Last week, I tweeted about finishing my last freelance copywriting job. It felt like a big moment. Eight years as a freelance copywriter coming to an end.
Now I’m ready for a change. Up for following the signs that it’s time for a new direction. But not ready to stop being part of the copywriting community. That network of people that I’ve built up over the past decade is indispensable.
Over the course of my career as a freelance copywriter, that network has been a source of:
- companionship (sometimes friendship)
- moral support
- news and information
- professional guidance.
And, like most communities, it works through give and take. So I try to pass on those things to other people, when I can.
How do you build a network as a freelancer?
This week, a new freelance copywriter asked if I could share any suggestions on how to join the copywriting community I’ve talked about. It was a tricky question to answer, because the ‘copywriting community’ is an amorphous thing, and there’s no official joining process.
But there’s definitely a network of copywriters, probably more like multiple networks, overlapping, talking to each other on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and other social media sites.
So how do you find them and join in?
Here are my suggestions for finding and joining a network as a freelancer. I’ll use freelance copywriting as an example, because that’s my experience, but these tips could work for lots of other creative freelance professions.
Join a professional organisation
If you’re a freelance copywriter, that would be ProCopywriters — the alliance of professional writers. You can follow them on Twitter @procopywriters.
For a monthly membership fee, you can be listed in the UK Copywriters directory, and benefit from a package of useful resources. I’ve found it an invaluable source of professional support.
For just about any creative profession, there will be a professional organisation you can join. I highly recommend finding it and making use of it.
Publishing regular blog posts is a reliable way to connect with other people in your profession, and to start conversations.
Read other copywriters’ blog posts to get an idea of the topics people are interested in, what’s popular, and where the gaps are. Then create and share interesting posts about your work and your profession.
This is especially useful as a copywriter, because you can showcase your writing skills. But you don’t have to be a professional writer to create a good blog post. You might curate interesting content in your professional area, around your interests and experience.
Share and comment
While you’re creating and sharing your own content, remember to seek out posts written by others in your profession. If you find them interesting, comment on them, and share them on social media. Be genuine. Keep your comments polite, friendly and professional. Try not to take yourself too seriously. Ask questions to open up conversations.
Find the hashtags that people in your profession are using online, and use them when they’re relevant. Copywriters on Twitter use #copywritersunite and #copywriting, and there are bound to be others. I’ve noticed people doing their own creative writing use #amwriting. I’ve noticed editors use #amediting.
Go to a conference
Professional conferences are a great, low-pressure way to connect with people in your industry. In the UK, ProCopywriters runs an annual Copywriting Conference and two well-respected copywriters run Copywriting Capital.
For the price of your ticket, you’ll get an insight into the current trends, thinking and direction of the profession, a chance to meet fellow pros, and an opportunity to ask questions and get tips.
Look out for online events
If travelling to a conference is difficult, there are plenty of opportunities to attend events online. For example, ProCopywriters has just started running webinars, and also organises a regular tweet chat on a different topic each time, with the hashtag #procopychat. Check Eventbrite for more inspiration.
Meet up in person
Here’s a challenge. Venture out of your comfort zone and meet up with some fellow freelancers in a social setting. Vikki Ross organises regular copywriters’ meetups around the UK with the Twitter hashtag #copywritersunite. Talk to fellow freelancers in your profession, and find out if there are any similar meetups near you.
Make the most of social media
For me, Twitter and LinkedIn have been great sources of professional support. Experiment with social media sites and find the ones that work for you. I’ve found Twitter to be brilliant for connecting with other copywriters, and it’s connected me with some new clients too. LinkedIn has been another good source of new business.
I make sure I keep my profile updated and share blog posts from time to time — either posts I’ve written, or posts that I rate. And every day, or every week, I ‘like’ and comment on other people’s posts.
Occasionally, I’ve had a particular business challenge that I’ve needed advice on, and I’ve contacted a fellow copywriter directly, either by email or direct message. Those interactions have been really helpful.
Where I’ve been given useful advice or support, I’ve tried to repay the favour in some way — with a retweet or even a work referral.
It’s easy to get excited and post something you haven’t thought through and later regret. We’ve all done it. Usually it’s no big deal.
But it’s worth making the effort to present ourselves as professionals, and to remember that what we post may be read by a potential client, or someone that could refer us to a potential client.
What impression do we want to make? We might prioritise being humorous, or genuine, or thoughtful, or clever. It’s worth being aware of what we’re presenting to the world. Not agonising over it, or trying too hard to manipulate it, but making conscious choices about what we post, and when, and how.
Let me know what I’ve missed
Fellow freelancers: what tips can you offer on building a freelance network?
What has worked well for you? Please help a fellow freelancer and share your experience.
You can find out more about my work at www.wisecopy.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @sophdea