Grow Your Writing Career Through Your Relationships
Whether you are a freelance writer, marketer, author, or other person who writes words for impact and income, you’ll need to properly leverage relationships if you want your business to grow. Relationships provide access to opportunities. But leveraging relationships isn’t just about asking your friend to put in a good word for you. In fact, there is a proper way to do it. Do it wrong, and you come off as an opportunistic user that nobody wants to help. Do it properly, and you tap into the influence, power, and opportunities contained right now in your relationships — and end up with people who are thrilled to help you.
If you want to grow your business, it’s not enough to work hard or even do a great job. You must know how to relate smart by identifying a need and connecting with someone who has that need.
Here is why that’s important:
How can relationships help me get a new client or contracting job? Many editors and business owners receive a lot more email than they can reasonably get to in a day. So messages from people they don’t know — including writers — get deleted. Your pitch may be great and your resume stellar, but if the email never gets opened, you’ll just be a best-kept secret. If you have a relationship with the editor or with someone who has a relationship with the editor, you can increase your chances of getting seen and getting the gig.
Does this mean what you know isn’t important? What you know is absolutely important. But the reality is that a lot of business happens because of the “who” before the “what.” Whom you know may get you that foot in the door — the interview or even the job. But what you know is what keeps you there. So you’ve got to be smart in both ways: You’ve got to know how to connect with people who can help you get that job or pitch to that potential client, and you’ve got to make sure you know your stuff and can do the job! This is the connect and conquer approach that I share in my soon-to-be-released book, Connect and Conquer: Grow Your Business, Organization, and Career Through Online and Offline Relationships.
How does all this work? How does one “connect and conquer?” Connecting is about reaching out to your contacts and developing a deeper level of engagement, a relationship. Conquering is about allowing those relationships to help you gain access to that which you seek. But this is not just about using a self-serving approach. It’s important to note that successful connecting so you can conquer is about serving others. It’s about seeing a need you can fill and letting someone know you can fill it. It is about helping others and allowing them to help you. It’s about mutual acknowledgment of need. If you forget that, you’ll never be able to leverage your relationships for your success or betterment. Nobody wants to feel used.
Does this approach work for freelancers, solopreneurs, and independent contractors? Absolutely! Anyone can use this approach. It’s not about what you, personally possess. It’s about what your relationships possess. Your relationships can provide everything you want. You might not know the content manager at that Fortune 500 company you’d love to write for, but your church member may. If you have a good relationship with the church member and you’ve done the work of showing that you know what you’re talking about, then she may be just the person to help you land that plum content writing gig.
I’m new to freelance writing and haven’t gotten into any inner circles or cliques. How can I benefit from relationships? Well, that is the beauty of the connect and conquer approach to growing your career. It levels the playing field and gives you the opportunity to gain access through relationships. There is a right way to do it, no doubt. You can’t simply run from person to person, demanding they give you a job or project. Nurture your relationships, even before expecting to get anything out of them. When you see an opportunity, study your relationships and see which of them can help you with the request or opportunity you seek. You must have a positive brand that supports your request. Reach out to the person, clearly articulate your request or reason for pursuing the opportunity, and ask for help. But asking for help isn’t just about saying, “Help me get this.” It’s about assuring the person you have the relationship with that you are a good fit, that you know your stuff, and above all, that you won’t make him look bad for helping!
In the online world, this can mean building a blog, mailing list, social network following, etc., where you provide good content for free, you answer questions from others, and you take the time to get to know those people in those places. You do this good work, even though you’re not asking them for anything. Over time, you build the relationship that will support your ask. So when you ask them to help you with a project, to buy from you, or to answer a question you have, then they are willing to help because you’ve put in the work. This is how a newbie with no contacts can grow into a known voice who has a broad audience or who can get things done through the power of relationships.
What are two things a freelance writer can do to build stronger relationships? I will give you one thing you can do overall and one thing you can do online, because online relationships are increasingly important today. The first thing you can do is to be authentic. That means allowing your words to match your actions. This doesn’t mean you have to be a perfect person, but it does mean you must be careful to be sure the person you present yourself to be is the person who actually shows up! This is important because it speaks to your brand. Your personal brand is simply how others know you. Do they know you to be smart, funny, principled, etc.?
Another thing you can do to build stronger relationships online, is to blog. Blogging sounds like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. This can help you position yourself for a new job, promotion, or new contract because it lets you speak with authority about a particular subject or area. Your blog can help you develop and nurture relationships with people in the area you want to work or land clients. You do this by sharing good content, posting regularly, etc. You can even interview people for your blog! That’s another way to reach out to people, help them, and develop relationships that can one day help you. Blogging is an online activity that helps you build your brand and relationships over time. Even if you are not looking for a job or new client today, blogging about the area you work in or would like to work in one day, can help set you apart.
I share practical tools, tips, and strategies you can use to leverage relationships into real opportunities in my forthcoming book, Connect and Conquer: Grow Your Business, Organization, and Career Through Online and Offline Relationships. Learn how to tap into your relationships to create the impact and opportunities you want.
Your post is spot on! I cannot express enough how HUGE relationship-building is in a writer's career, but it works in ANY career. My approach to my clients is "How can I help?" and because of that, I've gone from being "the freelance copywriter" to the consultant who works on communications plans, marketing strategy, and PR. Your concept of needing to be genuine about it is also very true - opportunistic freelancers are like ambulance chasers. Building a relationship, on the other hand shows you're in it for the long haul and that you're as serious about your clients' success as they are - that you're not just after a retainer. Thanks - great to have affirmation like this. I'll spread the word!
So great to hear from you, Cole! Seeing your business interactions as more than financial transactions takes a bit of effort. That is because it's easier to think only of what is going on in terms of the dollar value. We can let that determine how much effort we will use. But when we think of what we are doing in terms of relationship value, then it shows that our effort goes beyond the dollar. This can open us up to new opportunities, just as you've found. Going from simply being a copywriter to being a consultant who works on communication plans, marketing, and PR shows your awareness of all this. And I'm sure you've realized an increase in your fee, as well as in the depth of relationship you have with clients as they are more likely to see you as part of the team because of your effort to develop the relationship.
The one thing I can appreciate about having worked in corporate vs. going freelance is that in corporate, you build the relationships because you want the cash. People really need to step outside of that to find the true value in the relationship. The most rewarding part is when I get random calls/emails from people saying, "I need you to write something for me; your client gave me your contact details." THAT is relationship. Have a great weekend, Monica xx