• Community, Advice

How LinkedIn revolutionized this rural freelancer's ability to network

I grew up in Newark, OH. Population 46,050.

I went to college in Pittsburgh, PA. Population 325,932.

After transferring to Ohio State, I finished my degree surrounded by tens of thousands of other students in Columbus, OH. Population 741,171.

From there I moved to Portsmouth, VA, a town bursting at the seams with Navy personnel, where I got my teaching degree. Population 95,684.

My first teaching job was in Salmon, Idaho. Population 3,153.

I now live in Northfield, WI. Population 645.

To say that I never foresaw ending up in a tiny Wisconsin town is an understatement. I was a city girl. One with country tendencies, granted. But a city girl nonetheless.

Growing up, I was surrounded by buildings and people and cars and lights and sirens. Now, I’m surrounded by grass and trees and stars. When a siren blares by my window, I call my husband and in-laws to make sure they’re OK or wait to hear who it was that needed help. A thing I never even considered when I heard sirens in Columbus.

It is a beautiful, quiet life in a place where things move a little more slowly.

But, I also live a sheltered existence. As a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, the circle of people that I interact with on a daily basis — even before the coronavirus pandemic, which has shrunk everyone's social circle — is mostly limited to other stay-at-home moms, my husband, my kids, and my mother-in-law (whom I'm blessed to call a friend).

That teeny tiny circle of people means that my in-person sphere of influence is nearly nonexistent. And very few of them need someone to do their content writing — though my daughter does ask me to write her name over and over again. If I charged per time, I could make a killing!

So that brought me to ask: How in the heck do I create connections and meet people when the nearest Chipotle is 30 miles away?

To me, Facebook is overcrowded and noisy.

Twitter gives me Twitter Vertigo (like Cosmic Vertigo, but for Twitter).

I mostly use Instagram for entertainment, but I’m working on shifting that mindset.

And then I found LinkedIn.

I realize that “found” implies that I hadn’t heard of it. I had. But I didn’t get it. I’d get an invitation from a colleague every now and then that I would ignore, scoffing, “who even uses LinkedIn?”

Everyone, Steph. Everyone uses LinkedIn.

Once I realized this, an entire world opened up.

LinkedIn has business advice, people in my industry (content writing), news and current events. Who knew???

Again, everyone.

So, here I am. A little late to the party, sure, but finally taking advantage of all the platform has to offer. There’s an entire world of business that I’ve steered clear of in favor of a safe teaching job and my little home on my acre of land.

But since opening up to LinkedIn, I’ve connected with some wonderful people who share amazing content and are willing to give feedback and advice. I’ve read articles with relish. I’ve researched potential clients and reached out to people who I’d love to work with.

While I love my little insulated, rural life, I’m also realizing that I need to take full advantage of the tools available to me in order to build and sustain a successful freelance writing business.

LinkedIn is quickly becoming my new best friend.

Stephanie Mickelson Stephanie Mickelson is a building materials and design freelance writer. She loves lattes and burritos and dreams of the day she'll have a home office with two monitors.