How Not to Network — A Guide for the Pushy and Clueless

Carol Tice | 69 Comments

Pushy Clueless Networking Businessman Ned Growing your network can be a great way to find more and better clients as a freelance writer.

But it’s come to my attention recently that not everybody understands how to do that.

There is some basic etiquette to know when it comes to connecting with brand-new people and getting them interested in helping you.

If you don’t do it right, you’re just annoying people.

For instance, I recently received this email (parens are my explanation):

Subject line:

“Introducing myself”

My name is _____, and I’d like to introduce myself.

I’m currently contributing to ___ and ___ (two mediocre websites), but am trying to branch out in order to meet new people, build relationships. My goal is to build a name for myself as an industry expert while giving back positively to the community with my expertise; I don’t need any payment or anything.

I primarily write about technology – either in education, mobile technology, or in the health community. My professional background is almost exclusively at startups, so my experience lends itself well to those topics.

I really respect your writing, so I thought I would contact you. Would you mind introducing me to whomever might be able to help me get started writing for (big national magazine you write for)?

Here are some samples of my writing:
(clips attached here)

Cheers,

– Anna

Follow me on Twitter @(her Twitter handle)

So.

Big thing to know about networking. Everybody engrave this on your forehead:

Strangers do not hand you gigs

Anytime your first interaction with a stranger is to ask them to help you get a gig, it is not going to work.

Not on social media. Not in person, at live networking events. Not on email.

Writers do refer gigs to other writers — but usually, to writers whose work and personality they know well.

Most referrals actually happen when a writer is offered a gig they don’t want to do or don’t have time for — then, we think about who we know who might be able to do the job.

They don’t happen because you ask some other writer out of the blue, “Hey, could you line me up some gigs?”

So step one in networking is getting to know other people. Not asking for work.

Where else did this email go wrong? Besides asking me to hand her a plum job on a plate without so much as taking five minutes to get acquainted, let me count the other ways:

  • Sloppy writing. When you want a writing gig, it’d be good if sentence two of your pitch wasn’t an ungrammatical run-on sentence.
  • B.S.-ing me. If this writer really wanted to branch out and meet new people and build relationships, then this email would be asking for a chance to meet me, maybe on a quick Skype call. But the rest of the email makes clear this writer has no real interest in meeting new people — just in harvesting their contacts so she can get gigs. Talk about a turnoff.
  • Ignorance of how it works. When you tell me you don’t want to get paid to write, I wonder why you’re writing to me. If you’re offering free writing, there is no shortage of places willing to hire you! If you want paid work, my introduction will be less important than your ability to come up with fresh story ideas. If you’ve got those, you can read the magazine masthead, find an editor, and send a query — you don’t need an introduction.
  • Exaggeration/lying. When you tell me you’re an expert in something, I expect you to tell me what qualifies you as an expert. “I’ve worked at startups” doesn’t really get that done. A little online research indicated this writer is a recent college grad and not an expert in much of anything.
  • No research. This writer pitches her expertise as being in technology for education, mobile and healthcare, but none of those are the main topics covered in the business magazine where she’d like an intro. She doesn’t seem to have studied the publication at all. They also aren’t the topics in her clips, so there’s no proof she even knows those topics. She also doesn’t seem to have a story idea in mind for this publication, and seems to think if I introduce her to the right editor, she’ll be all set and assignments will fall out of the sky on her. See above under “ignorance of how it works.”
  • Unqualified. Looking at her two clips, I found they were barely above content-mill quality — simple lists of how-to stuff we’ve all seen many places before. No interviews. A few quick research links thrown in. This writer doesn’t seem to have any journalism training, but would like entree into a top national magazine. She possibly seems to be angling for the sort of expert columns business magazines get written by Richard Branson or Guy Kawasaki, without understanding that she’s about a million miles out of their league. When you’re asking other writers to refer you, it should be for assignments you could execute. Otherwise, that referring writer is going to be mighty pissed.
  • No pro marketing tools. In following her links to her published articles, I find her tagline has no writer website and not even a LinkedIn profile. It’s just “follow me on Twitter” and her email address. On one of the sites, she hasn’t even bothered to fill out her author profile. That doesn’t communicate this this writer takes her career seriously, and doesn’t make me interested in getting to know her, much less recommend her.

