myself and my confidence, is my business cards. That’s the one thing I can give folks or receive from folks that will help follow up later and build that business connection. A unique card is even better since it helps people set you part from the rest. The mini cards from moo are always a hit and a great conversation starter. Check them out here.
You don’t have to be at one of these mixers on the dot but do try to be there somewhat on time so you can make the most of connecting with folks, getting to know how you can help and talking to them about where you need help. Have a little introduction ready that you can share should you decide to converse with someone, and maybe a few questions you’d like to ask them that will let you decide if this is a professional relationship you would like to pursue.
Always, always, always be helpful to folks at these mixers. Help others first instead of looking like all you are there for is to fill your own greedy cup. People will remember you for your useful inputs and that kindness will be returned to you on some later date. In fact, people love to connect with folks that are helpful and look forward to working with you when that opportunity arises. Give it a shot.
The first part of these events is usually signing up and getting yourself a name tag. If you can nix the name tag and use a name badge then you have already made an impression. Do I use one? No! So who am I to preach right? I have been thinking of investing in one though and find it a stand out moment when I do notice someone with their own name badge on. Besides there is no guarantee that name tag is going to stick on to whatever you are wearing all event long!
Definitely follow-up with folks after your networking event. You don’t need to follow-up with everyone. Surely there are some prospects that interest you more than others. You can reach out to them by email or phone and try to schedule a coffee meet if possible. For others you could send out a generic yet friendly email thanking them for speaking with you, and offering your assistance where possible.
I am no self-proclaimed queen of networking but I have learned a thing or two in the last few years that I have attended these mixers. I have almost always come away with at least one meaningful business relationship so I sure hope this works for you too.
Starting out, it does help to put some time into what you want to pursue in the long run. I have no formal training to be a writer or editor, it’s just what I learned along the way. I might not be fantastic at it but I try to do my best.
Taking a few certificate courses at the local university were helpful for me. Most things I knew but some nuances and insider info from the profs helped. Some of the connections I made there were great. In fact, one of the profs even sent me some work one time and another girl from class got in touch with me with opportunities a few months later. So overall, for me, those classes were a good investment.
Choose a few groups to network with. I am a part of the local SPJ chapter and Ed2010 chapter as well as the AP. All good avenues to meet prospective clients as well as colleagues that can give insights into the industry. I am also a member of a few publishing industry groups and other entrepreneur groups. Some of these are great for meeting people who can be sources or fro story ideas. There is a story everywhere you know.
Another possible avenue is to volunteer your skills. I haven’t had much time to do this recently since I have had a pretty good flow of work coming in steady. Good problem to have but I do wish I volunteered more. If you are just starting out then volunteering positions are not just great for the experience but also the connections and you will be adding to your pile of clips so don’t forget how useful this can be.
Some resources you might just have to invest in include the AP stylebook or Chicago manual style if that is what the outlets you write for want. I have the AP stylebook and it has helped immensely especially with my copyediting work. You can find online options for these but something about flipping pages on a book and not having to add an additional tab to my already exploding window seems appealing. You agree?
Mentoring is big and finding one that will work with you is fantastic. If you can find one, that is, and one that you can have mentor for a long time if need be. Try to shadow or follow a few folks (with their permission of course) that do what you want to do or would like to do and maybe you can learn a few things from that experience. Their knowledge, connections, groups, expertise – so much that they could share with you so choose wisely.
If you have questions about anything please feel free to comment on the post or just mail me directly through the contact page. All of these pointers are solely from my experiences and if they help you, I am glad for it. If you have more to share, then please add your thoughts.
Yes its true having a writer’s website helps big time. I have had multiple occasions where my website has turned up on searches and folks have contacted me for work. Good paying jobs too. Repeat clients. The beauty of it all is as simple as maintaining a few pages online.
You don’t need a terribly fancy website until you really do. Something simple and free is good for starters. I have mine on Weebly and eventually went on to get paid membership there which is still pretty cheap. 4-5 basic pages showing your work and how to contact you are just about enough. A blog you update regularly will help keep it active in searches. There are several other options if you look up online.
Make sure you have a page that talks about your background, skills, education, qualifications or anything that will give a brief idea of who you are. Your samples can speak for themselves if you have enough or just show your top ten recent assignments. A picture is usually a great addition. A picture on my site has helped people identify me at events and help with press access, etc.
Try to have your site linked to your active social media outlets so that any updates are immediately announced and has folks visiting your site. On your site, ensure your social media profiles are easily linked if folks want to follow you and your work. Likewise with your contact info. Display it prominently on the top or bottom of your site on all pages if possible and not just the Contact page by itself.
