Writing is often considered a solitary profession, but it’s actually quite the opposite—at least, it should be. Though it’s true that as a professional writer, you’ll likely need to spend most of your time working on projects alone, being social is still an essential part of the job.
If you’re working as a freelancer, it’s especially important to get your name out there to find new clients and jobs and to advance in your writing career. Though it may be tempting to use your freedom as a freelancer to become a hermit, it’s rewarding and beneficial to seek out connections with others in your industry.
Networking with other writers can help you:
1. Find new opportunities. In creative professions, it’s common to be granted involvement with projects just because you “know a guy.” Though no one is going to offer you your dream job immediately after shaking your hand for the first time, networking connections do add up to bigger and better opportunities. The more you connect with other professionals, the more often clients will be sent your way, especially if you have unique expertise that you make known to the people you meet.
2. Learn about your craft. When you make an effort to connect with professionals of a higher skill or experience level than you, you open yourself up to learning opportunities. Some professionals are open to forming mentoring relationships, which can be extremely rewarding both professionally and personally. (This is especially true of academics.)
3. Stay up to date with the industry. If you expect to be at the top of your field, you need to stay up to date with the current trends and best practices of your industry. Networking often exposes you to relevant industry discussions. Furthermore, hearing names mentioned in conversation will help you stay on top of who’s who in your field.
4. Make friends with similar interests. Networking isn’t just about business. It can help you make valuable friends with interests and life experiences that align with your own. If you put in the effort, you can develop strong friendships that come with the added benefit of potential professional collaboration down the line.
5. Be motivated to succeed. Perhaps the most significant benefit of networking is its ability to inspire you to improve your writing skills. When you meet other talented professionals in your field, you’ll be more motivated. It’s thrilling to watch others succeed, especially when it propels you toward your goals as well.
Connecting with writers, entrepreneurs, and other creative professionals can greatly benefit any professional writer. So, if you’re not already taking steps to connect, you should be!
Like anything, it’s easier said than done. The prospect of approaching admired peers totally unprompted makes networking seem scary to a lot of people, especially if they’re new to the scene. And even if you consider yourself a suave conversationalist, you might still struggle to know where to start. Because writing as a profession is so solitary, networking with writers can take a little ingenuity.
Luckily, writers have developed their own ways to form networking connections. With determination and a little bravery, pretty much any writer can make connections that better their career. Here are a few helpful tips for networking with other writers.
If you’re going to an event where you know you want to make networking connections, prepare a few helpful conversation starters beforehand. Situational comments and questions are great examples, especially if you’re at an industry event such as a conference or book signing. “What do you think of this author’s newest work?” is a much better way to encourage professional connection than “Lovely day, isn’t it?” You could also ask questions about their work specifically, such as “What inspired you to write this?” or “What is your favorite novel right now?”
Having a few prepared conversation starters can also help you feel less nervous about approaching strangers. If you ask open-ended questions and listen carefully, it’s likely that you won’t have to do much of the talking anyway. Just make sure you allow the conversation to move organically once you get it started.
The executive director of the Chicago Writers Conference, Mare Swallow, advises freelance writers to invest in business cards if they’re hoping to find jobs through networking. If you don’t carry business cards she suggests, you might be missing out.
Swallow is definitely right that carrying business cards can help you find work. You never know when you might run into someone looking for a writer with your specific skill set. It’s a good idea to spend a little money to design and order your own business cards and have a few with you wherever you go.
Business cards can also positively influence how you’re seen by others at networking events. A well-designed, professional-looking business card can show people you’re serious about your career. Even if they don’t agree to call you right away, it’s still a good idea to hand out your card when you meet other writers and industry professionals because it makes your contact information available should they ever want it.
If you want to find a large group of like-minded professionals in one place, a writing conference is your best bet. These conferences gather writers from across the world and provide panels, workshops, and other learning opportunities in addition to chances for networking.
No matter what kind of writing you do, there are likely a number of great conferences that fit your needs. Bloggers, freelancers, tech writers, and even science fiction authors can find conferences focused on their particular genres.
