31 Days of Freelancing: Networking the Right Way

What I’m listening to: Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons

Just before the holidays, I received a follower notice on Twitter. I looked at the guy’s profile and thought he sounded like an interesting person to follow, so I reciprocated.

Big mistake.

Within an hour or so, I received a message, which I suspect was automated. “It looks like you do some great work with video and graphics! We just launched…” and right into the sales pitch.

Two problems with this:

I don’t do video/graphics work at all (have you seen the photos I have here? Seriously.).

He tried selling me on first contact.

As my dear chum Kathy Kehrli would say, screw you!

So today, my freelance writer friends, we’re going to talk about ways to do networking that won’t elicit the famous Kathy K. response from your followers.

December 29: Networking the Right Way

What this guy did was something I’ve never been a fan of — he used what I assume was an automated reply. At least I hope so. Otherwise, he’s even more clueless than I imagine.

While an automated response is okay, I prefer no response to a canned one. But I tolerate them as long as they’re not so specific or salesy, as noted above.

So here is my list of networking no-nos, which apply in either social media and in-person situations:

  • No sales on first contact: None. Seriously, how much would you enjoy having someone shake your hand at a party and spend the next five minutes trying to convince you of how much you need their products or services? Don’t do it to others.
  • No one-sided conversations: You’ve been in those, I’m sure. You say hello, and 20 minutes later, you’re prying yourself away from a monologue.
  • No stalker behavior: If someone views your LinkedIn profile, it’s more than a little weird to suddenly reach out, particularly if they don’t follow you, and ask if they need a writer. Icky, in fact.
  • No politics: That was tough this year, wasn’t it? But especially in a contentious election year, it’s not smart to go there. You could lose half your client base just shooting off your mouth or sharing your opinion.

Just by not doing any of the above, you’re already improving your networking outcome tremendously. But there’s more you can do. Try these ways to network:

  • Ask questions: People do love to talk about themselves, so use it to your advantage. Even if you find yourself heading into Monologue Land, at least learn something in the process. Steer the conversation with questions.
  • Use your pitch: I like to have a two- or three-sentence elevator speech that’s crafted to match the atmosphere of each situation. Keep it short, to the point, and without a sales pitch. Then shut up and listen.
  • Engage wisely: Asking questions again, but use news (related to the client’s interests) to get the conversation going.
  • Share thoughtfully: Don’t just randomly retweet. Put more thought into what you’re sharing, and actually read the links. You might be surprised at what you’re about to spread across the airwaves.
  • Be professional always: I’m thinking of disagreements/debates on forums. In one, I was seeing someone gunning for me. Instead of ignoring it and letting it escalate, I addressed it, apologized if my tone was contributing, and restated my point from a more collaborative perspective (arguing both sides of the same coin notion). That allowed the other party to save face and the argument died down (not before he landed on small parting shot, but that’s his karma). In all online discussions, always assume your client is looking.

Writers, what does networking the right way mean to you?

How do you engage new followers or people you’ve just met?

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