Your site is nothing without some samples/ portfolio/ clips – call it what you want. Display it by year or category or outlet as you wish but try to have the best of your work there. If you don’t have too many samples then have all of them on there. If you don’t have any you like to share then give a rundown of work you are willing to do – write for blogs, websites, print mags only, newsletters, whatever your area of interest.
Last but not least your blog is an important part of all this. I had the hardest time writing mine but truth is that is the best example of your work really so why not shine there. Write about your work or people you recommend that have helped you or resources you found or opinion pieces on something you read online or poetry – anything that will help keep your site updated on a consistent basis and allowing it to be on top when it comes to searches.
I share these tips only because they have visibly helped me. Sure I did not learn any of this is one day and my site did not turn out to be that successful in bringing in clients the first few days but lots of trial and error and finetuning have helped understand what changes drive traffic. Do you have any tips to share?
I spend a fair amount of time everyday reading up on motivational newsletters or sites or even blogs by folks doing what I do or love to do to keep me going day to day. There is only so much you can do alone and only so many times you can meet friends. For other times, I suggest:
Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing blog and site which are great resources to turn to at any time. I have subscribed to her newsletters and even found some of her pointers in her 21 day marketing plan to be worthwhile. I have not done any of her courses but have joined in on some of her podcasts/webinars. She has a lot of experience and so a lot to share. Would be good for you to check her out if you haven’t already.
Linda Formicelli of the Renegade Writer is another good resource. Her morning motivation series is a good start to your day. I have also done her 4-week J-school course before and found some helpful pointers. She works with Carol on quite a few ventures but the two share loads of information useful for all writers everywhere. I have learned of some useful apps and time savers from her as well so definitely someone to check on.
Chris Guillebeau I heard of when he was doing his first national book launch tour with the Art of NonConformity. I have followed him since! Well, virtually. I enjoy all his work, have read his books, got most of his offerings from his site, subscribe to his newsletter…not that you will enjoy everything CB has to offer as much as I do but I have found his work to be very useful and motivational to do what I do, therefore offering up the idea.
Marc and Angels’ practical productivity tips may seem like too much to read but honestly sometimes these are my reality checks. I don’t read every word but I do check out their posts, enjoy their positive affirmations, tips for a better life, etc. Anybody that I have shared this with has only ever thanked me for doing so. I have not purchased any of their books and such but their website in itself is inspiring.
There is also Good.is, a website but you can subscribe to their newsletter. There is just so much good stuff and work and projects being addressed here that you can’t but feel positive and driven, inspired and motivated to do more. Some of these could even spark story ideas or you could consider folks featured here as expert sources for a feature you are working on. I enjoy the stories that I get to read about usually only on this site.
You might have other ways to motivate yourself but these are some of mine. I hope they are helpful. I hope you will share motivational resources that help you in your freelance success. I plan on sharing more such resources with you in the future.
I am hoping you managed to find some leads from last week’s post. In which case, you probably need sources to add more meat to your stories with direct quotes and experiences, expert opinion and industry news, etc. Try these for good measure:
Folks working in PR are some of your best sources. Pick out the top ten PR firms in your city and mail them announcing your freelance writing spiel. They will add you to their media lists and send your press releases. You can mail them for your source requirements. Often times than not, they will jump at the opportunity to help showcase their client and willingly help with scheduling interviews, getting images, etc.
HARO – This website is a Godsend. One of the oldest around, Help a Reporter Out is a site where you can register for free and share your pitch. This goes out to their entire database and sources contact you if they are willing to share their thoughts. Alternately, you can respond to one of the pitches if you’d like to share your thoughts. All types of print and web media, national and local, have their calls for sources on here.
Publiseek is much newer compared to HARO and only recently signed on with them. I did get some good sources for a story I was doing, they cater to a more international audience I believe but I could be wrong. Anyways, another free avenue for sources to use in your articles. Sourcebottle is another such site. Yet to find much use on this yet but have signed on and hope you have better success than I.
Twitter has been an impressive channel for sources. I have put calls out and received responses not only from the folks I am directly connected with but also many others that I can reach given the followers I have. And I don’t even have many to boast of so it is still a very effective tool regardless. I have also received story assignments based on those calls for sources so you never know the wonders social media might work for ya!
LinkedIn is a great place to ask for sources especially if you have a large circle of connections and the stories you are working on are more relevant to the professional/corporate types. Not as much clutter here and your referrals will be through friends, not unknowns, so if that makes a difference then venture on over. If you are a member of certain industry-specific groups then you can also share your call for sources there directly.
I have a lot more avenues for finding sources for stories but these are a good start. I will discuss the rest multiple posts later. For now though, hope you have enough folks to talk to for a good stories with relevant quotes and expert opinions. Forge on!
Starting out with freelance writing can be difficult when you don’t know where to source work. Once you are done contacting all your friends and local newspaper or magazines, it seems like there is a big void and you don’t know where to turn next. Check out some of these options: