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How to Stop Your Freelance Writing Career from Slipping into the Twilight Zone

Carol Tice

Have you picked up some new lingo recently?

Retweet. Blog. Hashtag. Friend. Like. New words, and old words with new meanings.

Freelance writers should pay close attention to these changes. Because words are powerful.

New words signal a shift in our culture. The way we communicate is changing — and I believe it’s going to transform how writers earn a living in the future.

What’s happening now reminds me a bit eerily of the old Twilight Zone TV series’ episode, “The Parallel,” in which an astronaut returns to find Earth is similar to — but not exactly like — the planet he left.

One notable change: He can’t read anymore, because the language has evolved in a different direction. His child has to teach him how to read again.

Otherwise, he’ll be left behind in a bewildering, familiar-yet-strange society.

This is where freelance writers who don’t know social media are right now.

There’s a new language that’s emerged, and a new way of connecting. If you don’t understand it, I believe you will soon find yourself in a parallel world — one where you will struggle to earn well.

Eventually, you may find yourself with a limited potential client pool, as social media spreads into every corner of media and business life.

A couple comments I’ve heard recently:

“What’s a hashtag, anyway?”

“My editor told me to send the related links with my story…what does that mean?”

When I see a blog-post headline like, “Another Day,” I know that blogger doesn’t understand Internet search and how important headlines are now.

What’s happening here?

Writers are getting left behind

These writers are slowly making themselves obsolete, because they don’t know how to communicate online.

I don’t tell you this because I want to scare you.

I want you to see this coming and get ahead of it.

Why you should learn about social media

Writers who aren’t on social media often tell me they don’t do it because they don’t get it. Where’s the payoff?

So here’s what social media has done for me lately:

  • One editor I found on Twitter last year assigned me ten $2,000 online articles.
  • I routinely locate hard-to-find sources I need by asking my network on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • I connected with the founder of a major corporation (unreachable through ordinary corporate-PR channels) whom I urgently needed to speak to for a book gig by commenting on his blog.
  • I discovered business-finance sources I needed for one story no longer check email, and can only be contacted on Twitter.
  • A top blogger contacted me for a guest post after seeing one of my posts linked on Twitter, which led to several awesome writing opportunities.
  • I make $100 an hour training small business owners on how to socialize their blog posts.
  • I got lucrative blogging gigs for both magazines and businesses based on my social-media audience and knowledge of social-media promotion.

It’s already an advantage if you’re social-media savvy

But a year or two from now, you may be unable to develop queries and get the interviews you need for today’s online markets. Which are growing bigger and more lucrative all the time.

So if you haven’t already taken the plunge, get started and learn it. There’s plenty on this blog about Twitter and LinkedIn (even more here), and more all over the Internet.

Yes, it can seem intimidating when others have thousands of followers.

But I can promise you, it won’t be easier to start next year.

Are you active in social media? Leave a comment and tell us about how you use social media as a writer.