What networking is all about

This email made me feel sad that so many writers have adopted this sort of pushy, ineffective  marketing approach. They seem to want to skip over the essential first step in networking — meet and get to know more people.

Why do people want to avoid it?

Connecting with other people is one of the most rewarding activities in human experience. Having business friends to bounce questions and ideas off and to share your freelance journey with is also fun! I hope this writer tries it.

Then she’ll branch out and meet new people, and build real new relationships…and maybe even get some work referrals. For sure, she’d have more friends and a chance to enjoy this freelance journey more.

Seen any bad networking lately? Leave a comment and tell us what marketers are doing that annoys you.

 

 

69 comments on “How Not to Network — A Guide for the Pushy and Clueless

  1. Patrick Icasas on

    I had a similar experience in one of my part-time jobs. I had been training a bunch of replacements during my last week on the job, and on the last day one of the trainees (a woman I had very little interaction with) sidles up to my desk and tries to chat me up for a couple of minutes. I was thrown off because she was talking like we were close friends (which we were clearly not).

    And then she drops the bomb of “Hey, if you know of any good jobs where you’re going could you let me know?” and then hands me a scrap of paper with her number written on it.

    I didn’t bother mentioning that I was going back to my freelance business and not likely to hire anyone (much less her) as staff!

  2. Sarah Russell on

    Haha – there’s something about this that actually makes me smile. Yes, it’s obviously the wrong way of going about building a writing career and yes, Carol, you’re absolutely right to call her out on all the specific issues found in her message.

    But does anybody else remember how awesome that kind of right-out-of-college, ready-to-take-on-the-world optimism felt? The kind of, “I’ve worked with a few startups, so I’m clearly ready to write about it in a national publication,” thing? After having worked as a writer for six years, I often find myself worrying about how much I don’t know yet or how many connections I have yet to make – it’d be nice to have a little bit of that “take no prisoners attitude” every now and again 🙂

  3. Kathryn Leigh on

    I recently had a similar encounter with a potential critique partner who left me feeling used and a little befuddled. My new partner spent less than two hours critiquing the first chapter of my manuscript, then sent me three chapters and query letter to critique. Her critique of my work was two paragraphs long, one of which she’d copied and pasted from WRITER’S DIGEST. I felt obligated to provide her with quality feedback and spent a week composing detailed explanations of my criticisms, as well as ideas for improvement and rewriting. Needless to say, I refused to work with her beyond that initial exchange, but it left me wondering what’s happened to our sense of humanity. It seems as if this misunderstanding of networking and professional relationships stems from a neglect or inability to care about others rather than trying to use them.

    • Carol Tice on

      Why did you feel obligated to spend so much time on her after that review?

      In the Den, we have a different rule when we review writer websites — if it looks like you slapped it up in 5 minutes, we spend 5 minutes reviewing it. If you’ve clearly taken the time to listen to our trainings and worked hard on it, we work hard on your review, too. I think that’s fair.

  4. Terr on

    Actually, this post fits in with a thought I had today: We are now living in a world of relationships based upon 140 characters.

    Which is to say, the younger generation don’t know how to create relationships with others. I really believe that this person believes that there is nothing wrong with her approach.

    Now, while I agree with what you had to say about the “pitch”, I might have explained to her gently why her approach isn’t going to get her very far. What I’m saying is, this seems to be a generational thing. The younger adults have habits and ways that can be somewhat offensive to someone in my generation (Gen Xer), and I can’t even imagine how young adults come across to Boomers and beyond.

    Fortunately, there are blogs and programs like The Den to help point those who are serious about writing in the right direction. Like any other industry, there are “rules”, both spoken and unspoken.

    • Carol Tice on

      I gently explained that I’m not in the habit of introducing strangers to my editors — and that hopefully she could understand why that is. If she can’t, after seeing it put that way, there’s nothing I can do to help.

  5. Jesse Lanclos on

    Great insight into the “real world” of professional writing here, Carol. Every gig I ever got in 5+ years was as a result of creating relationships with people. If you don’t genuinely care about the people you interact with, you’ll get nowhere fast.

    Get your eyes off the person in the mirror, and determine how you can create value for people. With your story ideas. Within the community of writers. Everywhere.

