Building Your Network: Tips for Self-employed Writers

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Image courtesy of Hubspot

Writing may be a solo activity, but that doesn’t mean you have to operate in a vacuum. When you work from home, it’s important to build a supportive community of like-minded souls because, frankly sometimes you want to get away from your home office and mingle, seek out new environments and meet new people. Or maybe you just want to get reacquainted with people you used to work with.

Networking is important for self-employed writers for several reasons. Meeting new people can inspire you to experiment with new ideas or learn best (or better) practices than the ones you’ve been using. Networking can broaden your sphere of friends and business contacts who can lend you a hand when you are overloaded with deadlines or provide moral support during difficult stretches.

Networking provides a change of scenery too, a chance to check out the new restaurant or office space that you heard so much about. A change of scenery and seeing new faces can reset your brain and open it up to new experiences and new possibilities. Most important, networking saves your sanity, so you don’t go stir crazy staring at a computer screen all day, or worse, staring at four walls.

So where can you go to build your network? Who should be part of your community, your support system, and a source of potential business? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Start with your family and closest friends. They know you best and understand your career goals. Ask them for business advice or introductions to managers at their place of work.

2. Reach out to past clients, employers and co-workers. If you left previous employers on good terms, reach out to them. When they move on to other businesses, stay in touch. They may be just the contact person you need to gain an introduction to the right manager and the right opportunity at their new company.

3. Attend workshops and classes. Pay attention to your professional development. Not only will you keep up with the latest trends and practices for your industry, you get to meet professionals from other companies and other parts of the country to add to your contact list. Be sure to follow up with them after the class and every few months, even if it’s just to say hello. Invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn.

4. Consider joining social groups. Sites like Meetup.com or other local social organizations can help you connect with like-minded individuals. Whether you have an interest in skiing, dining out or book clubs, participating in social clubs helps you to reach out to people beyond your industry. What brings you together as a common interest could result in a valuable business connection.

5. Volunteer for a cause close to your heart. When you become involved with a charitable cause, you not only show off your softer side, but you also showcase your leadership and creative thinking skills. Like the social networks, volunteering draws people from different backgrounds to a common cause. Use that common bond to build a strong relationship with fellow volunteers.

6. Seek out role models. These are experienced professionals in your industry who have risen in the ranks and gained industry respect. Because of their stature in the field, you value their opinion and would like to connect with them more closely. They can be someone you have worked with previously or someone you know through an online community. For example, if you’re an aspiring writer, you may want to connect with a published author whose work you have always admired.

Once you’ve connected with these individuals, experts suggest the following tips for maintaining relationships with them.

Tip #1: Remember personal stuff about your connection, such as birthdays and work anniversaries. Offer congratulations for their promotions or new jobs. Those little notes, whether handwritten, text or social media, can make people feel special. They will remember the fact that you remembered them.

Tip #2: Offer your expertise. Remember building a network isn’t about what you get from your connections but what you give to them, suggests experts at the Enterprisers Project. Act as a sounding board for colleagues on work projects. Offer suggestions or advice if colleagues are feeling discouraged or need support. Offering your expertise helps you form stronger bonds with colleagues and team members.

Tip #3: Remember to follow up. If you’ve met someone for coffee and chatted with them at a conference, be sure to send them a note of thanks. The experts at Flexjobs say that this advice is especially helpful if you are applying for a freelance gig. After you’ve met with the potential client, be sure to follow up on a timely basis. You will want to stand out against the competition. Following up shows your attention to detail and that you pay attention to small stuff. That can be important in a growing business relationship.

Keep these tips in mind and know that you have plenty of sources to draw from to build your network. Networking can be a challenge, especially for the shy stay-at-home types, but it’s a necessary evil if you want to stay in business for yourself.

Find the Support You Need for Your Writing Career

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Photo courtesy of Hubspot

Writing is often a lonely endeavor. You sit isolated in your home office working laboriously on your craft. You can see your story coming to life. Then you hit a dead end. What do you do next?

