Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #17: How to Earn More Just From Schmoozing

Carol Tice

Marketing for freelance writers: Land more clients with networking.

In last week’s installment of Marketing 101, we learned that the most effective way to do nearly any form of marketing is to get a personal introduction to the editor or marketing manager you want to hire you.

Do you know the best way to get more of those personal connections? You need to get out and meet people. Ideally, in person.

Before you start up, I know — you’re shy. You hate parties.

Think of it this way:  You’re going to earn more money just by standing around shooting the breeze with people. Just like those people there on the right, in the picture. There will often be drinks and snacks involved.

That doesn’t look like agony, now does it?

You can do this. And you really want to, because people who do in-person networking, are usually the ones who earn more. It’s just that simple.

Why? The connections you make when you meet people face-to-face are way deeper than those of those Twitter followers you’ve got. Those personal connections will open doors for you and grease those marketing wheels for you, making everything happen easier and faster.

Need a crash course in how to network? Here are the basics:

5 Rules for Networking Success

  1. Know what you’re looking for. Be ready to answer questions about who your ideal client is. People will want to help you, but they can’t if they don’t know what sort of referrals you want.
  2. Have a “me” speech. You should have a short, 90-second speech ready that describes the type of writing you do and are looking for. Practice saying it with a friend until it feels conversational and comfortable.
  3. Ask about them. Writers say they hate networking because they don’t like talking about themselves. But really, you don’t have to say much. Everyone else would love to tell you all about what they do. Ask about their ideal client and how you could help.
  4. Have fun. Smile!  You’re out of your cave and out in the big city having a drink. Project confidence, faking it if necessary. Nobody wants to stay in touch with people who sound desperate and broke.
  5. Follow up. The real networking begins after you go home from the event. You’ve met people — now it’s time to take that stack of business cards and cement those relationships. Connect in social media to stay in touch, send them relevant articles, send them job leads. Meet interesting people for coffee. Keep the conversation going.

Hopefully, I’ve sold you that in-person networking will not kill you, is actually fun when done right, and should be an important part of your marketing effort to grow your writing income.

Once you’ve got that in your head, the next question is where to network. There are many choices.

7 Good Places to Network

  1. Casual networking. Chat up those other moms and dads while you’re watching that soccer game. Do they have a business? Who do they work for that might use freelance copywriters?
  2. Business groups. Check out your local chamber or business association — some are pricey to join while others are quite affordable. Many put on occasional open-house events you can crash. My local chamber puts on a variety of events every month, from casual after-hours get-togethers to sit-down luncheons.
  3. Regional or national events. Hitting a big-time event such as SXSW, BlogWorld, or SOBCON can give you a chance to meet many people at once, and to meet more big guns in your target industry. Yes, it can be a major financial investment to fly to one of these — but my experience has been that if you work this opportunity, you will grow your business many times more than the cost of that plane ticket and hotel.
  4. Pro networking groups. BNI is one of the best-known in this category, and I believe the most expensive. Advantage here: You will be the only freelance writer in the group — they only allow one person per occupation in each local chapter.
  5. Social media in person. My local Linked:Seattle group, for instance, routinely sees more than 500 people turn up at its live events. This is a great way to make deeper connections with those tweeps you hang with online.
  6. Writers groups. You might be staying away because you think these events will just be a bunch of sad, desperate, starving writers crying into their cheap glasses of chardonnay… but it’s not like that. Growing your network of other writers who know your talents can put you in their downline for referrals when those writers get leads they don’t have time for or that aren’t their speed. They’re also great to know for reality-checking prices and snooping around about whether that prospective new client is a nightmare. I’ve gotten several great clients through attending MediaBistro events.
  7. Skype calls. I like to book at least one Skype call a week with someone who might help my business in some way. If you don’t live near a major city, this can be a great way to build connections when it’s hard to appear in person. The phone-company people used to say this, but Skype really is the next best thing to being there.

Which type of networking will be best for you? You won’t know until you get out there, experiment, and meet people.

Need more marketing help? Here’s a place where you can get a bunch…

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  1. Colleen Kelly Mellor

    I love the ‘Follow up’ idea–take those business cards, add them to your network, and keep the lines of communication open. Yes, all too often I let those connections drop off the radar screen, seeing the card a few weeks later and asking “Who the heck is this?” If I’d made a note on card right after the meeting (red-haired Mama with great flair), I’d have recalled and if I’d begun adding her to my e-mail list immediately, I;d have fortified the connection…

    Great practical skillset for us writers…thanks, Carol.

