Monday, January 10, 2011

How Networking Can Work for Writers

Most people, regardless of their business, feel more comfortable working with people they know. Whether it’s a home improvement project, a wedding or other big event, or finding a web designer, one little referral can go a long way.

The problem with referrals is that if people don’t know you, or what you do, they can’t push business your way. You could be the greatest, most reliable writer in the world, but if you haven’t gotten your name and face out there at least a little bit, people won’t know you exist.
I’ve worked for business organizations for most of my professional life, so this is one philosophy that’s been burned into my thinking. But if you think about it, it makes sense. If you’re looking for a contractor, you ask around and see who other people have used. Are they reliable? Do they stick to the quoted price? Are they upfront and honest? Most people ask this of anyone they want to do business with.

Same goes for writers. Once you get your name out in front of people, another freelancer may pass an article on to you that they’re not able to do, or share the name of a new market that may be of interest to you. I’m trying to get to as many networking functions as possible just to start getting the business name out there. In the very small area where I live, “who you know” is the key to just about everything. Here, people don’t just who you are and what you do. They want to know where you live, where you went to school, who you may be related to. It’s not just people being nosy, either—it really is part of our culture here. But I digress.

I attended my first writing-related networking “event” this past week. I say “event” because I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find my ideal atmosphere—small business owners sitting around a table and giving a brief summary of their business and services. No stuffy business wear, no huge gathering of people who break into their own groups and leave the “newbies” alone by the food table. Obviously I was a tiny bit nervous, but sitting around a table? Sure, I can do that. The whole purpose of this informal networking group is to provide leads to the other business owners. I was the new kid on the block and I left with 4—the most out of everyone! Best of all, I connected with a marketing consultant who is interested in meeting with us to discuss outsourcing some of her work and other projects (we're meeting this week). Considering the whole thing was free, I’d call that a highly successful evening. We’re planning to branch out and attend other events, both larger and more sophisticated and these smaller, intimate gatherings, but for my first venture out, I felt very comfortable and excited about the opportunities out there!

What about you? Do you attend networking events? Have you received any business leads from them?

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