4 Random Ways One Freelance Writer Networked and Found New Clients

By Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

If you’re a writer for whom the word “network” has only one meaning — and that’s when your connection to the server goes down — you’re missing out on some great opportunities to find clients.

Networking, or meeting live people face to face, can boost your business and lead to more clients just as effectively as email marketing or enhancing your writer website. In some cases, it works even better.

Networking events often have a registration fee, and I don’t discourage you from paying those fees for the right events. But I also encourage you to consider these other productive, free ways to branch out and find new clients and connections.  The key to interacting with real people: be open to seemingly random conversations.

1. Attend random free events – Read flyers in your coffee shop, skim your community newsmagazine, or join a local networking group on LinkedIn (I am a member of Local Pittsburgh Connect) to find out what free events are happening near you. For instance, I attended a local Chamber of Commerce business fair, where it was completely free for me to wander around and chat with the table vendors (who had to pay).

I didn’t get any clients, but I talked about my writing with a photographer, real estate agents, a local technical school, and an accounting firm. That’s how I found my accountant — and got invited to another free event.

The same Chamber was introducing their Women in Business University. At the kick-off, I made my way around the room and met a woman who wanted to know how an HVAC company could benefit from a blog. I listed three broad topics that I thought customers would be interested in reading about, and told her “businesses that blog get 55% more business than those that don’t.” She was impressed, took my card, and said she’d be calling me.

The next week, I attended an open house hosted by a local university that was promoting their Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship. At this free event, I connected with a lawyer I had called once, connected with another business blogger, and met some great local runners with amazing stories to tell (which is perfect since one of newest clients is the company that runs the Pittsburgh Marathon.) AND some of the people I met at this open house were also at the Chamber event, so when I arrived I felt very connected.

2. Talk to random people –  At my son’s gymnastics class, I had a casual chat with a fellow parent. One day, I brought an article with me to edit during the class, and the parent asked about my work. He turned out to be the art director for Carnegie Museum magazine. We’ve been friendly for a few weeks now, and he was happy to pass my info on to the editor.

3. Shop random local events – During the holidays, I took time out of my day to attend a local craft show. I shopped and talked to some of the crafters about their projects and businesses. I was looking for something with great products that got me excited. I expressed interest in their work and let them know I was a writer who worked with local businesses. Most were very small scale, so I wasn’t seeing a lot of opportunity for work, but I did find two lovely gifts for friends.

As I left, I checked in with the woman who organized the craft show, who knew my business. Her first words were, “I’m so glad to see you, can we talk about working together?” She told me she was organizing her annual conference and her main marketer and writer had left the team. A week later, we spoke on the phone and agreed on a scope of work and a fee.

4.  Lunch Carefully – Long lunches can be a time-suck, so this one isn’t so random. You do have to plan carefully. I agreed to lunch with a local successful businesswoman who wanted to learn how to use Twitter. We both committed to a 1 hr time limit.

I provided some social media advice and in exchange she mentored me on pricing, negotiations and helped me lay out a timeline for a book promotion project. I also agreed to lunch with a local graphic designer. We commiserated over business challenges and shared a few laughs.

About a month later, I received an email from the foundation of a major hospital, asking for samples of my work. My graphic designer friend, they said, had suggested they contact me for great writing.

There is a sense of randomness, of unpredictability, in live networking. I didn’t go to writer’s events and I didn’t know who I was going to meet. But I knew what kind of business I hoped to get and I knew how to talk about my business. I always had business cards handy, and I always tweak my website so I know when people check out my work they will see the best I have to offer.

All of the opportunities came along when I was away from my computer, dressed professionally, making real face-to-face connections with real people in my community.

What has networking done for you? Leave a comment and share your story.

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, owner of Sweet Tooth Communications, is a freelance writer and social media consultant in Pittsburgh, PA. She writes on parenting, sports and healthcare issues. She blogs about her family’s mistakes and masterpieces at Try It & You May!

Photo: stock.xchng – Lotushead

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19 comments on “4 Random Ways One Freelance Writer Networked and Found New Clients
  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    I really like this article. The word “networking” to me is confusing, but really, as you point out in this post, the whole point is to meet people. As you meet more people and tell them about what you do, you never know what will result.

