Networking as a marketing tool for freelance writers tends to have a lot of baggage.
It’s not complicated, although to hear people talk about developing networking skills and the like, you might get the impression it’s some sort of esoteric marketing magic.
It’s not. But it does work.
At its most basic, networking is simply interacting with people – something we all do every day in one form or another.
Networking with the idea of developing new clients is, perhaps, a bit more sophisticated, but not, in my opinion, much.
There are four ways you can use networking as a marketing tool: face-to-face, through social media, through through your online presence, and by networking with other writers.
Face-to-face marketing for freelance writers
Prior to say about 1994, all networking was done either face-to-face or over the phone. Those methods still work well.
There are networking groups that were specifically set up to help businesses sell their goods and services to other businesses. A prime example are the mixers you find associated with almost every Chamber of Commerce. There are other groups set up to help businesses network in this fashion.
Then there are formal and informal associations. This might be a book club, a church, mosque, temple or other religious group you’re a member of. Associations are formed for an infinite variety of reasons and finding clients through them is more serendipitous than planned.
You can also find clients in your daily travels. It never hurts to let people know you’re a writer as long as you do it graciously. The key is to listen deeply to others and wait until you suspect your services can be of use. Then, hand them your business card and see what happens.
And for heaven’s sake and your own, don’t forget to ask your current clients, either face-to-face or online, for referrals.
Since the mid 1990s, so-called social media has played an ever increasing roll in putting writers and clients together.
Probably the most effective is LinkedIn. It can help you find clients, and help potential clients find you. The key is your LinkedIn profile. John Soares has a helpful article called The 17 Best Ways to Boost Your LinkedIn Profile which has a wonderful info-graphic chart that demystifies productive profile tweaking.
You’ve probably got some following on both Facebook and Twitter – it never hurts to occasionally let those folks know you’re looking for work. Keep it simple, but don’t be afraid to ask.
Again, as always, remember you have skills people need and you’re offering them coming from the point of view of being of service.
Your online presence
Perhaps your best marketing tool online is your website. If you don’t have one get one! Your professional writer’s website let’s clients find you. It also let’s them explore what you offer on their own time without the sense that they’re likely to run into a sales person any moment.
Make sure all your social media profiles, your business cards and your email signature have links to that website.
Your online presence also includes any forums or groups you participate in online. Some of those are likely to be with other writers – more about that in a moment. Participating in online groups that talk about topics you write about can be a great way for you to find potential clients. Don’t pitch! Add your website to the signature you use on the forum or group, then participate in a way that shows you know the territory and you can write.
Networking with other writers
We all need to network with other writers for at least these two reasons:
Writers benefit from interacting with other writers – who best understands complaints about deadlines, marketing when you’re really more comfortable by yourself, and finding clients.
The other reason is that other writers are likely to lead you to additional work. In some cases you may actually get hired to do some writing by a writer. Often writers will run into a client that wants something written that is totally outside the writer’s expertise – most would rather pass that lead along than simply say ‘no.’
Keep your networking simple, straight forward and fun for you.
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