Writer Code: The Do’s And Don’ts of Networking

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By De Elizabeth

As a freelance writer, I understand the importance of networking. I can’t tell you the amount of conversations I’ve had where I’ve been asked, “How did you get your current gigs?” And I can’t tell you the amount of surprised reactions when I shrug and say, “Twitter.” 

It’s true – all of my paid writing positions happened because of social media. But when I tell people that, I worry that they get the wrong idea. I didn’t just send a random DM to a random editor in hopes that it would result in a job. The people who have given me writing jobs are people with whom I’ve worked in some capacity in the past or there’s some sort of mutual connection. There’s been a level of trust in me, as a writer. I wasn’t a stranger.

To be clear, by no means have I “made it” as a writer, in my personal opinion. Yes, I have bylines in several reputable publications, yes I’ve interviewed celebrities, yes I’ve been working my ass off for several years to get where I am right now. And yes, I’m proud of all those things. But I think we all have different definitions of “making it” and I haven’t hit mine yet.

That said, as I’ve grown as a writer and a person, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of inquiries from people who want to write. And I relate. I was there too, trying to figure out how to turn my frequent unpaid contributions into actual paid work, and trying to figure out how to build my “brand.” At the same time, I’ve seen a lot of mistakes from the people who have reached out to me. I’ve gotten several emails and DM’s that have, quite frankly, made me cringe.

With that, here’s what I’ve experienced as some really good practices for trying to network, build your brand, and make it happen.

Do: compliment your favorite writers & editors on social media.

Got a favorite writer? Find their Twitter handle. Follow them. Tweet at them and tell them how much you loved their most recent article. Say WHY you loved it.

Don’t: Expect anything from your compliment.

If they respond, great! If they follow you back, even better. But leave it at the compliment – this is your first exchange with him or her. Don’t expect a job, don’t immediately send this person your writing, don’t get ahead of yourself. This is how the beginning of online friendships are born, and you don’t want to blow it with the first 140 characters.

Do: Write everywhere you can. even if it’s for free.

I’m conflicted in giving this piece of advice because I think it sucks for writers to write for free. It really, really sucks. Artists in general get the absolute short end of the stick when it comes to paid work – no other profession has to deal with this. Can you imagine a doctor being told, “We can’t pay you right now but it’ll be great for your resume!” Like, no. However, it is the nature of the beast right now. There’s no way around the fact that you need a portfolio in order to even be considered for a paid writing job. And if you don’t write it, someone else will.

Don’t: Write for free forever.

If you’re regularly contributing for a website that is not paying you and you know that they pay other writers, reach out to your editor to inquire about a freelance contract. Explain that you can commit to a quota per week or per month. Be an advocate for yourself!

Do: Befriend other writers.

When I was starting out and contributing to websites like Elite Daily, I literally typed “Elite Daily contributor” into Twitter’s search bar. I found other writers who also wrote for the same websites, and I followed them. 90% of the time, they followed me back, and I have some awesome Internet friends from that one Twitter search. It’s helpful to see what other writers are doing, and it’s important to have friends who are in the same field.

Don’t: Ask other writers for their editor’s contact information.

This one is tricky. There are some editors who may not mind random writers reaching out to them, but if you ask a fellow writer for his or her editor’s email address, you’re putting them in an awkward position. Personally speaking, I’ve received this inquiry a bunch of times, from close friends and from almost-strangers. It’s uncomfortable each time, especially when I know that a particular editor does not want his or her email address being given out.

Do: Reach out to people in your field for advice – but understand there’s no clear-cut path.

This is similar to the first point – it’s always a good idea to reach out to other people in your field to tell them you like their work or that you admire them. It’s fine to ask the question, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?” but understand that the answer is most likely going to be, “Just keep writing.” It’s annoying to hear it, but when I’m asked the question, that’s what I find myself saying…because it’s the truth. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write (right?)

Don’t: give up hope.

Like anything else, your writing will get better with practice. You will get better with practice. It can be frustrating and dejecting to be told “No,” or to have an email go unanswered, but the more emails you send, and the more things you write, the higher your success rate will be. As mentioned before, “If you don’t, someone else will.” So hustle as hard as you can and keep your head up. It will get better. Take it from someone who had zero bylines just three years ago: it will happen if you make it happen.


{featured image via pexels}

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