Networking with fellow writers is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills
It’s a natural instinct to gather among our own kind. But generally, no one in our communities is looking for our services. Let’s talk about where we should be spending time if our goal is to get more freelance work.
I’m curious, what percentage of your time are you spending in writing and freelancing communities (online or offline)?
Isn’t it awesome to be surrounded by people who get what you’re doing? Who are going through what you’re going through?
It’s not in the least bit awesome for your freelancing business at all.
It’s a natural instinct to gather among our own kind. We learn from each other’s stories and experience. We smile wryly as we recognize cringe-worthy moments that happen to all of us. We gain hope from others’ moments of triumph…
But generally, no one in these communities is looking for our services. So in terms of getting clients and feeding ourselves, this ain’t the right place for us.
It’s not just writers who do this. I’ve talked to yoga teachers, and business coaches, and financial advisors who do the same thing. And in my previous life as a lawyer, I saw lawyers do this, too.
In hopes of building their practices and increasing visibility, lawyers would join the American Bar Association, and the local bar association, and various law committees and sections relevant to their practice areas. Many not only joined, but even showed up regularly at events!
And all this effort brought little (if any) new business.
After a few years of observing this situation, it dawned on me that we were all playing in the wrong sandboxes. Whom are we going to find in these lawyer organizations?
And the more specific the group (like, say, patent law), the more everyone has the same interests and problems – how to find clients being chief among them.
That’s when a light bulb went off. We, lawyers/writers/freelancers, shouldn’t be spending our time hanging out with mirror images of ourselves.
We should be hanging out with potential clients.
So I tested this hypothesis by heading to a biotech partnering conference with another lawyer. There, we met people from biotech startups, big pharma, venture funds, and industry press. We encountered only one other lawyer.
And we made more business-generating connections that day than in the previous six months.
But (and there’s always a but, right?).
In order to be able to create these opportunities for yourself, you need to have some expertise about your clients’ world. So in my case, I knew about the existence of biotech partnering conferences not because I was a lawyer, but because I keep up with the biotech industry.
Another example: ifyou’re a medical writer, you probably want to stay up to date with organizations such as ACEHP if you work in continuing medical education (and their annual meeting is in January, BTW).
If you have this industry expertise in addition to being a good writer, the world is your oyster. Not only do your deliverables stand out because you use the right language and understand the specific players and their pain points, but you also know where to concentrate your marketing efforts.
You learn where your potential clients congregate – from local happy hours to international conferences to online forums. You start making connections with doorkeepers - people in the industry who can introduce you to others in the industry you’d like to work for. You gain an in that your competition doesn’t have.
So lemme ask you – where are you going to spend your time from now on?