    How can I be valuable to you? Figure that out, and you won’t have to ask a stranger for connections. Become someone people want to connect with, set your focus on being valuable to others, and watch what happens to your business.

  6. Dianna O'Brien on

    Thanks, Carol, for saying it exactly the way it is. I know a writer who won’t join our free writers’ group or spend $25 on the Den, but wants to meet with me for brainstorming — even though she doesn’t listen to me when I talk, gives me inappropriate advice and then wants advice about contracts from me. This from a writer who is making $1 a word and complaining that she really wants a full-time job. I have no idea why I have met with her twice, since we are clearly on different paths. I guess I need to rethink my willingness to network with someone who doesn’t really meet my networking needs.
    Thanks for your forth-right approach.

    • Carol Tice on

      Thanks for sharing this perspective — it’s true, we all need to think about who we’re networking WITH, and whether it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

      My husband’s joke was that this woman did want to meet people and build relationships — just not with me! Only with my contacts. Not usually going to work that we.

  7. Sarah Li Cain on

    Super true! Sometimes people want something for nothing, and I’m not sure where this mentality comes from. There are loads of places that ask for guest posts if someone wants some clips under their belt. I actually write a guest post for Write Your Revolution and got in the door that way. I think there are lots of other ways to connect with people without being too pushy, like answering lots of questions in forums or comment on blogs to start. At least that’s what I learned as a beginner so far.

  8. LindaH on

    I’m in two live networking groups. I’ve been a writer for a long while. I often get similar e-mails from people wanting to connect, asking for recommendations on Linked In when I don’t even know who the people are or asking for work. In the live networking groups I’ve had people I just meet push their business card into my handle and immediately start asking for referrals, telling me to introduce them to a store owner I know where I frequent, or telling me how they can help my business grow. I’ve know the person 30 seconds and already they want it all from me. Doesn’t matter whether it’s live networking or online.

    Carol’s response to the young writer’s email was really — well — spot on. I read the email and thought she needed a big lesson in learning how to prospect email (see Ed Gandia for that one) and approach a writer (see Linda F., Chris Marlow and Carol Tice at Make a living writing). Her attempts at being clever and cute didn’t work. In fact, if an editor saw her email they probably would have pitched it while shaking their head in dismay. And, how many blogs have I read from journalists now talking about new rules of writing with blog posts, use of grammar, typos, etc.
    Again, Carol was spot on with her comments.

    The importance of this blog isn’t to pick it apart with what’s wrong with Carol’s writing, its importance is for any writer, newbie or seasoned, to remember that approaching someone requires relationship. If you want to create a relationship, build it first before asking for work.

    I just got a call today from a former client. We’re in a networking group. He was just asked to write industry-related articles for an trade pub. He doesn’t write. He called me. I said Yes, I’ll be your ghostwriter. It’s a long-term thing. So, because we knew each other when he got the call I popped into mind and now I will be working with him writing articles for a trade pub. He’ll pay me, I’ll learn about his industry opening greater opportunity for me, and getting experience meeting deadlines, writing articles and being a ghostwriter. So networking pays off… but it requires getting to know, like and trust someone.

    Great post Carol. Love your candidness. I see blog posts and support for the kind of writing this person sent your way all the time. It’s sad. People don’t get it. Carol’s high caliber writing is is published in Fortune 500 magazines online. I think that says far more than the negative comments made above (I’m not gonna mention names cuz I don’t want her getting more free web time) so take Carol’s advice in stride and learn. We can all learn more to keep moving forward.

  9. Pinar Tarhan on

    Hi Carol,

    It really sounds like she looked at the headlines on your blog, or parts of them, and decided to “remember” them through a very selective memory. She has missed the point on how and when to use a letter of introduction, where to get started on social media and well, a million other things.

    I am not saying I haven’t made mistakes, but I’m happy that none of them included not paying attention to guidelines, or how things work in general.

    Thanks for sharing it. Sometimes best “how to” tips come from “how not to” pieces.

  10. Jake on

    Labeling a writer as clueless and pushy because they are socially awkward reminds me of saying programmers (like me) are clueless and pushy because our social skills are often um, well, to put it generously, less than expert.

    Of course we programmers tend to be socially awkward, we are programmers, our talents lie in the neat and tidy land of abstract logic, not in the messy arena of human emotion.

    This is why sensible people usually don’t hire programmers for their sales team, we tend to suck at it.

