This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
One of the easiest ways to keep yourself busy with new freelance opportunities is through networking. It doesn’t require you to drop several grand on further certification, nor does it require you to work any unpaid hours. You don’t even have to be overly charismatic or extroverted, either.
All that’s required of you is a little time, effort and strategy. I’ve found each of the following resources and activities extremely helpful in networking my way into more freelance work – hopefully they work for you too!
One of my best friends is a political correspondent on Parliament Hill here in Ottawa, and sometimes covering day-to-day political stuff can be dull. That’s why she mixes it up with the odd VICE piece on local music, wherein her other passion lies.
It’s a great way to keep the creative juices flowing, and helps to build your SEO and get your name out there as a writer. It seems counterintuitive, but ongoing consistency in subject matter can actually act as a hindrance in building your brand as a writer.
If you just want to get your name out there (of course you do, right?) versatility in writing is always worthwhile. Spread your wings and try something new! Never written for a magazine? Try it out.
Join the nation's largest group representing the new workforce (it's free!)
This is an easy one. By now, you probably already know how important it is to Tweet out everything you write. Beyond this however, be sure to reach out directly to anyone and everyone who might be worth networking with.
Twitter provides a uniquely horizontal vehicle to reach otherwise unavailable professionals in literally every field imaginable. And whether they admit it or not, everyone checks their notifications on there – even if a couple times a week.
Tweet at someone influential to you, and offer to take them out for coffee and pick their brain. The worst that can happen is that they might not tweet back. What do you have to lose?
Let Facebook events and Meetups become your best friends.
Troll both sites regularly for any and every event you think will enhance your professional network. Even if fiction is your forte, consider attending a talk on poetry. If nothing else, you’ll expand your breadth as a writer, and probably meet some interesting peers in other disciplines.
Subscribe to as many Meetups as you like. You don’t have to attend all of them, but at least you’ll know when and where they’re happening and have the option to explore the burgeoning professional scene in your area whenever your schedule permits.
Yes, the cliché is true. Writers drink. We love a nice cocktail after a long day behind a screen.
Plus, most writers know when and where to dig for stories, and one great place to do it is at the pub when inhibitions are thinnest.
I recommend you sniff out the local watering holes of some of your favorite writers and organizations, and make an effort to swing by one night when you know you might bump into one of them.
When the social lubrication starts happening, often this can pave the way for conversation with a great new mentor who might be more established in your industry. There’s nothing wrong with a pint with a potential protégé.
Just be careful not to go overboard on the drinking. There’s nothing more embarrassing and unprofessional than a party animal bullying his/her way into a conversation. Be cool about it.
It worked for Edgar Allen Poe, right (well, mostly)?
I know, I know. Unpaid work doesn’t exactly pay the bills.
But guess what? It can be incredibly fulfilling. It’s surprisingly not that difficult to carve out a couple hours a week after work. or on an otherwise uneventful Sunday afternoon, to help out a great group or organization in your community.
Got a social justice cause you’ve been meaning to support? A great place to start is by flipping them an email and offering your time. It can be as easy as folding laundry for a homeless shelter, or making a few calls on a local political campaign.
Volunteering doesn’t just demonstrate your integrity as a professional, it dramatically builds your network and connections within your community.
So suck it up, and dedicate some time to someone who needs it.
You might end up being the first person that comes to mind the next time that organization is hiring.
This might seem obvious, but one of the absolute easiest ways to get noticed as a freelancer (at least in my own experience) is through LinkedIn.
Unfortunately, half-assing your profile doesn’t work. You really have to put the time in here. I recommend spending a minimum of 20 minutes a day combing the site for new connections, job offers, and worthwhile sharable content.
There’s a lot to remember when creating your profile on LinkedIn, so I recommend a meticulous approach in every step of the process.
Start by selecting a kick ass, professional headshot of yourself that shows how awesome, friendly and dynamic you are (or as close as you can get, anyway). Your photo is surprisingly paramount in an employer's decision.
If you feel like your title as a “Freelance Writer” isn’t capturing much attention, re-think it, and consider expanding your professional services. Adding social media expertise to the mix doesn’t take much, and will appeal to a much wider employer base.
Contributing written content pertinent to your field can help lift your search rankings and up your game in LinkedIn’s internal analytics. The more quality content you push out, the more likely you’ll get discovered. Most importantly, keep everything UP-TO-DATE.
Every single volunteer engagement, publication, political involvement or professional group you belong to is fair game to include on your LinkedIn profile.
If you post nothing, no one will ever know it happened. The busier you keep yourself, the more capable and multi-faceted you position yourself in a competitive job market.
Got a killer networking trick that I didn’t mention? I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to comment below or flip me a tweet. Or better yet, add me on LinkedIn!
Jenn Jefferys is a 20-something digital communication strategist and freelance journalist. She enjoys abstract expressionism, 90s grunge, feminist political theory, and watching tiny cats on YouTube. If all goes according to plan, she’ll be shaking things up in the House of Commons someday.