At times like these, it’s helpful to have one person or a group to reach out to for inspiration, support or good old-fashioned common sense advice. Surely your family or a close friend is the first line of defense, but they may not always understand your creative process or your deep desire to write. Even your spouse or partner can be somewhat mystified by your writing career. They might be able to provide the emotional support, but perhaps not the creative support. That’s why you need a creative support system. That system can come in the form of a person or a group.

Support systems are vital to writers and other creative types. That social outlet is needed to distance yourself from your craft temporarily to regain perspective on problem areas. Your support system may be able to see things you have overlooked. It helps to have someone to talk to, to help you become accountable for yourself and cheer you on when you accomplish your goals.

You can develop a support system from any number of places. Naturally, your family and friends are the initial lines of support. But look beyond those circles too. If you’ve taken a writing class, keep in touch with your classmates. There may be one or two who may be especially helpful to your cause. Post a message on your social media. Perhaps a former co-worker or a high school friend are avid readers and writers struggling on their own.

It helps to first determine what type of help you need. Depending on the type of support you’re looking for, your support system can be small with only one or two people or extend to an entire writing community. But not everyone wants to be part of a writers’ group. Sometimes relying on one or two people is enough to keep you sustained through tough times.

Need help deciding where to go to develop your support system beyond family and friends? Consider these other options.

A writing coach. If you’ve saved up money, you can hire a writing coach to help you through the process. These individuals are usually experienced and published authors themselves, they’ve been through what you are going through. They can guide you through the trouble spots so you can resolve them on your own. A relationship with a coach will likely be structured, and you’ll have to meet or speak with them at a designated time each week. The relationship is governed by a contract, so you will have a legal obligation to one another with set terms for payment and other details. That may or may not fit into your personal schedule.

Another downside is the cost. Coaching can be pricey and beyond most writers’ budgets, but if you are willing to work hard and desire to work with someone who will help you be more accountable for your work, then a writing coach may be a smart investment and a worthy addition to your support system.

A Mentor. While writing coaches are generally governed by a contract, a mentor is not. Like a writing coach, a mentor has been around the block before. The difference here is that the relationship is informal, perhaps evolving organically over time. There is no set schedule for meetings, so you may meet or chat once a week, once a month or even once a year. A mentor can be a former teacher, a colleague, or a current or former boss. They have loads of experience in the industry that they willingly share with you. Best of all, they can cheer you on when things get tough and celebrate with you when you achieve your goal. Meetings occur on an as-needed basis, but the value of the mentor’s insights are just as valuable as the writing coach.

A Writing group. Behind family and friends, a writer’s next best line of support may be a writers’ group. Whether you join an established one or start one of your own, consider your reasons for participating. Is it strictly to socialize to get away from your self-imposed hibernation, or do you really want an exchange of ideas or feedback on your creative project? Also consider the type of person you are. If you are a sociable type who needs people around you, a writers’ group may be the perfect source of support. Less sociable types may be better suited for a mentor or writing buddy. Writing groups can meet in person or online. Check out sites like Shewrites.org or Meetup.com, which has several reading and writing groups.

A Writing buddy. Looking for encouragement, inspiration, resources and fun? Try working with a writing buddy. You may write different genres, come from different industries or educational backgrounds. A writing buddy may be at the same skill level as you and their goals may differ. But they are friendly, non-competitive companions who want to see you succeed as much as they want to. They’ll kick you in the butt if you need to move past writer’s block and celebrate with you when you sell your first story. Whether you decide to share your work with one another is up to you, or you may decide to keep it strictly about motivation, inspiration and to talk shop. I’ve had a writing buddy for about a year now. Every time we meet for coffee, I have walked home afterward with a story idea forming in my brain. You can’t get any more inspired than that.

Every good writer and business communicator needs a strong support system. Make sure you surround yourself with the best support possible to help you achieve your goals.

Related Articles:
How to Fight Loneliness as a Work-From-Home Writer, The Writer magazine
How to Get the Help You Need, Writer’s Digest
Why Support Systems Are Essential for Freelance Life, Freelancers’ Union