#011: Smart Networking Strategies for Freelance Writers

Networking. The very thought of it makes many writers break into a cold sweat!

But who said networking events and opportunities have to be so nerve-racking?

In this episode I interview Ilise Benun, an author, consultant, national speaker and co-founder of Marketing Mentor.

Ilise shares how to choose the right event, and how to prepare to make the best of your time. Additionally, she tells us some smart things you can do to stand out, get noticed and increase your chances of starting some dialogue to continue after the event.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

About This Show

The High-Income Business Writing podcast is a production of B2B Biz Launcher. It’s designed for business writers and copywriters who want to propel their writing business to the six-figure level (or the part-time equivalent).

Deciding on the Types of Events to Attend

Strategic networking starts with deciding what kind of event you’re going to attend based on your goal and desired outcome.  There are networking events where you can find potential clients/prospects, which tend to be very different from those where you mainly network with peers.

There are also different types of events for connecting with new clients.

  • Big conference/trade show. These events typically go for a day or two, or even a long weekend. You are immersed and spend time with the same people during the event.
  • Breakfast or lunch meetings, cocktail hours, networking, business card exchanges, etc.

Either way, you typically want to go to an event where there is actually something to be learned, e.g. a speaker, or a panel. That’s because these types of events tend to draw others looking for vendors (i.e. buyers), as opposed to events that attract a lot of vendors (which you are), such as Chamber of Commerce events.

Other factors to consider:

  1. Are the right people going to be at the event? If you have established a  niche/area of expertise, look for events for people in that special interest group industry. Even if you haven’t, look for events that focus on an area in which you have some level of expertise.
  2. Find the marketing group events for companies or trade organizations, a SIG; special interest group, because the people who attend those events are the ones who need you. They are the ones buying your services.

To be able to find the right SIG, you also have to know which job titles typically hire someone like you.

Where do you find the right people you want to meet? Regardless of whether you have a specific company in mind, start by looking at:

  • Email newsletters: Is the event topic an area of your expertise?
  • Websites forums/blogs: Does it pique your interest/is it your area of expertise?
  • Call and ask about an event: Explain who you are and simply
    ask who will be attending an event.

Don’t worry about not being allowed to attend an event. These types of events are open to anyone. The organization hosting the event wants to fill all open spaces and wants you to attend.

How to Prepare to Make the Best of Your Time at an Event and the Role of Social Media in Preparing for the Event

Social media can be used in different ways to gain access to attendee lists.

Using Meetup to see who is attending an event is a great way to pre-connect with someone. You can then find them on Twitter/LinkedIn and send a tweet or private message.

Now you have laid a little groundwork and have a way to introduce yourself at the event. This can help provide the foundation for a more meaningful conversation.

For trade association events, you start to get to know who attends the events after a while. If the attendees list isn’t available, try getting a discussion going about attending the event within the group. Members of groups might be attending the same event and you can start to lay the groundwork this way too.

A common concern that Ilise hears from people attending events is about approaching other people (mainly buyers) at the events. If someone approaches us, we are receptive and open to conversation. Yet, that level of confidence in conversing with a potential client, goes out the window when we have to approach them.

Pre-connecting can allay the fear of rejection and help build confidence to make you feel more comfortable approaching people at the event! It helps to bridge the gap of walking up to someone you don’t know (cold calling) as opposed to someone that has already expressed an interest in building a relationship (warm calling).

A fun and great way to help someone recognize you is to print out your Twitter pic and put it on your name tag.  This can help others make the association of who you are, since people can look different in person or use other images than their own on Twitter.

During the Event

An attainable, and realistic goal for an event is to make 1 or 2 solid connections. Expecting to make multiple connections can work against you in that it is unlikely and ends up being counterproductive. When you’re too focused on meeting so many prospective clients, you can’t focus on making the right, productive connection.

Getting started with your elevator speech to start the conversation. Ask first: Take the initiative to ask what they do. This helps to make it easier for you to give your elevator speech, because this takes the pressure off of you. This gets the other person talking and now you can use the information they have given you to ask more questions.

After the Event – Moving to the On-going Conversation

The likelihood of walking away from an event with a new client/job is very slim.

Following up with the best one or two connections you feel could turn into a new client is a more realistic path to new business.

  1. Make notes – it is ok to make quick notes during your conversations.
    This will help you to be more fluid in the follow-up process.
  2. Find whatever the next step may be – I’ll send you some samples, schedule
    a follow-up call, and send you a brochure.

The next steps need to be customized for the individual person. Taking the next step and tracking them with each prospect is instrumental in building and nurturing each relationship.

Can Social Media Replace Face-to-Face Interactions?


Social networking can be the ice breaker to get you going, but face time is invaluable.

Face-to-face interactions are much deeper and stronger than anything that could potentially happen online. People remember you in person long after they even know who you are in an SM conversation. The pace is much too quick which makes it very difficult to make a real connection. If you don’t use your picture, people have no visual to associate you to.

For anyone working virtually, this can mean joining organizations. Choose a market that has an annual conference that you can actually be a part of and perhaps, even eventually speak at. Attending and participating in the annual conference is an important part of the face-to-face networking.

Find an online community, a market, to become a part of to be seen in and take an active role by consistently participating online. This can help you build up to being a speaker by participating too. This helps you to:

  1. be seen as an expert in the community
  2. marketing stops feeling like marketing – you are simply interacting (playing an essential role) with other members
  3. be able to join boards and/or where people will start to recognize you as dependable and appreciate your work-ethnic and know you.

Now you have turned Networking from a tactic into a strategy!

Items mentioned in this Podcast include:

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Till next time,