How's your networking?
That's the question posed by UpMo, a marketing coaching program that helps you set and track marketing goals, including marketing. They have a great free networking self-test to get you thinking about all the forms of marketing and how involved you are in your network. (If you must procrastinate, this is a great way to do it.)
A few tips I learned from taking the test myself:
Don't just meet people. Help them.
There's a difference between knowing a lot of people and having colleagues who respect your work so much they'll recommend you to editors. A great way to gain their respect--ethically--is to be of service to them. Send along stories that may interest them, mention markets and editors that might be right for their idea and generally offer to help.
This is common courtesy and something I notice many freelancers do intuitively. But this remains a good opportunity. Are you doing all you can to help your fellow freelancer?
Staying abreast of the industry counts as networking.
To stay nimble in today's scary market, you've got to be able to bob and weave around ailing markets and towards ones that are thriving. To do this, read up on changes in your coverage area. How's health doing? What about business? Or shelter pubs? And how do you get most of this info? Chances are, you'll find it by sharing experiences with other writers.
Join writers groups, participate in email boards and as your favorite writers to lunch or coffee.
Diversify, diversify, diversify.
Just as you should strive to have lots of different clients in order to weather market changes more easily, you should have lots of different types of people in your network:
- People who are at the same level as yourself for commiseration;
- People who are where you want to be in 5, 10, or 15 years;
- Publishers, etc.
The bottom line
Just like with any marketing effort, you should have a plan.
How many times a month will you strive to meet with editors? How many times a month do you meet with other writers? How often do you talk to former colleagues or editors for whom you haven't yet worked?
Strive to do some networking every month.
As I've written before, I rely heavily on my freelance network. I started a freelancers' group on LinkedIn. I belong to two writing groups. I have an action buddy to encourage me to take scary steps in my business.
Stumped on how to find fellow freelancers? Our friend Jenny Cromie has a great post on The Golden Pencil laying out just that.
When I looked at where my income came from last year, I found that nearly all of my new clients came from referrals from those in my networks. It's a great feeling to be attached to so many people, especially when you work most of the day in solitude. And for those connections to be profitable is even more wonderful.
How do you network? Where do you want to expand your network?