Ten Reasons You Absolutely Must Network If You Are A Freelancer

networking, meeting, business

Network.

You must network.

 

Whether you’re a writer, an editor, a designer, a llama wrangler or any other type of freelancer you MUST network.

 

This is non-negotiable if you want to survive your freelancing years.

alpaca who isnt networking

ok, it’s an alpaca, not a llama, but it’s not networking and it looks sad.

I know, it’s a pain. You’d rather walk over hot coals than go to that networking event or join an online forum. Heaven forbid if you have to actually talk to anyone. I know, I sympathise, it can be the most awful thing in the world. But it must be done.

You know what? For years I didn’t network. Honestly, I sat in isolation not being able to get out to networking events in person and not taking advantage of online networking (ok, at the time there were few online networking places, but still I could have tried harder). I attended a few professional meetings, but stayed in the background. Do you know where my freelancing career went?

Nowhere. It went nowhere.

People, you NEED to network.

empty stadium, lonely freelancer

Here’s why:

  1. It builds relationships with your peers.

    Getting to know other freelancers in your business is good for everyone. Don’t see them as rivals, see them as friends. Soon you will have a network of likeminded souls who you can rely on to be there when you need them, and you can be there for them too. Share your failures and your successes, learn from those more experienced than yourself and help those with less experience. It’s all good.

  2. It builds relationships with potential customers.

    Get to know them and help them where you can. Go to networking events geared towards your ideal customer. Answer their questions, help them out and they’ll remember you for all the right reasons. Word of mouth is still king

  3. It builds business confidence.

    You can see where you are going right and you can get help if you’re going wrong. Use your local Business Gateway or regional business advisers, they often have talks and networking opportunities. Use your local Chamber of Commerce or the Federation of Small Businesses if you think they will be of use. It’s a great way to let yourself see just how good you actually are at your job. Freelancers don’t get the feedback that the employed do, networking can help fill that gap.

  4. It facilitates learning.

    Networking allows you to identify gaps in your professional knowledge and allows you to address them. Through networking you can spot the perfect development opportunities that may not be immediately obvious to the lone freelancer.

  5. It opens doors.

    It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s a cliché for a reason, and it’s as true today as it’s always been. Networking gets your name out there. You will get to know people who you feel confident passing work on to when you can’t fit it into your schedule, and know who to recommend for certain jobs out of your remit. In turn, others will get to know you and pass work to you, or recommend you to clients.

    wall of doors, choices

  6. It allows you to understand your business environment.

    With all the will in the world, it’s much, much harder to understand your working environment if you’re only used to the theory. You can train til you are blue in the face, but it’s only by actually ‘doing’ that you will become knowledgeable in your chosen field. Networking allows you gain understanding through talking to those more experienced than yourself. You can see how others tackle business, see what works and what doesn’t and put this into practice with more confidence.

  7. It allows you to spot opportunities.

    The smart freelancer can spot gaps in the market, see what’s needed or even find a whole new direction to go in. Effective networking can lead you down avenues you would never consider in isolated working.

  8. It builds your communication skills.

    Very few people start off as confident communicators, it’s something that’s learnt. The more you network the easier it gets. Pretty quickly you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t – and soon your communication skills will improve.

  9. It can help you break away from the monotony of your own four walls.

    There’s no getting away from it, networking in person can give you break. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of going somewhere new, to meet new people and learn new things. Networking can make you a more adaptable human being. So what if it takes you out of your comfort zone?

  10. It brings you new friends.

    This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of networking. Freelancing can be a lonely business, and you can be amazingly good at your job, but if you have no one to talk to about it, to chat with over coffee or meet up virtually with over forums and social media, you will feel isolated and deflated. Networking on an informal level can help form strong bonds and friendships that can last a lifetime.

power rangers, super group

Why be alone when you can be a freelancer with a network?

See? It may feel daunting. You may feel like a gatecrasher or an imposter to begin with. But you MUST network. It’s good for your business and it’s good for your soul.

 

 

 

The Damned Apostrophe and How To Use It

apostrophe

 

Sometimes I just think ‘get rid of it’. It’s a pain. Even those of us who work with words occasionally sit scratching our heads at where the damn thing should go.

But, despite our agony, most of the time the apostrophe is a much maligned punctuation mark. It does its job wonderfully well – if you can get your head around it.

