Prachi is a freelance marketer and copywriter. She is actively involved in market research to help entrepreneurs with brand-building.
Networking—as you probably know—means using your existing network of friends, relatives and business associates as a means of generating work. While 'The Old School Tie Network' is no longer as pervasive as it once was, there is no doubt that even today personal contacts and recommendations can play an important role.
Even at the start of your freelance career, therefore, it is well worth trying to use networking to your advantage. You could begin by making a list of everyone you know who might need your services or might know someone who would. The possibilities include:
- friends and relatives (maybe they work in offices where the services of a freelance copywriter could be required?)
- former employers (as long as you parted on reasonably good terms!)
- charities, clubs, and associations you are involved with (many have budgets for producing brochures, reports, newsletters, and so on)
- past and present clients (as mentioned earlier, if you've worked for one particular client in a large company, it's always worth asking if he has any colleagues who might need your services as well)
- businesses you work with, including printers, designers, typesetters, and so on.
- Any other organizations you may have dealings with, including banks, garages, builders, schools, medical practitioners, churches, and so on.
Make a point of mentioning to all these people that you are working as a freelance copywriter and are available for commissions (having business cards to hand out can come in useful here). There is no need to feel awkward about this. Most people are delighted to find out about enterprising men and women in their area, and you may be surprised by the extent to which some will put themselves out to try to help you.
The longer you have been in business, the bigger your network will grow, and the more important it is likely to become to you. Many established freelances hardly need to advertise at all, as they get all the work they can handle via recommendations.
Of course, networking is most effective when it works both ways; you should also refer potential clients to other people in your network if, for one reason or another, you can't take on the work yourself. If you know another freelance copywriter, for example, you could arrange to pass inquiries on to them if you are fully booked, and they (hopefully) will do the same for you at their busy times.
Nowadays, of course, a growing amount of networking is done online. The Internet makes it easy to keep in touch with friends and colleagues, even when they are many miles away, perhaps even in another country.
Online networking also makes it easy to expand your network and connect with unlimited numbers of potential clients, publishers and editors, designers, PR, and advertising agencies, photographers, other copywriters, and so on. This can obviously help you to find work, but it can be beneficial in other ways as well. For example, it will connect you to other professionals who may be willing to answer your queries on specialized subjects, help with your research, suggest contacts for you, and share information with you about useful resources.
Yet another advantage of online networking is that it can boost the readership and search engine ranking of your business website and/or blog. This can be done by adding links to your profile on each social networking site you belong to. If you have a blog, you can publicize individual posts by this means as well.
In this section, we will look at three very popular social networking services, and also examine another type of site (forums) which can also be useful for networking purposes.
Originally Facebook was used by a few college students in the USA to make friends and post embarrassing pictures of one another. It swiftly grew, however, until it became (at the time of writing) the world's most popular social networking site. Facebook nowadays has millions of members of all ages, all over the world.
Facebook personal pages can be viewed only by people in your existing network, and they are not visible to search engines. This means they are great for staying in touch with friends and colleagues, but not so good for expanding your network. Facebook has a solution for this, however, in the form of Facebook Pages.
Facebook Pages are designed for businesses (including solo freelances) and brands to promote themselves. It is free to set up a Facebook Page, and anyone on the Internet will then be able to view it. Unlike personal pages, Facebook Pages are visible to the search engines, so they will help raise your profile online.
Anyone on Facebook can sign up as a 'fan' of a Facebook Page, and will then receive any updates to that Page on their own personal page. Fans can also post their own messages on a Facebook Page, comment on other fans' messages, and so on.
If you are going to use Facebook as part of your social networking strategy, we recommend setting up a Facebook Page (in addition to your own personal page) and using this to promote yourself and your copywriting services. You can set up your Page so that posts from your blog (or extracts from them) are automatically posted there as well.
Finally, Facebook also offers a service called Facebook Groups. These are the online equivalent of clubs or societies. Again, they are free to set up and can provide a good method for a meeting - and networking with - like-minded individuals. You can join an existing Facebook Group, or set up one of your own. There is nothing to stop you running a personal page, a Facebook Page and a Facebook Group if you choose.
LinkedIn is a networking site specifically designed for business networking among professionals.
As a LinkedIn member, you create a public profile, which can be viewed by anyone online. Anyone wanting your full details, including your email address, has to become one of your 'connections'. You can invite anyone to become a connection on LinkedIn, although you will need to state how you know them, e.g. via a mutual friend.
Your list of connections can be used in various ways. In particular, you will build up a network on LinkedIn consisting of your direct connections, the connections of each of their connections (termed second-degree connections) and also the connections of second-degree connections (termed third-degree connections). This network - which can become very large indeed - can then be used to gain an introduction to someone you wish to know through a mutual, trusted contact.
LinkedIn can be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities. And again, as your public profile page is visible to the search engines, it can help raise your online profile, boost the search engine ranking of your blog/website, and expand your network of useful contacts.
