For many a writer, the idea of “networking” causes cold sweats. Those who gravitate to the profession of the pen often lean towards the solitary, introverted end of the spectrum, more comfortable behind a computer screen than a podium. So approaching a stranger with the goal of “selling yourself” can feel about as natural as writing in a foreign tongue.
Networking doesn’t have to feel so forced. If it helps, choose a different term. Language can be a powerful motivator for writers, so ditch the word “networking” and call it something else. Try seeing it as “introducing myself to one new person” or “learning one new thing about someone else.” Being sincere and taking an interest in others eliminates the pressure to conduct an interaction that feels like a thinly veiled quest to get something you want professionally.
Networking can—but does not have to—mean putting on a suit and tie and attending a happy hour event among a crowd of strangers. Nor does it have to mean marching up to a stranger and sticking out your business card. In fact, it can be as non-threatening as joining a Facebook group, getting back in touch with an old friend, or saying hello to the person sitting next to you at a class or meeting.
As you pursue a career as a professional writer, there are many places you might look for new contacts. But before you do, consider the contacts you already have. Chances are, you had classmates, roommates, and other friends in college that would be beneficial to network with. You likely had a bunch of different professors there, too. What about the people from your bowling league, volunteer gig, language lessons, office, church, or knitting circle? What about your Facebook friends, Instagram or Tumblr followers, and LinkedIn contacts? The best contacts are often those who already know and like you (or your work). You can “network” with them simply by getting in touch and letting them know you are pursuing a career as a writer.
When you’re ready to branch out to new people (and perhaps it’s friendlier to think of them as “people I haven’t met yet” rather than “strangers”), start first with friends of friends. Thanks to social media outlets like LinkedIn, these extended networks are readily searchable, and you can easily view your friends’ connections and ask for an introduction.
When you do resort to the cold call, try to find something in common with your prospective contact, such as a shared interest, background, alma mater, or hometown. If you are asking for a favor—Would you mind passing my resume along to your boss?—be prepared to offer one in return. Always follow up with a thank you, especially if your new contact leads to a job or assignment.
Here are some of the best places, both online and off, to network as a professional writer:
- Writing groups, classes, and workshops
- Facebook groups for writers in your industry
- Author readings
- Writing-focused conferences
- Trade shows in your industry
- Book fairs
- Co-working spaces
- Shadowing opportunities or informational interviews in your industry
- Alumni networks
- Professional organizations
- Lectures and events
- Meetup groups
- Bookstores and libraries
- Volunteer projects in your area of interest