So, in the spirit of friendship for everyone who hates the little thing, here’s the lowdown to help you polish your prose.

 

Contractions (shortened phrases)

One of the most common ways to use the apostrophe is in shortened phrases – where letters have been omitted in a group of words. The apostrophe basically takes the place of the missing letters.

So, if there’s a letter missing that’s where you stick the apostrophe:

’d instead of would or had – he’d, she’d we’d

’ve instead of have  – they’ve, we’ve

’t instead of not – can’t, aren’t

’ll instead of will or shall – we’ll, he’ll, she’ll

’s instead of is – that’s, what’s, it’s, who’s

’re instead of are – we’re

won’t – this stands for will not (I know, it’s weird)

 

It can also be used for shortening years. But beware!

When you write out a year like this, simply hitting the apostrophe/single quote key on your keyboard just won’t cut it. The computer brain thinks you’re starting a quote, so you get an opening quote mark instead of an apostrophe. The quickest way to remedy this is to hit the quote key twice and delete the first one – that way you have a nice, correct punctuation mark facing the right way.

Summer of ’69

We went to Madrid in ’86

stop

 

Exceptions – clipped words

Again, beware! Not all contractions need an apostrophe. If a contraction is formed from a word that has been clipped and has made it into everyday use (basically, because us humans are lazy), you don’t use an apostrophe.

This isn’t where one or two letters have been cut out, but where a whole part of the word has been consigned to the bin.

Words like:

bus instead of omnibus

phone instead of telephone

gym instead of gymnasium

fridge instead of refrigerator

 

Way back in time we used an apostrophe for these, but that was when the ’bus was new and exciting, and the writer was being oh, so hip by nonchalantly cutting out part of the word. These days it will only make you look like an old fuddy-duddy.

confused over apostrophes

Possessives

This is a nightmare. The thing that trips people up. The monster that refuses to die.

’s shows that something belongs to someone or something:

Helen’s present

Heidi’s fashion sense

a week’s work

somebody’s chocolate

 

But beware! There is no apostrophe in the possessives its, yours, hers, ours, or theirs.

 

What if the word already ends in an s? Well, there are two ways to go:

More common these days is – if you say it, you spell it:

Tom Jones’s dog

Thomas’s portfolio

 

But the other, more old-fashioned, way is to just have the apostrophe and leave out the s. This is also preferable if the word ends in an ‘ez’ sound. (This can be down to personal preference, and honestly it’s perfectly fine to drop that second s it if it’s easier.)

Tom Jones’ dog

Thomas’ portfolio

Moses’ sense of humour

 

And for plural nouns and names ending in s, if you don’t pronounce it, don’t use it.

My sisters’ champagne

three weeks’ time

Socrates’ followers

 

Getting confused yet?

Possessives still confuse a lot of people. It can be something you have to think carefully about, but it’s usually fairly simple. Think about if the noun is singular or plural and that will tell you where to put the punctuation mark:

 

the artist’s work = the work belonging to the artist (singular)

the artists’ work = the work belonging to the artists (plural)

my brother’s champagne = the champagne belonging to my brother (singular)

my brothers’ champagne = the champagne belonging to my brothers (plural)

sad man

 

Its or it’s / whose or who’s

This causes so much confusion!

When you are using the apostrophe to show a letter is missing you use it’s

it’s = it has or it is

it’s wrong

it’s confusing

it’s not funny

who’s laughing?

 

but that’s the only time the apostrophe is used.

For possessives, if something belongs to someone or something, there is no apostrophe as no letters are missing, so it would be:

its huge tentacles

its sharp teeth

whose eyes are those?

 

Plurals

This one is the worst. The one that drives you mad when you spot it on a sign. The one that spawned the so-called grocer’s apostrophe.

People – we don’t use an apostrophe for plurals unless the word would be unreadable without it.

So we say:

mind your p’s and q’s

dot the i’s and cross the t’s

 

but for everyday plurals, leave those damn apostrophes out:

a kilo of toffees – not a kilo of toffee’s

the best whiskies in the area – not the best whisky’s in the area

free range eggs – not free range egg’s

 

So there you go, a short guide to the apostrophe. There’s no other punctuation mark that seems to annoy and confuse so many people. Hopefully now you can go forth and use the mark with wild abandon – but please, be kind to those who still get it wrong. Just quietly point them towards a friendly guide such as this and don’t call them out in public, no one likes a smart-arse.