    Although writers are perhaps not as nerdy and ornery as programmers, writers also often aren’t “people persons”, but rather thoughtful observers, working their abstract magic from the safe distance of the written word.

    Are the poor networking writer wannabes clueless? Maybe.

    The problem might also be one of trying to jam square pegs in to round holes, ie. trying to turn writers in to something they usually are not, salesmen.

    • Carol Tice on

      You bring up a good point, Jake — marketing definitely does not come naturally for many writers.

      But it’s not hard to learn how to market your business. I’m one of those writers who had never sold anything to anyone, before 2005. I had to learn this from scratch. There is a type of marketing that will work for every writer, I believe.

      Be yourself. Be helpful to people. Don’t lie. Don’t ask strangers to do things for you.

      I think all writers can master these basics. Then, you can apply them to whatever kind of marketing you choose to do.

  11. Mir on

    Hi Carol,

    I really appreciated this piece. However, I still find myself grasping at a very basic question, even after reading your whole blog: How am I supposed to start a freelance writing career with nothing but a bit of content-mill articles under my belt? If the bold approach is too bold for a newbie, what *is* a place to start?

    This was a great analysis of what not to do, but I’d love some suggestions of what a newbie *could* do to land a client.

    Much thanks!

    • Carol Tice on

      This wasn’t a bold approach, Mir — it was an ignorant approach.

      A bold approach might be going to in-person networking events and telling people, “I’m a professional writer” when you only have mill clips. Then, seeing what you can do to help those new friends and keep you in their minds as a writer.

      It might be doing a pro bono project or two (see Lorrie’s question above) to get the more pro-looking clips and referrals you need to get better clients. Or sending query letters or letters of introduction — I know writers who’ve gotten magazine assignments without any clips at all, off the strength of a well-written query.

      Maybe build a writer website so prospects can find you. In Freelance Writers Den I have a 4-hour bootcamp, The Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success, that goes into how to start from zero in huge detail, and go from there to charging professional rates.

      There are plenty of bold steps to take to put yourself out there. Asking strangers for gigs isn’t an effective way to get any work.

  12. Lorrie B on

    Love the drama. Do TV writers troll comments for ideas? They would never get bored. I’m pretty sure Charlynn knows Anna, or has done something similar and is feeling secretly shamed. What else would explain the over-reaction?

    Carole, I would love for you to address a similar topic, as I think you have established yourself as a credible leader in freelance topics. What about the writer who takes on “free” writing assignments but feels completely unappreciated? I think we need to share these experiences too.

    For example, I offered to cover an event for a local organization’s newsletter – I attended the event, got quotes from the panelists, then wrote and submitted my article. The editor called once to complain that it was too long. It was published with my byline but there was very little else in the way of feedback. I am not interested in helping them again. It felt too much like “You got what you wanted, we got a free article, cheers and goodbye.”

    I did the same for another newsletter, and my efforts have been so appreciated that I have taken on more volunteer work with them, and now feel as if I’m part of the team. I bring my enthusiasm as well as my writing skills to each new request, and they are now bending over backwards to thank and maintain my help. Wow! What a difference. I have made very valuable new friends from this experience, and when I publish my next book, I know these people will support me in return.

    Any thoughts on this?

    • Carol Tice on

      Sounds to me like you answered your own question. Some organizations are too dysfunctional to appreciate the free help. Others will treasure you.

      You know which one you should spend more time helping. Smart organizations love their volunteers because they know it’s saving them money to keep them working versus hiring staff.

      But even there, remember to move on to use those pro bono clips to find paying clients! You may want to cut them off at some point and offer to work for pay if they’d like.Remember, pro bono work IS a marketing/networking activity with an end goal. Sounds like you’ll get a great referral here — so use it to your advantage.

      And don’t worry, you know you’re covered under my universal blog comment typo forgiveness policy. Because I’m NOT about grammar pickiness. SO not.

  13. Marsha Stopa on

    Ha. Unfortunately, becoming more uncommon.

    The beauty of the internet and our networked world is the ability to research so much so fast and so easily.

    The flip side is the ability to embarrass yourself in a big way so easily by not doing that research.

    Thanks for the reality check.

