Networking for Writers Beyond Writers Groups and Conferences

BY CHELSEA ENNEN • June 2, 2023

Networking for Writers Beyond Writers Groups and Conferences

Networking is the best thing you can do to improve your freelance career. 

Someone with a full-time job may only need to utilize their network once every few years, like when they need to change companies to move upwards in their field. But freelancers have to network constantly. Even if your plate is full and you don’t need more work, you never know if one of your anchor clients is going to suddenly drop out, leaving you in the lurch. 

Most freelancers maybe attend the occasional conference or are members of a writers group but then leave networking there. However, there are other additional ways to keep your network strong that don’t involve spending a weekend in a hotel ballroom or sorting through thousands of Facebook comments. 

Talk About Your Work 

When someone asks what you do for a living, what do you say? Do you give a general answer like “I write ad copy” or “I’m a freelancer”? Or do you actually talk about what you do? 

Other than in very general terms, most jobs aren’t easy to talk about with groups of acquaintances. If someone tells you they’re a “compliance manager,” that can mean very little to you if you don’t also work in compliance. 

But you aren’t in any line of work—you’re a writer. Taking jargon and complex concepts and making them easy for any audience to understand is what you’re best at. 

Take a look at your resume and notice how you describe your work experience. Do you write fun copy for customer-facing emails? Do you help experts distill their knowledge into readable blog posts? Maybe you write product descriptions, scripts for video ads, or grant proposals for charities and nonprofits. 

All of these specific tasks could be used in place of saying that you’re simply a writer. Not only will this make you more interesting to chat with at parties, but if more people understand exactly what you do, you never know what opportunities you’ll come across. Once someone hears from you that “SEO optimization” really means “getting your business to appear higher on search results,” people might discover that they need your exact skill set.  

Use LinkedIn For More Than Job Searching 

Most working adults have at least some kind of basic LinkedIn presence, for its primary functions are working as a long-form resume and listing job postings. It can also be good for staying connected to former colleagues and other people who might be good professional references in the years ahead.

Many freelance writers use LinkedIn with more intention than simply keeping up with college classmates, though. It can be great for pitching yourself to companies on a platform where your dazzling resume and writing samples are only a click away.

LinkedIn can also be a good place to think more about your long-term plans. If you aspire to be a content strategist one day, you can find people who are doing that kind of work and see what got them there. If you have a dream client, you can see who is connected with their company and whether they work with freelancers. 

If you’re early in your career, look for people who are in charge of hiring freelancers at their company. Don’t reach out and immediately ask for work, though. Instead, ask them what they look for when hiring freelancers and what makes a cold email appealing to them. Then you’ll have a solid idea of what goes into finding your first clients along with creating some initial connections to explore at a later date.  

Lay Off the Shop Talk

For a lot of freelance writers, it’s other writers who make up most of their professional network. Facebook groups can sometimes have thousands of members, but if you’ve narrowed in on a particular niche, you probably get used to seeing the same names doing the same kind of work as you. 

It’s easy to use those connections to find potential clients, compare achievements, and even harbor professional envy. After all, other freelancers aren’t exactly coworkers; you’re essentially in competition for the same jobs. 

But that’s no reason to build up walls around yourself. Other freelancers aren’t the enemy—they’re people who can understand the highs and lows of freelancing best. If they’re in the same line of work as you, it’s likely you have a lot of other common interests too. 

So instead of getting your claws out, try bonding with your fellow writers. Offer to read drafts of their manuscripts, start a book club, or suggest in-person meetings with people in your area. You never know what kind of support system you can build when you’re open to connecting in a friendly way. Turning a professional connection into a personal friend can be an even better outcome than landing your dream client. 

Build Relationships, Not Transactions

Even if your monthly picnic for grant writers in the Milwaukee area doesn’t result in deep, lifelong friendships, it’s still worth spending time with people when it doesn’t involve asking for a recommendation or referral. You know that knot you get in your stomach when you can tell someone is only talking to you because they want something? You don’t ever want to cause that feeling in someone else’s stomach. 

Focus on building authentic relationships. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you start thinking of your network not as an informal association of persons, but as a community. 

Chelsea Ennen is a writer living in Brooklyn with her husband and her dog. When not writing or reading, she is a fiber and textile artist who sews, knits, crochets, weaves, and spins.

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