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Twitter for Freelance Writers: A Brief Primer

By Deb Ng

When Anne and I discussed trading guest posts, I volunteered to write about social media. It’s my specialty and my passion. I also know Anne sometimes struggles with how to best use social media and felt my chosen topic might be of use. I’m only going to talk about one particular social media tool today, though. Twitter.

Though I use different aspects of social media for different purposes, Twitter has caused both my writing and blogging careers to explode – and it can do the same for you. It’s more than a place to share what you’re having for dinner or tweet out links to your posts.

Why Twitter?

Twitter is more than a virtual water cooler. It’s a place to meet clients, mingle with other freelancers, and promote your stuff. To some, it looks like a bunch of noise. To me it looks like millions of people sharing each day. Here are some things that happened to me since I first logged onto Twitter in 2007:

  • My blog traffic grew exponentially
  • I landed several clients who were Twitter friends or friends of Twitter friends
  • I shared tips and ideas with other freelancers
  • I’m collaborating on projects with Twitter friends
  • I made many valuable connections

Sure, Twitter can be a lot of noise if you want to view it that way. It’s one thing to watch other people Tweet about random topics. It’s another to engage your community. Ask questions, comment and retweet in response to your friends and, yes, share links to your blog posts or articles. Once the conversation starts flowing, so will the opportunities. All of a sudden, it won’t seem so noisy anymore.

So How Do I Do It?

The short answer is to “just do it,” but there’s a little more to Twitter than that. Without friends and followers you’re not going to be talking to anyone but yourself. First, use the search tool to find your friends and favorite freelancers. If you want to continue to grow your community, see who is following your friends, you might find some interesting people there, as well. Finally, search topics that interest you. For example, I don’t only follow freelancers, I also follower bloggers, foodies, wine lovers, book lovers, and social media people. Many of those same people will follow you in return.

Now that you have a follower base, you can start Tweeting. Say hello. Tweet out a link to an interesting article or ask a thought- provoking question. Again, engage. It’s considered spammy if you only Tweet out links, but don’t let it stop you from sharing stuff now and then. Some social media experts say to have a 10:1 ratio. That is, ten conversational Tweets for every link, but I don’t feel there are hard and fast rules. Do what feels right. Your community will let you know if you’re too spammy.

Conversational Marketing

Twitter is conversational marketing. You’re chatting with people every day, but guess what else you’re doing? You’re building trust. Here’s an example you’ll see me use often:

Say a potential client is looking for a freelance writer. Do you think he’d rather take out a Craigslist ad and browse 200 applications from unqualified strangers, or do you think he’d rather reach out to the writer he’s been chatting with on Twitter and he trusts thanks to their conversational relationship?


People remember your Tweets. They remember your blog posts, they remember your struggles and they remember that you’re the “go-to” person in your niche. Everyone you meet on Twitter is a potential client, collaborator or someone who will promote what you do…and vice versa. If you share the Twitter Karma it will find you in return.

Simple and Free

I could write volumes discussing Twitter, social media and how to benefit from the individual tools. You won’t find a cheaper method of marketing, and it’s so easy to use. Every time you use Twitter you’re building your online presence and adding some buzz around your brand.

What’s not to love?

Deborah Ng is founder of the Freelance Writing Jobs Network and Conference Director for the BlogWorld and New Media Expo.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://divageekdesigns.com/tag/website/

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Cool post. I made the mistake of adding random people when I started on Twitter. It was a bunch of noise then. After awhile I became more selective and it made a big difference. It doesn’t help to have high numbers if no one is listening.

    Excellent advice though, this is a great way to use Twitter :).

    • Anne

      Deb knows her stuff!

  • Deb, you inspired me to start up a Twitter Account a few weeks ago, and I thank you. Loved reading this! Kudos to Anne too, love this site.

  • Hi Brian,

    I don’t suggest following people you don’t know. When I first started Twittering I looked for folks I knew from the freelance writing, blogging and social media communities and starting following them first. They weren’t strangers, we already knew each other from sharing in forums and on blogs.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Your Turn: What Do You Use as Freelance Writing Clips? =-.

    • That’s just silly. Of course you should follow people you don’t know if they have valuable information you want to get.

      Do you really know all 6,200 people that you follow? And are you advocating for the 2,000 that follow you where you don’t follow back should drop you?

      I only know (have spoken/e-mailed with) a handful of my followers (substantially less than you), but I’m happy for all of them and try to give them what they signed up for.

      It may be harder, but it’s possible to build a relationship inside twitter through @replies. Some of those relationships may never happen outside of it.

      • Hi Brian,

        I’m sorry, let me clarify: when first starting out I recommend following friends and people you know. In time you’ll build up a follower base especially as new people begin following you.

        I don’t personally know the 6,200 people who I follow, but I chose them for a reason. I didn’t just click a bunch of buttons in order to follow. They have to interest me. Maybe they had an interesting website or a said something funny. In any event they piqued my interest. However, when I first started Tweeting, it was to people I know.
        .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Freelance Writing for the Web: A Change is Gonna Come. Are You Ready? =-.

        • Deb

          Deb,
          I started out not knowing anyone (personally) on Twitter. I think that Ann Wayman was one of the first persons I followed. I saw her tweets, and the persons who tweeted on her pages. I followed other sites who asked me to “follow us on Twitter!” and found more good tweeters. I am not one to tell the world that I am going to get a cup of coffee, but I do find a lot of motivation and inspiration, as well as learning opportunities, from all the ones I follow. I have a good many followers, too, who like the things I re-tweet. I still don’t push my own links, but I do tell MY small world when I read something worth sharing!
          Look for my re-tweet of this article!
          Thanks for all the inspiration, Ladies!
          .-= Deb´s last blog ..Revised List of Free and Paid Anti-Virus Software =-.

          • Anne

            Me? Well darn. I rarely talk about what I’m doing, often talk about writing and occasionally winge about stuff.

  • Thanks, Veronica!
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Your Turn: What Do You Use as Freelance Writing Clips? =-.

  • Brian

    Now that you have a follower base, you can start Tweeting.

    I think you’ve got the order backwards, Deb. I’d suggest tweeting into thin air for a few days before you start adding people you don’t know. I’m not likely to follow you back if you don’t have anything that interests me in your last dozen tweets.

    • Anne

      I wonder about this too, Brian… if I get a follower who doesn’t have a web page, and has no tweets or protects them, I’m leery of following back, but maybe Deb is right. I don’t know.

  • Great post and sound advice Deb.

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