  2. jan adamson

    I’m sorry but I live in a town of 3500 people, surrounded by towns of similar size. I can’t imagine trying to troll through the thousands at SXSW, handing out business cards to people who already have a pocketful. I’ve been to a meeting of writers in a small city 45 minutes away and they were sad, lonely people who write poems and stories about their dogs. And just who am I supposed to Skype? Tell me practically how to network from the black hole I live in and I’ll applaud you.

    • Colleen Kelly Mellor

      Ah, Jan…that’s why I am getting tutored on the skills of Tweeting and Facebooking, so I can optimize those avenues (they” be my business card.) I, too, live in a small town and have little recourse to do those others; hence, I’ll tap into the extraordinary power of a medium with which I’m so unfamiliar…I’ll let you know how it goes, or follow, too, on my site. It’ll be an experiment.

    • Carol Tice

      Jan…I live on an island. You’re not more isolated than I am!

      You might need to drive farther away to find the right networking group. I have to haul my rear on a ferry and it’s about 3 hours round trip to the good groups. I tried the ones on my island, and they weren’t my client…all very small businesses.

      I think Colleen is on the right track…social media is a great tool for making connections. You can start relationships in social media and then pick them up live at events and deepen them.

      I’ve never gone to an event and just randomly handed out business cards. Often, I’m meeting up in person with people I’ve met virtually first…and they introduce you to more people. And you might attend sessions on a topic where you bond with others due to your shared interests. Also, big events have many smaller get-togethers, where you can make powerful connections — still kicking myself that I didn’t go to SXSW this year to hit Copyblogger’s party. I’ve guested for them…how am I missing that opportunity?? Always more we should be doing. 😉

      If the idea of a SXSW overwhelms you look at smaller events like SOBCon or World Domination Summit. I’m such a fan of SOBCON’s format — it’s on right now and I’m eating my heart out that I’m missing this one, which started today — because it’s only 100 participants, and a lot of the participants are very influential people. I went to one last year that was so high-powered, Jonathan Fields was a PARTICIPANT. He wasn’t even one of the presenters! Make a few connections like that with people who are already successful, take some time to learn with them in person and build a relationship, and it can really skyrocket your writing career forward.

      The ideas you come out of big events with can be huge and life-changing for your writing. For instance, I had been musing idly that I should create a membership community for freelance writers because there wasn’t really a good one that provided a ton of training and support and networking all in one place…and when I left SOBCon, I went home and made it. Shut up and did it. Those kind of big things happen when you get with thought leaders, and connect with new resources.

      My main point is just that networking and making personal connections is a terrific shortcut that helps open a lot of doors.

      Maybe for you, it won’t be the way — you’ll write kick-ass query letters to editors you don’t personally know and make them love you. I’ve done that, too.

      But I highly recommend in-person networking be part of every freelance writer’s marketing plan. And as a small-town girl, I can testify that we can do it, too.

  3. Mahala Church

    Excellent article and all of your ideas have worked for me except Skype, which I haven’t used yet. Go-to-Meetings works very well. BNI is an excellent organization and a great way to meet new clients. I am not a sad or lonely person and don’t know a whole lot of writers who are. We are too busy to be lonely if we freelance. My work goes to critique groups, which have red pens armed and ready. The nuts and bolts of writing my novels has to be done in isolation, but the research librarians, critique groups, agents, and editors whom I work with surround me with encouragement and, yes, at times, leave me feeling desolate. That’s the nature of the beast.

  4. Ali

    I would love to attend parties and do in-person networking 🙁 but that’s not possible now, not possible here… but maybe one day I will 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      That’s what Skype chat is for, Ali. I’m Skyping with people all over the world and building relationships. It’s build your own networking event.

  5. E

    I haven’t done in-person networking, but I know for a fact that editors I’ve spoken with on the phone tend to be more willing to give me assignments. I’ll send an LOI, and the editor will ask me to call on Friday at 9 (or whenever), so I do. (I have heard that some editors are surprised when writers actually call when they say they’re going to call.) It’s like an initial test that you are responsible and follow through.

    I’ll have to try in-person networking, as I can see it being like a phone call amplified in terms of what it does for your credibility/conversion rate.

  6. Mike Robinson

    Yes Carol, I have been using Skype for networking. But you have provided some valuable points that I was lacking. Thanks a lot and more success !

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