    Thanks for the great ideas about how to meet more people in order to market a business or service. 🙂

    Joseph

  2. rachelle says:

    Those random ways are good.Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  3. Really good post, Elizabeth! Venturing away from the desk can be rewarding, especially when we do it with intention by attending events where our target clients will be. But it can even be good when we engage in our real-world activities like visiting our kids’ schools, the local market, or place of worship. When we choose to interact, conversation often invariably turns to, “So, what do you do?” Thanks for the reminder!
    Monica Carter Tagore recently posted…Why Everyone Is Not Your Ideal ClientMy Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      Monica – exactly! Sometimes you make the best connections when you are relaxed, happy, and chatting. You are more “yourself” rather than stiff and formal and interviewing. Some people are nervous about self-promoting, but if you can’t self-promote, you’re in the wrong field. Be proud of your work! Don’t be shy to tell others – and return the favor by listening with interest to them!
      Elizabeth recently posted…Creative combinations offer great benefits for business!My Profile

  4. Leah says:

    Great post! I can’t say enough about how important it is to network randomly, even if you think there may not be a point to it. I have found clients through those exact means. Thanks for the great tips!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Leah, do you think there’s a certain kind of client that you find most via face to face networking? I tend to find longer term projects that way rather than shorter, 1 off assignments.
      Elizabeth recently posted…Creative combinations offer great benefits for business!My Profile

      • Leah says:

        I do think you find long-term clients that way. Just today I met a prospect that I would never have met otherwise and I think we really clicked because of our face-to-face interaction. I was able to be more personal and we had a dialogue based on the conversation, something I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And I see long-term relationship potential with this person.

  5. Ali says:

    Even if you don’t land gigs by attending random events or talking to random people, you may still learn something new, something useful…
    Ali recently posted…How Safe Is Your Website From Google’s Over-Optimization Penalty?My Profile

  6. I’m wrtier, and my Cats write their own blog. 😀

    We are a part of a growing Critter Blogging Community, but because we have few readers, and even fewer “connections”, and deal with the general impression that “Cats online” only means funny photos, and videos, my efforts at networking, and spreading the word, doesn’ result in much.

    Passing out cards to the curious on the street, who see my shirt promoting the blog, or see me with one of the cats in their stroller, rarely brings traffic.

    Same with passing out cards at pet expos, adoption events, or to store employees.

    You would think rescues, and shelters would want to connect, especially if you list them in your blog sidebar, but note. 😀

    I’ve had more success being approached by people, and businesses, looking to have me promote a product, or site, review a book, or attend, and cover, an event (See current post on cat blog – This may lead to something in its aftermath, we shall see)

    Never led to anything more afterward, or to a steady, or permanent, change in the amount of traffic, either.

    I’m learning new skills for my computing, and I’m part of Robert Lee Brewer’s Build a Platform Challenge, as well… http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com/2012/03/april-platform-challenge.html

    Where this new perspective will lead I do not know.

    I’ve also bookmarked this post so I can think more about your ideas.
    Kiril Kundurazieff recently posted…FNN SPECIAL REPURRT: The No Kill Animal Shelter Revolution 1My Profile

  7. Annette says:

    Great 4 random ways for a freelance writer in finding new clients! I like the number 1 most… Thank you for sharing these great ideas Elizabeth. This is very helpful indeed.

  8. It’s a great time to talk about writing and content in general Elizabeth.

    I find that even when the conversation about what I can do for them comes up, content, particularly writing comes into focus instantly.

    I do have an issue with the concept of “Random”, not on the points mentioned but on targeting an audience.

    If you’ve been doing it long enough you can pretty much write for anyone, though I feel that picking 2-3 industries/sectors, they don’t even have to overlap, but picking niches will focus your marketing efforts and increase your chances of landing good gigs.

    If these industries complement each other, even better!

    …and yes runaway if anyone ever asks you if they can pick your brain over lunch!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂
    claudio alegre recently posted…Your Social Media Efforts Should Begin And End With Design In MindMy Profile

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