The writer’s life can be isolating. Here are five ways to make connections in the freelance world.
Being a subject matter expert is not enough in the professional world. As the saying goes, “it’s who you know, not what you know.”Tweet
1. Informational Interviewing
What: Informational interviews are interviews with workers in a field or position to learn about their experiences and the requirements of the job. Learn more about informational interviewing at the University of California – Berkeley’s website.
Why: Informational interviews are a great way to learn about the day-to-day aspects of a career path. It’s a great way to network with more experienced people in your field who can share advice and connect you with others in their professional network. Whether you’re a novice freelancer getting started, or a more seasoned freelancer trying to pivot, informational interviewing can be helpful.
Informational interviews are a great way to learn about the day-to-day aspects of a career path, network with more experienced people in your field, and connect with others in their professional network.Tweet
How to Do Informational Interviewing: If you’re new to freelance writing, you may not have any connections in the freelancing world. You might need to “cold call” or “cold email” potential interviewees; this means contacting them out of the blue. LinkedIn can be useful for finding contacts, and it’s easy to request an informational interview via email. If you do have a small network, you can take a “snowball” approach: take interviewee suggestions from people you know, and then have those you interview suggest other interviewees. You can also check out Digital Women Leaders and Journalism Media Mentors Program to book time for a (free!) chat with a professional in your field.
2. Professional Events
Why: Attending – or better yet, presenting at – professional events is a great way to build your professional identity and meet other freelance writers and possibly even clients.
How: You can learn about professional events by joining organizations for writers or freelance writers and subscribing to e-mail lists. You can also stay in the loop on professional events by following other freelance writers and organizations on social media. Either way, attend every event you can.
3. Twitter Chats and Communities
What: Twitter chats are prescheduled discussions around a particular topic. Chats are accessible to followers by using a hashtagged (#) title. Examples include #FreelanceChat (for freelancers) and #SciCommChat (for Science Communication or #SciComm professionals). You can also participate in discussions on #ScienceTwitter, #PRTwitter, or #MarketingTwitter.
Why: Twitter is excellent for broadcasting to a wide audience in your field, or in a related field in which you’re trying to make inroads. It is simple to use, and its short messages are digestible for the masses and professionals alike.
How: You can join Twitter chats. You can even start your own chat, which can be helpful if it adds value in a way that helps your personal brand. It is best to begin by joining chats until you have a large enough following to host a successful chat. Buffer offers a great guide to starting or joining a Twitter chat, including sites where you can search for Twitter chats.
4. Tap into Your Own Informal Network
What this means: Networking among colleagues, family, friends, and friends of friends, or anyone you are otherwise connected to is a good way to start building a network.
Why it matters: Building a network can be difficult to do – you can’t build connections unless you have connections. Also, it’s easier to network with people with which you have something in common.
How to do it: Begin with your informal network and work outwards. Network studies have found that “weak ties” are actually the most fruitful connections in a career network. Friends and family are a good jumping off point to meet more distal contacts.
5. Network with Prospective Clients
What this means: Reaching out to and meeting with prospective clients – even if it will not lead to gaining those clients.
Why it matters: Networking with potential clients is the only way to gain clients, and these clients can in turn connect you to other potential clients.
How to do it: Meeting clients through professional events or Twitter chats is ideal. “Cold-calling” and informational interviewing is also effective. Either way, you want an actual meeting with potential clients to learn about what they are looking for and other potential clients they might know.
Networking is an important part of freelance writing. For example, you can gain valuable insights from your fellow freelancers about pain points in your business or writing strategies. You can also talk to other freelancers to expand your “wheelhouse” and/or service offerings. If you’re interested in getting into freelance science writing, check out Fancy Comma’s book, How to Get Started in Freelance Science Writing.