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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 Good Reasons For Freelancing Friends

Forget the cliché of the writer toiling away in his or her garret. Writers need other writers. And if you freelance, writing buddies aren’t a bonus--they’re a necessity.

While I love my non-writer friends (they’re great for serving as sources as stories!), my freelancing friends offer me something special. And you when you connect with other freelancers, you receive more than friendship in return:

Business advice. If I’m struggling to decide whether to take my career in a new direction or take on a particular book project, for example, it helps to bounce it off another freelancer. Many of my freelance friends have been self-employed for as long as I have, or even longer--and they may provide insight that I don’t have—or help me see that while a particular gig may pay well, it’s not moving me toward my long-term goals.

A keen editorial eye. Most of the work I do is relatively easy to write, and I don’t have other writers read my stuff before I turn it in. When I write an essay, however, I welcome feedback from a friend like Sharon Cindrich, who is a talented essayist. She’ll give my piece a read-through and an honest critique--something I can’t always get from a non-writer friend. Her opinion improves my work.

New markets. When I was going through a work drought several years ago, my friend Sam Greengard gave me the name of an editor at msnbc.com. I dropped the editor a quick note introducing myself, and a month later, he called to assign me a 700-word piece. I wound up writing several dozen pieces for him. And when my friend Kris Rattini moved to Shanghai years ago, she quit working for her trade magazine clients. I asked if I could contact one of the publications and use her name, and snagged an assignment within a week.

Commiseration. As both a freelancer and a mom, it seems like I’m always juggling both roles. I’m fortunate to have not only fellow “mom friends” whose kids know mine, but fellow freelancing parents as well. No one understands the dual role I play--or the guilt I sometimes experience as a working mom--like another freelancer going through the same thing. My closest freelancing friends don’t live nearby, but we stay in touch through email and phone calls.

Connections. When my editor at Random House called to tell me about a new parenting book project she needed a writer for, I suggested two good friends of mine, Sharon and Kathy Sena. Both happened to be fantastic parenting writers, and out of all of the possible choices, they wound up as the finalists for the book. Neither had written a book before, but Sharon got the contract and has written three other books since then. Being able to help a friend—and my editor—is a wonderful high and helps good things go around.

Developing true friendships takes time and a true connection--it doesn't happen just by commenting on their Facebook status or following them on Twitter. But it's more than worth the time and emotional effort. My freelance friends have done more than introduce me to new markets and helped improve my writing--they’ve helped me celebrate the ups of my career and negotiate the valleys as well.

Bottom line? Don’t try to go it alone--make an effort to make connections that can turn into lifelong relationships. You--and your career--will benefit.

Readers, do you agree? Do you find freelancing friends critical to your success and happiness? And if so (and I bet the answer is yes!), how so?