Stop The Race To The Bottom, Value Your Writing Services

Business people Running Towards Finish Line --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure

I need an editor … fast

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying

I need an editor … willing to pay

I need an editor … for free

 

If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap

If you need an editor … I need the money

If you need an editor … I need a job

If you need an editor … I need the experience

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but …

 

All of these comments were taken from Twitter within the last six months. And they all appeared more than once, by different people, at different times and from different countries.

The potential ‘clients’ actually needed video editors, developmental editors, copy editors, proofreaders, copywriters and writing coaches. But hey, an editor is an editor on social media.

writing and editorial professsional despairing

Social media is great, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it does seem to facilitate a race to the bottom. Everywhere you turn there are ‘experts’ who will tell you what you want to hear, potential clients who are in desperate need of help and professionals who are trying to keep their businesses afloat.

It may be controversial (or perhaps it isn’t) but sometimes, as professionals, we don’t really help ourselves. You can see it clearly from the comments above. Creative shaming is something I wrote about last year, but there has to come a time when creative professionals decide what is important in their working lives and start to help themselves.

 

Stop the race to the bottom, value your services.

To stop this awful race to the bottom, and to make it less acceptable to pay creatives a pittance (or even nothing, because, hell, exposure is great), we all need to value our services.

Writing and editing are valuable skills:

If everyone could do it there would be no typos, bad grammar or just plain awful prose in the world.

If our skills weren’t valuable there would be no need for editorial professionals or professional writers.

writing services

 

Writing and editing – the hidden talent.

Businesses rely on conveying a message, and that message should be concise, clear and articulate. The creatives behind business communication are often well hidden, but professional writers, editors and proofreaders can make the business more attractive to clients. And that skill has value.

Authors rely on crafting a great story, and that story should be a pleasure to read. The creatives that help behind the scenes are often well hidden, but editorial professionals can make a good story into a great story. And that skill has value.

 

Embrace your skills.

We must get out of the mindset that ours skills are of little value, and embrace our knowledge for what it is – hard graft that comes through years of experience and training. We may enjoy what we do, but our skills have value to others.

Creatives help to make the world a brighter place, and help businesses grow and flourish, so they should be treated as professionals and paid well for their expertise. And that needs to start with the creative professionals themselves. We need to value our skills and help others to value them too.

I’m lucky, I have great clients who value my services. But that may be because I know my value, understand the value of great training and help potential clients to understand what they really need. I refuse to do something just because a client thinks they need it: if they don’t need a service I won’t do it. I also refuse to join in a race to the bottom, even if it means missing out on work.

 

Learn to say no.

If you are a professional creative you are skilful, confident and competent. You are also engaged in an activity as a paid occupation. It is your job.

It can be really difficult to say no when someone needs help, but you have to take on work that pays you enough to settle your bills and buy the odd bottle of Prosecco. If your business has you taking on low-paid work (and let’s admit it, we have all done it), you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. If you can’t pay your bills it isn’t. If you’re taking on low-paid work because you need a filler you are going to kick yourself when you have to say no to a decent commission, because your time is being monopolised by the job that has you working for below minimum wage.

Freelancer learning to say no

 

Fight back.

So, it’s time to fight back. Just because you can help doesn’t mean you have to help.

Your professional expertise has cost you:

              Time – you didn’t become a competent professional creative overnight.

              and

              Money  – for training and equipment.

 

Even if you are starting out, you have the skills and training. If this is your job, it is your livelihood.

 

Have the answers ready.

It can be daunting to take that leap and decide that from now on you will only work for a decent wage. It’s scary – you may never work again, you have bills to pay, you need to eat. Yes, but it’s a vicious cycle; once you start accepting low-paid work, or you work for ‘exposure’, your mindset follows and you start to believe that you are only worth that minimum wage or that you need the ‘exposure’.

So take a stand. Know your worth. Here are the answers:

 

I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … fast   (Great, thanks, my rush rates are …)

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … willing to pay (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … for free  (Great, thanks, but I don’t work for free. My rates are …)

 

And here is what you should say:

If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the money    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need a job     I have some flexibility in my schedule, my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the experience    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but    I would love to expand into this area, my rates are …