Networking VS. Self-Promoting

September 11, 2009 § 3 Comments

The following is an article posted on LinkedIn this week that was written by Patricia Nixon.  She makes some excellent points that I wanted to share with you.

I agree with her statements – I’ve seen this MEMEME attitude stemming up more and more in lots of arenas – not just on networking sites. I think that with the economy the way it is, we are all beginning to get a little desperate to make sure that we can not only stay afloat, but to make sure we can stay comfortable despite of what is going on in the world.  We’ve already lost so much, we don’t want to lose our dreams and careers as well.  But with all of the technological “advances” today, I think we have lost the original art of communicating. It never used to be just about the quick posts of what you are doing. It baffles me that so much importance is placed on needing to announce every moment what you are doing.  Before Facebook and Twitter, did you ever feel the need to announce every little tiny moment of your life? I mean, is it really necessary to post for billions of people to see when you are leaving the room? (Don’t laugh, there are plenty out there who do!)

We are constantly being told that we need to be a big part of the social networking scene – especially those of us who are writers or are in an arts field. It is now a huge part of our jobs to make sure our names are out there, that we have an established cyber-presence, and that we are constantly promoting ourselves, especially if we even want to think about working with a big publishing company.  And that’s ok, I guess. I mean, it seems to be where the world of publishing and media is at right now, even if it does sometimes seem to be a huge waste of what could be very valuable writing time.

But what happened to the ART of conversation and true networking?  Are we losing out on a very important skill that could still serve us well? Have we forgotten what “networking” really means? And what does this mean for our future?

This is a topic that I think we will keep coming back to, and I welcome your thoughts and comments. In the meantime, enjoy some of Patricia’s tips below. I think these are strategies that we could all use in many different circumstances.

Are You Networking or Simply Self-Promoting?

By: Patricia Nixon

As I’ve engaged in discussions on LinkedIn, one thing stands out. Many are confusing networking with self-promotion. The savvy you gain by honing your skills now may grant you opportunities in the future and save you from self-sabotage.

Here’s an example many (women) can relate to. You meet a gentleman who is dressed right, smells good, isn’t bad on the eyes and you strike up a conversation. Within minutes you want to escape. Why? Because his entire conversation centered on himself. He talked about his achievements, his career, the awards he’s received. He may be a charming guy, but with his introduction you’ll never know. You’re already looking for the exit signs.

He would have had a better chance of getting to know you had he focused more attention on you, his audience. I can’t say this enough – the finest people, the most innovative ideas and the best products often get no attention simply because of how they are presented.

Is that how you’re networking? I’ve seen many discussions started here asking for help. If the person posting says she has a difficult boss and needs tips on how to handle her, the response might read, “I had a difficult boss, too. That’s why I started my own business. I now own xxx chains in 15 states and you can, too. Let me tell you how! My website address is . . . and I also . . . but then I . . . blah blah blah.” After reading the first sentence, she’s on to the next post, and most likely won’t be visiting the website or anything else mentioned. Because no matter how useful this person could be, he showed no consideration for the requester. She is only a prospect. And one would have to wonder, if this is how selfish he is in his approach, would this also be the behavior she’d be met with should they do business together?

If the requester was responded to with tips she could use, she’d be more inclined to view this person’s profile, add him to her network and communicate in the future. NOW there’s an opportunity for self-promotion. When she thanks him for his help, he could reply with, “You’re welcome. I learned much of this the hard way when I had a boss that was hard to tolerate. I started my own business and I’m happy I did. Check out my website and let me know what you think. If it’s not for you, maybe someone in your network might be interested.” I can assure you, the person who has been helped in a friendly unselfish manner would be pleased to help out in turn.

I’ve always been a natural schmoozer. (See how this works? I offer you tips then I get into ME ME ME.) I have colleagues and bosses that I still keep in touch with from my very first job, even if only once a year for a holiday drink, but when an opportunity arises, I’m the first to get a call. Not because I hit them over the head every chance I get with my achievements or latest ventures. Rather, it’s because I don’t. I ask about the kids, the wife’s pottery class, make notes of ventures they’re pursuing and occasionally send a link to an article that might help them in that pursuit. THAT is networking and it is successful. You don’t want people to see your email or your number and think, “What is it this time?” You want people to be glad you’ve contacted them, excited to hear from you, pleased to help you.