Twitter can also be a powerful tool for copywriters to use for their own purposes besides running a company's account.
To remind you, Twitter allows users to send short updates or 'tweets' of up to 140 characters. These are displayed on your Twitter homepage and instantly delivered to any other Twitter users who have signed up to receive them (your 'followers'). Here are some ways Twitter can be useful to copywriters:
1. Connect with Clients and Editors
On Twitter, you can sign up to follow people in your local area and/or specialist niches. You can find such individuals in Twitter directories such as Wefollow (www.wefollow.com). Not only will you hear if they have any jobs or opportunities going, but you will also learn more about current issues and areas of interest. Don't forget to list yourself on Wefollow and similar directories as well.
2. Promote your Blog or Website
If you have a blog or website, Twitter offers a good way of driving traffic to it. Send a Twitter message every time you update your site or add another post to your blog. And remember, it's not only your followers who will see such updates. There's a good chance that some will 'retweet' your message to their followers, potentially bringing your post to the attention of hundreds or even thousands of people.
3. Search for Writing Jobs
You can search on Twitter in various ways. Twitter's own search engine is at http://search.twitter.com or you can try independent search services such as www.totaljobs.com or www.indeed.com. You can search using 'copywriter' and even indicate if you wish to restrict your search to a specific geographical location.
4. Answer Quick Questions
Twitter is great for getting quick answers to questions. Not sure if it's 'out the window' or 'out of the window'? Can't decide between two possible headlines or captions? Searching for a word that's on 'the tip of your tongue'? Post a query on Twitter and your followers will (hopefully) come up with an answer for you.
5. Keep Up With Breaking News
All writers need to be plugged into what's going on in the outside world. With Twitter it's easy. Just sign up to follow news services such as CNN Breaking News (http://twitter.com/cnnbrk) or BBC Breaking News (http://twitter.com/bbcbreaking).
6. Network with Other Writers
Twitter is a great networking medium because it keeps you in touch with colleagues and their doings - but because messages are so short, it's not too time-consuming. Of course, to get the most from it, you will want to build up a decent-sized network of followers. To achieve this, it's important that your updates provide interest and value to others. As well as using Twitter to promote yourself, you should, therefore, aim to post links to other useful websites and resources, retweet interesting updates from others, share tips and insights, and so forth. You should also interact with your followers, asking and answering questions, commenting on their updates, and so on.
To get the most from Twitter, we recommend using a dedicated Twitter client. You can just operate via your Twitter homepage, but then the only time you'll see incoming messages is when you visit that page. There are lots of free programs available that can help integrate Twitter into your working routine. One example is Twitterfox (http://twitterfox.net), an add-on for the Firefox web browser, which sits at the foot of the screen when you're online and flashes up any incoming messages as they arrive. Twitterfox lets you view all your recent messages at any time, and provides a variety of other features, e.g. the facility to add the URL of any page you are viewing to update, so you can share it with your followers. You can also get stand-alone Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com).
These offer a huge range of features, though if you're just an occasional user you may find them a little too distracting.
Forums - also known as message boards - offer a different approach to networking from the sites discussed above. On forums, people who share a particular hobby or interest can post messages, ask questions, share tips and information, and so on.
Forums should not be confused with chat rooms, which operate in 'real time'. On forums, members will typically read and reply to messages hours or even days after they are posted. Forum messages usually remain online indefinitely, whereas in chat rooms they vanish almost at once. The quality of interactions in forums is generally higher than in chat rooms, although obviously, this is not always the case.
There are a few forums dedicated specifically to copywriting, although they tend to be US-based and have a strong focus on writing for the Internet. One busy, well established copywriting forum can be found at http://www.warriorforum.com/ copywriting.
There are many more forums devoted to writing in general, and their members certainly include copywriters. One popular UK-based forum with a good reputation for welcoming newcomers is My Writers Circle at www.mywriterscircle.com.
Forums are online communities, and it is considered bad form to use them to market yourself too overtly. Most will, however, allow you to include a link to your blog or website in your profile, and perhaps a line promoting your services in your signature text, which appears at the foot of every message you post on the forum.
Through forums, you can get to meet other copywriters, as well as editors, publishers, agents, and so on. Forums can also be good places to ask (and answer) questions, discover market information, and perhaps get advice and feedback on your writing.
In addition to writers' forums, you might want to consider joining forums dedicated to your special interests. If you specialize in copywriting about the entertainment business, for example, you might want to join one of the many forums devoted to this field as a method of networking with people in the industry.
Online networking can be an effective way of building your business network and raising your profile on the net. It can consume large amounts of time if you let it, however. We, therefore, recommend monitoring carefully the amount of time you devote to online networking and ensuring that this is not at the expense of paid work. You might want to limit your networking to short periods at certain times of the day, perhaps those times when you know your writing abilities are not at their peak.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.