  14. Dara on

    Carol,

    Love this short but important piece. I grinned as I read, “Connecting with other people is one of the most rewarding activities in human experience. Having business friends to bounce questions and ideas off and to share your freelance journey with is also fun! I hope this writer tries it.”

    Then she’ll branch out and meet new people, and build real new relationships…and maybe even get some work referrals. For sure, she’d have more friends and a chance to enjoy this freelance journey more.”

    Amen to all the above! Building those real relationships IS fun, as well as productive — from both a personal and professional standpoint.

  15. Lois Mazza on

    This was an excellent informative post is the case with all posts I read on How to Make a Living Writing. I felt a little sorry for the person who reached out to you. I am wondering if that was an actual letter or a composite as no doubt many do reach out hoping for something to come their way. I appreciated all the mistakes you pointed out but in her defense, at least she is trying to make her way in the world. Hopefully, she will read and learn. There is no fast track to excellence.

    I am still telling myself I want to do more freelancing and then going on with my usual routine doing nothing to get the ball rolling. I have all the usual reasons why I don’t do what I tell myself I want to do.

    Thanks for all your wonderful advice and for an excellent site for writers who are trying to Make a Living Writing.

    • Carol Tice on

      I think it’s a real person — she has profiles built on most of her clips she sent and a LinkedIn bio. But I know what you’re saying — it almost feels like a robot ask.

  16. Kevin Carlton on

    Carol

    The moment I’d have opened that email and seen all the “I”, “I”, “me”, “me”, “my” and “I” it would’ve gone straight in the trash folder.

    I’m not interested in them; I’m only interested in what they can do for me.

  17. Robert Jennings on

    Poor girl. Networking’s tough, especially for the socially awkward. There are some of us who just don’t know how to do it properly — myself included. I’d be willing to bet she read a blog from a shady writer who advised her to try the “bold approach.” There’s a lot of bad advice out there that newbies don’t know to ignore, and not enough blogs like this one to help set them straight.

  18. Charlynn Throckmorton on

    Stephen King, in his book On Writing, makes a case for readers not wasting time with bad writing because there’s so much good writing out there. So I have adopted the practice of putting down, throwing away, deleting out anything that I find poorly written. I stopped reading this about midway through. The following are a few reasons why.

    “B.S.-ing” Aside from looking horrible, it seems Ms. Tice could have found a classier way to say that she didn’t appreciate a more direct approach. We all know she was really saying, “bullshit” which doesn’t belong in any kind of instructive piece.

    Ms. Tice claims that the writer of the letter pitched “her expertise as being in technology for education, mobile and healthcare.” Actually, the writer said that she wrote about technology in three areas; education, mobile, and health. When Ms. Tice said “mobile and healthcare,” she should have put a comma after “mobile” to indicate it was a separate area.

    In the same paragraph, Ms. Tice commits what I consider one of the biggest sins against the English language perpetrated in today’s writing: She used the object of the preposition “those” as the subject of the sentence and chose a plural, rather than singular, verb. The subject of that sentence is “none” which is a pronoun meaning “not one.” The word “one” is singular and requires a singular verb. The sentence should have read, ” . . . but none of those is the main topic . . .”

    Three em dashes in one piece of this length is three too many.

    It would be a good idea if the piece did not contain two sentence fragments.

    Along the same line as “B.S.-ing”: Surely there is a better way of saying one was annoyed rather than using the word “pissed.”

    The entire tone of this piece, to me, was one of judgment and egocentric superiority. If you, Ms. Tice, are attempting to give something to writers and hence to the world, would it be possible to find a more positive and supportive, less condescending way to present your ideas?

    Personally, I am turned off by this blog, and I hope I can find a way to unsubscribe.

    • Lois M on

      Carol is an accomplished and highly successful freelance writer. She has many other projects going on at the same time as blog. I don’t thing she aims for perfection when she writes since it is an information providing blog as opposed to an assignment for an English composition class.

      Certainly you are entitled to your opinions as I am entitled to mine. Unsubscribing should be no problem as blogs of this type usually have such a link at the bottom of each email that is sent with their current posts. Doesn’t everybody who gets such types of emails know that? I just found it to be a strange remark. Again, I am entitled to my opinion and after reading your rant decided to express it here.

      Personally, I have found a huge amount of advice in this blog for people who are interested in increasing their income from writing. If you are not interested in that topic, I agree, don’t waste your time reading any more of this blog.

