You all know I like time-travel, right? Well, for this month’s Word Carnival, I’m traveling back in time to give myself some writing business advice. I’m not going too far, just to around mid-2005 when I first decided to go freelance. The reason? To stop my future self from making a mistake.
Getting Started: What Went Right
Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t all bad. In fact, there’s a lot I got right like:
- setting up a website – check!
- upgrading my web writing skills – check!
- making sure I collected some clips – check!
- using social media for marketing (just kidding; back in 2005 Facebook was a fledgling network that only college students were using so all you had was Friendster and MySpace – nuff said!).
Everybody Needs Somebody
But there’s one thing I did that I didn’t get totally right and that’s what I’d change (yo, past self, I’m talking to you!). All of those promotion tips were useful, but the one thing I’d do differently is that I would spend more time hanging out where my potential clients were.
Like a lot of freelancers, I bonded with other writers – and it was great. We shared opportunities, made some referrals, helped each other out with applications, bids and resumes and lent a listening ear whenever it was needed. We all need that sometimes and I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything. But – and it’s a big but – in most cases other writers aren’t the ones who hire you (with the obvious exception of those running writing teams or outsourcing). If you want to build up a writing business you need to be where the people who will hire you are. So my No. 1 message to past-Sharon is hang out/write for/socialize/build relationships with your target clients.
Where the Writing Clients Are
I spent a lot of time in the early days trying out new websites and web tools (you already know I have a huge geeky side), but one place I didn’t check out is LinkedIn, which had already been around for a couple of years when I started freelancing. Think about it: if I’d signed up back then I could have made more of an impact because there was a smaller user base. But, since we can’t live in the past, I’m taking that lesson and applying it to my social media usage now.
That’s why I am actively extending relationships with past clients and building relationships with potential clients via LinkedIn and other social media sites. That means:
- participating in groups for small business owners
- sharing items of interest either in groups or in messages (which are more personal)
- creating circles, lists or groups (depending on the site) so I can keep up with what clients are doing and respond when something interests me.
Note that I’m talking about relationships. I don’t write and run, nor do I stalk people on social media and try to sell them my writing services. I want them to hire me, but building a relationship gives me the chance to create something long term with clients which will make them remember and recommend me. I know it works: in the last week alone I’ve had two referrals via someone I last worked with in 2010.
But just imagine if I’d been putting this into practice when I started my writing business. So, if you’re listening, past self, way back in 2005, when you’re setting up your site and networking with writers, sign up for LinkedIn and network with potential clients too – you won’t regret it!
This post is part of the monthly Word Carnival series of posts. This month, our carnies are exploring the theme of Time Travel, specifically: from where you are now, what one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself on your first day in business? Check out more of the Word Carnival series at WordCarnivals.com.
Image: Rooners Toy Photography