3 Networking Wins for Freelancers

What I’m listening to: The Night Visit by Christy Moore

Even lousy interactions can net something.

I was thinking about that the other day. It’s funny how some of my best clients came from network contacts whom I’d not have thought would promote me to get coffee. In one case, a contact I’d shared a workspace with briefly — and who’d driven me nearly to the brink of screaming with his incessant talking — recommended me to a client I ended up working with for two years.

Because I kept my irritation to myself, this man didn’t hesitate to refer me to his colleague. I felt bad for judging him so harshly, too. He managed to undo my bad impression of him in one move.

Lousy interactions can also teach us something. More recently, I was in contact with someone who was “networking” as he called it.

That one interaction was more than enough to see this guy wasn’t interested in networking, but in lording over me with his status and his self-important vision.

In one conversation, he managed to insult me and show me how little he knew of networking. His missteps included “networking” at his office (not neutral ground) and talking down to me when I suggested meeting at a local cafe (“I have a running business and leaving doesn’t work for me.”). What he failed to realize is that I too have a busy career, and leaving to meet him is also disruptive for me. His assumption, whether intentional or not, was that I have free time to just drive to his office and meet him.

I’m sure you’ve guessed why this approach is awful:

  • It puts one party in a position of power (and frankly, gives him more control over an informal meeting than he needs)
  • It insults the person asking for neutral territory by suggesting he’s the only busy person in the equation (look down on people much?)

So let’s assume you would rather not be this type of networker, but want to increase your networking in a way that doesn’t turn off your network.

Here are some actions you can take that will put a little more oomph behind your networking efforts, and help you build a stronger network:

Choose your network channels thoughtfully. Joining sixteen social media sites means you’ve just committed to building your presence in each of those sites every day. Exhausting to think about. So try choosing a few that offer you better access to your client base. Also, don’t ignore offline networking opportunities. Join a business group, a MeetUp.com group, or organize your own networking event.

Network with your contacts regularly. There are people you’ve met who will never hire you. If you think “Why bother?” when it comes to staying in touch, you’ve just lost an added layer of your network. You’re no longer top of mind when they do come in contact with a client looking for someone with your background. Instead, they might be saying “I did meet a writer once with that experience, but I can’t remember his/her name…”

Build a solid posse. That networking should extend to other freelance writers. I’ve been referred to clients by a number of writers I consider friends. I stay in touch with them and they with me. If I have a job requiring some expertise in legal writing, I know the writer for that. A healthcare expert — yes, I have a writer friend who does that. Someone who can write about the ACA? Yep. You can’t write about everything, and you may not want to, either. So keep in touch with your friends and fellow writers. In turn, they may pass along gigs that fit you like they were made for you.

Writers, what was the worst networking interaction you’ve had?

What interactions worked well? What did the person do differently from the bad interactions?

What advice can you suggest for networking effectively?

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  • Cathy Miller February 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    The one that springs to mind, Lori, is someone I connected with on LinkedIn. I enjoyed reading his thoughts on the industry niche we share. I often promoted his articles. Periodically, I received emails from him (as part of a bigger email distribution) in which he announces a new article or venture he is undertaking.

    He does a good job of personalizing the email so it sounds like he is speaking only to you. But when I responded to his blanket, “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you,” that’s where the personalization stopped.

    I replied that I would appreciate it if he kept me in mind if he knew anyone who would benefit from my writing services. Silence. Crickets chirping. Not even – “I sure will,” (even if he had no intention of doing that). I call these empty promises. It sounds good in the email. He went from a personalized-sounding email to no more than a cookie-cutter form.

    I still promote articles of his because, hey, they’re good. But, I have unsubscribed from his emails.

    • lwidmer February 14, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      I remember you mentioning that, Cathy. Sounds like it’s all lip service, right?

      It’s a shame when they miss the “social” part of social networking.