      Have nice day!

      • Carol Tice on

        You’re so right, Lois — as it happens I had to proof my 175-page print book manuscript and send it off to the editor in the same few days that I wrote that post.

        There are a lot of balls in the air here, and I think of my blog as the place where I can stretch out and play with language a bit. Glad most of you seem to enjoy both the style and the content.

    • Crystalee Beck ( on

      Charlynn, apparently you’re not turned off by this blog, since you took the time to write the most lengthy comment of all!

      For the hundreds (and thousands!) of fans of Carol Tice, I say to you: Get off your high horse, lady.

      • Carol Tice on

        Thanks for the support Crystalee! But folks, let’s allow the troll to head back to her den now. Enough already.

        I’m a bad writer. Going to get a t-shirt with that on it to make sure everybody knows.

        We all have our flaws…mine is I don’t give a rip about grammar conventions when I write my blog. We can move on now.

    • Carol Tice on

      We hope you can, too, Charlynn. Lois has helpfully provided a how-to on how to never get my emails again.

      I’m sure there must be blogs out there for people who live to pick at other writers’ grammar, rather than getting useful help from the content and end up earning more money as a writer. Enjoy them.

      My greatest wish is that the grammar crimes I’ve committed in this blog post be the worst crimes I am called to account for at the end of my life.

      Too many em-dashes! Somebody get out here and give me 50 lashes. I’m surprised an alarm didn’t go off when I typed that third one. Someone should invent an app for that.

      And as for sentence fragments… I. Do. It. On. Purpose.

      My bad writing has been good enough for the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and many more, so I’m feeling OK with it. I can only imagine how much you must be earning with your perfect grammar! No doubt you’re leaving all of us in the dust.

      Like the other occasional grammar trolls we’ve had on here before, you may not be aware that blog posts aren’t magazine articles. They’re more like copywriting. Copywriting bends grammar rules and uses sentence fragments.

      I tell it like it is on this blog, and sometime use language not everybody likes. I’m not trying to win a popularity contest — just trying to get everything I know about how to earn more as a freelancer out where people can use it.

      No B.S.

      • Sophie Lizard on

        OMG ROFLMAO! Yep, one of the pleasures of your own blog is being able to write how we choose, even in lolz and txtspeak. Readers can read what they choose. Nice how that works.

        “No B.S.” – Carol, you slay me!

      • Rebecca on

        I read on Twitter last week that the Finnish word for for a grammar fascist is “pilkunnussija.”It means “comma f*cker.” Ha!

        Personally, I think it’s a dangerous position to take, since you’re always at risk of making a mistake yourself.

          • Myrrhcy on

            And definitely true in this case Rebecca!

            Carol, you actually used 6 em dashes, NOT 3 as your dear critic was so quick to point out. (Yes, I know, ending a sentence with a preposition is a no-no.) Really now, Carol, you should know better.

            BTW, Charlynn, will you please point out the em dash rule for me in whichever handbook you’re using. I must have missed it in English class….

      • Willi Morris on

        Wait a second – a lowly guest blogger who doesn’t understand or use grammar at ALL *and* who writes about imaginary computer characters doesn’t get a single troll and yet the owner of the site gets one? That doesn’t seem fair at all.

        You handled that well, Carol. 🙂

        Go. Girl. (See what I did there?)

  19. Marissa on

    Oh Carol, I love how you never hesitate to tell it like it is. I haven’t experienced much in the way of bad networking online, but I see it all the time at in-person networking events. My biggest pet peeves? When people work the room saying, “Have I given you my business card yet?” Then, they shove a card in my hand and move on to the next breathing target. No, you didn’t give me your card, and by the way, my name’s Marissa and I live in an apartment, so I have no use for your extermination services.

    The other no-no is being blatantly obvious in an attempt to generate business, much like the email you received above. Look, we’re all trying to make money, but no one likes being blatantly prospected or tossed aside when you assume I can’t bring you immediate business. Seriously, I can’t believe some of the people who are trusted to go out and represent a company at these events.

    • Carol Tice on

      I hear these stories from in-person events all the time, though have to say I haven’t experienced it.

      Lots of people don’t seem to get how networking works, whether it’s done in person or online.

      But you bring forward a truth — nobody likes to be hard sold anything.