Conferences are great for networking because they provide easy access to the specific community you want access to. Though some are broad, others are more focused, allowing you to meet your particular goals through networking. Plus, because everyone is networking, conferences give you a unique excuse to introduce yourself to others in a more inviting and comfortable atmosphere.
If you attend a conference, talk to panelists, make friendly conversation with the people sitting next to you, and ask other attendees about their work. The connections you make could turn into mentorships, or professional relationships, or even real friendships.
Not every writer can attend conferences and networking events. Depending on where you live, it might not be realistic to do so. And since these events can run upward of $200 per ticket, you may not have the budget to attend them.
But you can still network effectively online. Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks can help connect you to your peers from the comfort of your own couch.
Twitter is especially well-suited to networking. The writing community on Twitter is strong, and the platform provides ample opportunities to read and respond to the articles and blog posts of writers you admire.
Make a list of some writers you like, and follow their accounts. Read any work from them that you come across, and if you like it, engage with their content! Asking questions about their article, book, or project is a great way to start a conversation and gain some insight into their expertise. Be sure to do so on their website at first, and if your conversation transitions into an email, request to connect on LinkedIn.
Social media is a great tool to use if you can’t attend a networking event due to things like social anxiety, inconvenient living situations, or personal preferences that prevent event attendance. Social media can also be a great way to collaborate on projects, so don’t be afraid to utilize it for networking purposes if you’re not available to collaborate with others in person.
Sometimes, working in an office environment might be the best way to network with people who share your interests and industry expertise. Because writers and freelancers don’t often work in an office, however, they might miss out on valuable connections made in the day-to-day. If you’re looking to maintain networking relationships while working, you might consider renting a space in a coworking office.
Coworking spaces are office communities made up of creatives, freelancers, and startup entrepreneurs, and they come with a number of benefits. When you rent a desk at a coworking space, it’s possible to do your work alongside an office full of people like you. By meeting up with fellow writers in these coworking spaces, you can get creative feedback on your writing and observe the other great work going on in your area.
In addition, because of the ease of socialization in a coworking office, coffeeshop, or café, networking becomes second nature. These locations can also be alternatives to expensive coworking environments that drain your wallet.
Schedule a meeting at a local coffee house or bookstore café to collaborate or meet up with other writers. You could even visit a book signing event at your favorite coffee house to meet others interested in the same writing that you are! The calming atmosphere of a café is a perfect environment for catching up on work, reading a book by a peer, or meeting up with other professionals.
In a creative industry, one of the best ways to create networking connections is to simply share your appreciation for a piece of work with the person who made it. Familiarize yourself with the work people are doing in your industry. Pay attention to the names that pop up on your screen again and again. Read broadly, and figure out what you like about the writing you like.
Getting mutual feedback is one of the greatest benefits of networking as a writer, but before you can benefit from it, you have to read, read, read. Your admiration and appreciation of someone’s work can lead to an unexpected networking occurrence. Simply saying “Hey, I loved that piece you wrote last month” can help strike up a conversation with a fellow writer. Genuine compliments show others that you’re invested in forming a connection with them, and nothing feels better than being liked.
Though there are a lot of ways to network as a writer, the ones listed here can get you started. Networking shouldn’t be scary—it should be fun! In the end, remember that whatever works for you works.
Finding a group of writers you can work alongside can be exciting and professionally advantageous, but your network should comprise people you genuinely like. Don’t worry about finding the most strategic partnerships. If everyone in your network works together, you all can grow.
By offering words of wisdom or picking another writer’s brain, you could tap into creative ideas you hadn’t known before. Perhaps you will cowrite a thesis or work together on a promotional book tour.
However you use these strategies, you’ll be able to find new colleagues who inspire and encourage you to do what you love!
Kayla Matthews is a tech and productivity journalist whose works have been featured on publications such as Cision, Inc.com, The Business Journals and more. She's also been a senior writer for MakeUseOf and contributes regularly to The Next Web. Check out her articles on Productivity Theory, or follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.