I recall a show I saw years ago about the drug epidemic and I never forgot the commentary. It was said that often the drug dealers would offer their customers a little something for free, just to give ‘em a taste. Next thing they knew, customers were pounding on their doors – they were hooked. That salesmanship and attitude is the same you should have here and in all your networking endeavors. Get others hooked on your value to them FIRST, then sit back and watch them come back for more.

Copyright Patricia Nixon (c) 2009 – This article has been re-printed with permission.
No part of this article may be reproduced or used without prior permission.

If you would like to contact Patricia Nixon directly, you can reach her at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/pnixon.

Calling All Freelancers!

May 26, 2009 § 4 Comments

I have been following a very interesting discussion on LinkedIn this past week.

It started off as a question about an average going rate for web content work, and it evolved into a whole discussion about the issues and roadblocks that freelance writers have been dealing with lately. Economy aside, how many times have you as a writer had to put up with someone saying to you, “Oh, you’re a writer?  Me too!!” just because they wrote a story that their mom liked.  (Not saying that it wasn’t necessarily a good story, or that mom has bad tastes, mind you. Just saying that it doesn’t necessarily make that person a professional writer.)  It’s frustrating to be in a profession that everyone thinks they can do.  And fact of the matter is, not everyone can!  There are many aspects to writing as a craft that most people just don’t understand.  As one gentleman stated, “Just because you can read, doesn’t mean you can write.  No different than:  just because you can eat, doesn’t mean you can cook.”  I believe that he stated it perfectly. We may not have fancy software to use like the designers, but that doesn’t mean that just because a person knows how to open up a Word program they can do what we do.

There are many facets to writing. It’s not just about writing stories, or poetry. Writing is knowing your target audience and how to write to appeal to that target. Writing can be creating a well-crafted letter, adding attention grabbing headlines, publishing articles, blogging, or even doing product description in a catalog (just to list a few). It takes training and a knowledge of people in order to be able to draft some of these projects. It takes practice to be able to properly string words together in a way that will not only make sense, but will also achieve a higher purpose.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there that are so desperate to make money “writing” that they will work for a very meager rate. And by meager, I mean rates that no person could ever hope to live on.  Not to mention that as a freelancer, a writer also needs to cover his/her own taxes, insurance, expenses, retirement, etc., etc., etc.  The list goes on and on. As a group of professionals, how will we ever be able to make a consistent and successful living when there are so many people trying to undercut us and producing mediocre work (at best) in the process? Many designers are freelance as well, but they are paid MUCH higher, and much more stable rates than we ever get, and are also viewed with much more respect. How do we make sure that our profession has a standard as well?

There are no easy answers to these questions and there are many other questions that pop up as well. But our first step is to unite.  Let’s come together in a supportive environment. Let’s show all the companies out there that we are a united front and that we deserve our fair share. Without writers, these companies would have no customers, and thus no money. Look what happened when Hollywood went through the latest writers strike. It practically closed down and the consequences are still being felt today. Hollywood may have more exposure, but the same thing would happen in any industry.  Like it or not, this world cannot survive without writers.

And there is absolutely no reason why writers need to feel like we are constantly in competition with each other. The more we support each other, the more we receive in return.  It is a win-win situation. I have met many writers that are firm believers in this support system. It is obvious on just about any discussion on LinkedIn. And it is also obvious that everyone is equally frustrated with the situation.

So now there is a call out to all freelancers – Let’s unite and form an organization that will prove our worth and help us to stabilize our incomes. A new group has been forming on LinkedIn – the Certified Professional Writers Association. This is a group that is interested in bringing together the top minds in our industry and hopefully finding a way to improve the situation.  If you are interested in being involved in this discussion, find them on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=1973734&trk=anet_ug_grppro  or just search for the Certified Professional Writers Association.

We can do this!

Find me on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jenna-caputo/9/92/934

 

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