      Which is why I tell writers to contact past editors and say, “I’d appreciate it if you’d refer me if you hear of anyone looking for a writer.” Instead of “Do you have any writing work for me?”

      That editor might well HAVE work for you, but now you haven’t directly asked for it…and it feels better all around.

  20. Crystalee Beck ( on

    Carol, excellent post. I had a little bit of the opposite happen to me this week, and would love your feedback. I politely reached out to a writer a admire. I gave him genuine, specific compliments on his article I read and bookmarked. Then I asked if I could have the honor of featuring him on “delighted to write.” Granted, I didn’t know him personally. Perhaps that threw him off…

    He emailed me back within eight hours, and the first thing he wrote? “It doesn’t look like you have many readers, but since I’m usually ranked #2 on the Amazon (insert industry here) list, I would be a good for your audience.”

    Really? I got that yesterday and haven’t responded, not wanting to stroke his ego. Granted, he’s much more established (try 20 years) than I, and yes, I would love to have more readers. Did he have to be so callous? Am I overreacting? And would it be wrong for me to change me mind and NOT feature him? His email killed any interest I had in learning from him.

    And Carol, thanks again for letting me learn from you and share your Q & A! You’re fabulous and the more I learn about you, the more I’m impressed.

    • Carol Tice on

      Sigh. Big egos do abound in the writing world.

      Lots of writers you ask will look up your rankings to see if it’s worth their time. We get a lot of asks, even incredibly minor writers like me, so often you can’t say yes to everyone.

      If you think it would help you build your audience, I’d swallow your pride and do it. If you’ve lost interest, don’t respond. I’m sure your blowhard will move on. 😉

  21. Heidi Thorne on

    Strangers definitely do NOT hand you writing gigs… or business of any sort. Like Angie noted in comments, she had gained a new client through a friend on Twitter. I’ve had the same type of experience both online and offline. As sales pro Jeffrey Gitomer says: “People do business with friends.” As well, if you are actively working toward being in people’s “top of mind” position for what you do, business comes to you.

    • Carol Tice on

      Right on, Heidi!

      If writers who are out saying “Got any writing work for me?” to other writers would take that time and spend it on SEO for their writer website and LinkedIn profile, they’d probably get a stream of inbound leads. Or if they went to one in-person networking event and made a few actual friends. It’s just a very poor use of your time.

  22. Bree on

    I just want to comment on the “no experience, fresh out of college” line in this post.

    Having recently graduated from college myself and still having college friends because of living in a college town, I’m aware of how difficult it is for people our age to find wellpaying jobs, much less ones within our fields of study.

    I was lucky to find a job as an English teacher for a few years before my position was “eliminated,” but it is truly hard for college students to get any sort of decent experience nowadays. And the fact that modern education doesn’t realistically, practically prepare students for the real-life world doesn’t help, either.

    So I don’t really blame this girl for trying to leverage anything she’s got as past experience. Sure, she maybe should have tried to get an internship or two during college, and she definitely needs to learn how to PROPERLY leverage her experience to avoid exaggeration. But this is where a good mentor or guide for her is needed, I think – maybe she literally has no idea where to start (I know I didn’t at first).

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Bree —

      What’s wrong with saying, “I’m a new college graduate with a background in business?”

      There’s advantage to being whoever you are. New writers are more affordable, for instance.

      And no one has NO experience — we all have things we know about from being alive. She just wasn’t a business expert.

      Lying about who you are is not going to get you anywhere.

  23. Willi Morris on

    Definitely the markings of a beginner. That bums me out she is so desperate, but the job market isn’t where it needs to be yet. I’m a beginner in this area, but it sounds like she hasn’t done enough research in how to approach major writers yet. Too bad. :-/ I hope you managed to show patience with her, LOL

    My current networking pet peeve is Facebook parties. I will gain a ton of likes, but most are from businesses I don’t want to “like” back. I feel horrible, and I’m almost positive I eventually get “unliked” by those folks who don’t immediate get follows back. I’m that way with Twitter as well. I get a slew of likes and an equally bigger wave of unfollows simply because I didn’t follow them back.

    • Carol Tice on

      Remember not to blame the job market, Willi. There’s plenty of freelance work out there for writers willing to go out and find it, and more all the time. I find the #1 problem most freelance writers face is between their ears, not out in the marketplace.

