5 Networking Tips for Writers

1. Don’t go to Networking Events. Any time I attended a networking event – you know, pay $15 and get one crappy drink – I never made a useful connection. And that’s probably because these events were open to anyone. The lack of focus meant I probably wasn’t going to meet anyone who needed my services – and I didn’t. At a recent writers conference, I spoke on a Networking. The panelists – myself, a literary journal editor, and a writer – all had the same success stories: attending cocktail parties and literary events (like readings) worked for us. So that’s where I tend to hang out and meet writers. GIVEAWAY: Mare is excited to give away a free copy of her Kindle e-book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: rachel613 won.)
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I run two businesses – one a public speaker, and the other as the Executive Director of the Chicago Writers Conference. This doesn't leave me a lot of time to write all the business collateral I need – web copy, press releases, programs, etc. I’m in a position to hire writers, and I see many of them screw it up occasionally. Here are five tips to help you make stronger connections when seeking work.

1. Don’t go to Networking Events. Any time I attended a networking event – you know, pay $15 and get one crappy drink – I never made a useful connection. And that’s probably because these events were open to anyone. The lack of focus meant I probably wasn’t going to meet anyone who needed my services – and I didn’t. At a recent writers conference, I spoke on a Networking Panel. The panelists – myself, a literary journal editor, and a writer – all had the same success stories: attending cocktail parties and literary events (like readings) worked for us. So that’s where I tend to hang out and meet writers.

GIVEAWAY: Mare is excited to give away a free copy of her Kindle e-book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: rachel613 won.)

marespeaking

Column by Mare Swallow, public speaking coach and the Executive
Director of the Chicago Writers Conference. Her book of public speaking
tips, 21 WAYS TO ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE, is available for the Kindle. 

I hired my first program assistant at a cocktail party. He has since gone on to work for The Onion, and has a short story being published in an anthology next year. I’ve found speakers for CWC at parties and readings. The point here is that you never know when you’re going to stumble upon someone who might need your services (more on that later) – so be open to connecting anywhere – parties, workshops, classes – you name it. Just avoid “networking events.”

2. Go to Networking Events.

Let me clarify: I have also had success at (usually free) networking events hosted by writers groups – and I’ve met editors I wanted to hire, writers who attended my workshops, and authors who later spoke at my conference. These events were focused on the literary world in Chicago, so, yes, I had more hits.

If the focus is on the writing/publishing world, that will probably serve you well.

(Which writers' conference is the BEST to attend?)

3. Always carry business cards.

Even if you’re not self-employed, have a card with your contact information, and links to your website or portfolio. You never know who you might meet.

Once, in a blogging workshop, I met two freelance writers who wrote web copy. What luck! Right then I needed fresh copy for both my websites. I approached each and said, “I need your services. Do you have a card?”

“No,” said each writer.

What???!!! How can you freelance and not have a business card? Neither one offered to contact me. Which was unfortunate – the freelancer I hired made $400.

The business card is a physical reminder of who you are, and a reminder to follow-up. If you text me your phone number, I will never look at it. And avoid the free business cards with ads on the back. As soon as I see that – I toss it. A free business card tells me you are not serious enough (and too cheap) to invest $25 in yourself.

4. Be Vague.

Now, I may be an outlier here, but when I’m approached by a job seeker, I am more open to working with that person when they say, “Do you need help?” versus, “Are you hiring [speakers /editors/etc.]?” An offer of help (and only offer if you are sincere) immediately sets my brain thinking of everything we do need help with: press releases, blogging, editing, contacting media, etc. But when you ask to do only one thing for me, that tells me you aren’t really willing to help – you just want to do something that benefits you. When you approach a potential client or employer, you need to show what you can do for them.

My first program assistant – the guy in #1 – met me at a cocktail party and said, “Do you need any help?”

5. Be specific.

Yes, I’m contradicting myself again. But here’s another annoyance when writers are seeking a job or connections – they really don’t know what they want as a result of working together.

This is what it looks like:

Me: “Why do you want to work for Chicago Writers Conference?”

(When building your writer platform and online media, how much growth is enough?)

Writer: “I don’t know, it sounded cool.”

But if you tell me, “I’m exploring other avenues while I work on my novel, and I love to blog,” that helps me focus on how I can help you – and where we might work best together.

One job applicant said, “I have no idea what your organization does. Can you tell me?” Clearly, she wasn’t serious about working for us.

If you can’t articulate what you want, then I can’t help you, nor can I hire you -- or point you to someone else who can.

GIVEAWAY: Mare is excited to give away a free copy of her Kindle e-book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: rachel613 won.)

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