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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?

9 comments:

  1. Kelly:

    Excellent post. You, Linda, Tim, Robert and more have always been there for me -- whether in print via books or in emails, or blogs like this one.

    I went full-time in Januray 2010, and many newbies as well have been "at my side" constantly to help me.

    That is oh-so important.

    Steve

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  2. My freelance writer friends are indispensable! If anything, I'd like to have more of them. It seems like a weird way to try to make friends though, since the natural relationships that might happen around the water cooler are harder to forge when you live far apart or have weird schedules. Kelly, do you have any suggestions about how to make more freelancer pals if you're all spread out? How did your friendships with fellow freelancers develop over time? I'd be especially interested to hear how you did it in the pre-social web days, given that I tend to hate social media :)

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

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  3. I love your advice here, especially in building relationships that matter. Many freelancers are not really into getting 'social' with other freelancers - whether they're too busy to do that or they don't like working with future competition ( or, they're just introverts ). I think that in this social media age, freelancers should take advantage the free tools around so they can keep connected and update each other on industry trends ( and nightmare clients as well ). Thanks for the tips! - Issa@Ajeva

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  4. Thanks, Steve, for your comment, and Brittany, for yours!

    Brittany, what helped me early on was attending conferences (e.g., Magazine Editor & Writers/One on One in 1997 made a huge difference in my career--it's on hiatus right now) and participating on online writers groups like mag-write, now defunct. I've also met many friends at ASJA, the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Now with social media, you can "meet" someone online but I think the real relationship is solidified when you connect in person, or vice-versa; at least that's been my experience. :) Sites like www.freelancesuccess.com are another great place to network and connect, but meeting up in person really makes it easier to make real friends, IMO. :)

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  5. Thanks, Kelly, for these tips. I would love a writing buddy. But I have been unable to find anyone in my local area. I've made a few contacts online but wonder if I'm bothering people when I ask them questions. However, just Monday, I read this post on WM Freelance Writers Connection: http://wmfreelancewritersconnection.com/2011/06/why-every-freelance-writer-needs-a-writing-buddy/
    They offer a match-up service. What do you think? I'm a little hesitant to just be paired up as though it's a dating service or something.

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  6. Your post really hit home. If not for my freelance writing friend I wouldn't have ever gone forward with my writing. Watching her succeed and talking about her projects and her lifestyle, especially while our kids were really young and I was leaving the house to work while she had the flexibility of creating her own hours, was very motivating. It took many years, but I finally quit my job and I've been home just over a year. We cheer each other on and the positive feedback is a necessary part of my day. I've just started to venture out and join writer forums. Conferences are next. So glad to have joined the writing community.

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  7. Thanks for your comments, Ajeva, Carol, and Lori. Carol, I think it's worth a shot--why not give it a try? You might make a good connection online. I'd just be clear upfront what you're looking for (someone to critique or someone to set goals with or someone to share info with, or what) before you get "matched." Good luck with it! :)

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  8. So true, Kelly! In fact, I'm lending your book on Six-Figure Freelancing to a friend of mine who's about to make the leap into full-time freelancing. I found it helpful, so I figured she could use some of the tips as well. I also intro'ed her to a couple fo recruiters who've contacted me about copywriting projects that aren't quite right for me.

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  9. Thanks for lending Six-Figure, Susan! :) And that's a great idea about the intro to recruiters. I think giving new freelancers some advice and pointing them in the right direction is the best approach. Then it's up to them to "sink or swim," although you're still there for questions, etc. :)

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