      I don’t participate in any of those social-media like or follow exchanges…seem like a waste of time. I follow people I need to learn from, and everyone else should do the same. When I see someone who has 21,000 followers and is following 20,999 people, I think of them as having one follower.

      And as far as what I said…I explained that I hoped she could understand that I don’t introduce strangers to my editor. That she could hopefully see why that doesn’t make any sense.

  24. Lori Ferguson on

    As I read this, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Seems like there’s a lot of ‘What can you do for ME?!’ out there these days. Fortunately, however, it’s been my experience there are still a lot of generous, and genuine, people who really *are* interested and want to ‘do it the right way.’ (Many of them are frequenting the Writer’s Den. 🙂 )

    One of my pet peeves is the generic LinkedIn invitation ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network’ from people I’ve never met. My radar immediately goes off.

    • Carol Tice on

      Yeah, I never accept any of those generic LI invites from strangers, either. Come on! If you don’t have the energy to write me a personal message, I don’t know why we should connect.

  25. Angie on

    Oh, wow. My jaw dropped by the time I got to “Would you mind introducing me to…”

    Good grief.

    I’m living proof that making *real* connections works. I got my biggest current client through a friend I met on Twitter. I never asked her for a referral; we just chatted a lot via tweet, and she knew I was a freelance writer from my profile. So when this client got to be too much for her with her other workload, she referred me.

    Same deal with the web design firm I just met with. A friend of my family referred me after my mom showed her my business card (not to solicit work – she showed her because I have a cool caricature on my cards. 😉 ).

    I know it can get desperate when you’re stuck in content mill hell, but there are definitely better ways to talk to people. Great post, Carol!

    • Carol Tice on

      Exactly. Friends refer friends. That’s how it works.

      Become friends with more people. And really, stop asking strangers to get you gigs.

      I’ve talked about it before, but after getting this one it seemed like this needed to be discussed again. This week I also got yet another one of these “Give me your extra freelance work” reach-outs from a stranger on Facebook, too.

      Social media and email has enabled us to be in touch with strangers in ways we never could have a couple decades ago. That doesn’t mean we should say anything to them we wouldn’t say in person.

  26. Uzma on

    I’m a beginner in the freelancing world so I don’t have anyone annoying me for gigs, however, I would like to tell this writer to read editorial guidelines. If she’s really looking for some real work and establish a name as a published writer that’s what she needs to do.

    I landed in popular publications (of my country) by contacting our local newspaper’s editor and pitching him my idea. The newspaper didn’t have a sustainability/greenliving column back then. He asked for samples, and after a week I was writing for them. I am now following international magazines that I’d like to write for. I want to understand their tone and style before I can pitch them. For now, I’ve read their editorial guidelines, downloaded editorial calendar and made a file on my computer; organizing all the requirements and details at one place.

    Really in the freelancing world it’s about courage and taking the initiative *however* you do not lose your etiquette. I’m seeing a growing trend of taking freelance writing as some become-rich-quick opportunity.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Uzma!

      Great recommendations. I lot of writers seem to think they need these introductions or “connections” to get a gig, but in fact it’s following those guidelines, studying the publication, and creating a strong query letter with a story idea that’s the perfect fit for that publication.

      And good for you getting started with a publication in your own non-US country. I often recommend that to writers around the world who’re dreaming of breaking into English language/US pubs. Everyone seems to think there are no businesses or magazines where they live! But I think getting those clips, even in a different language, and being able to say you’ve been published SOMEWHERE really gives you more credibility when you go to pitch US pubs.

      I agree with you — I’m getting increasing notes and emails from people along the lines of “How can I quickly replace my six-figure corporate job with freelance writing?” And I have to explain it takes time to build a business. Despite what you might read on some websites, this is not a get-rich-quick opportunity.

  27. Efoghor Joseph Ezie on

    You have said it all. Networking is turning into a tool for taking undue advantage of vulnerable people. Some of the people approaching you for help are either unprofessional, or they are just looking for a way to get from you without giving anything tangible in return. Most of them is ‘all about me’ stuff.
    Building relationship is a gradual process and takes a lot of patience to accomplish. If you take the step and the person you approach sees you as one who is interested in yourself alone, he would withdraw immediately from you.

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