by Michelle Waitzman
As a freelance editor, you know that networking is an important part of marketing. But the prospect of networking is unappealing to many editors. Freelance editors generally tend to be introverts who are uncomfortable when surrounded by strangers and forced to make small talk. It can be downright nerve-racking! Joining Editors Canada is a good first step toward successful self-promotion, and you may have also explored writers’ groups in hopes of finding clients. But networking with writers and editors will only take you so far. Contrary to popular belief, however, extra networking doesn’t have to mean extra work.
Clients can come from unexpected places, and the more diverse your network becomes the more opportunities you will have to meet people who can expand your client list. A diverse network doesn’t mean a random one; by finding people you share common interests, skills, or philosophies with, you will increase your chances of working with compatible clients. Follow your passions and interests, and you may just find clients where you least expect them. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Local business groups
I’m a member of my neighbourhood’s local “business networking group,” which meets twice each month to encourage referrals and participate in local events. Perhaps your area has one of these; a small business network, a business improvement association, or a chamber of commerce. Gatherings of small-business owners are a great place to find potential clients. These businesses are unlikely to have in-house staff members with writing or editing expertise. They may need help with their websites, annual reports, press releases, brochures, and other written materials. These groups can also help you feel more connected with your community. To find a group near you, look in community newspapers for ads or listings of local organizations, try Googling the name of your community plus “business networking,” or have a look at the list on Meetup.com.
Sports and recreation
If you enjoy team sports, join a team. If you prefer running, cycling, hiking, or other individual activities, join a local group that arranges outings. Meeting other people who enjoy the same activities as you (but who work in a wide variety of industries) gives you a starting point for making conversation. What’s the first question people generally ask? “What do you do?” of course! For team sports, you can search for your favourite sport online or ask about the offerings at nearby community centres. Organized leagues in Toronto are run by groups such as the Toronto Sport & Social Club and Extreme Toronto Sports Club. Cycling clubs are listed on the Ontario By Bike website, and running clubs are listed on the RunGuides website.
If your interests are more intellectual or skills-oriented, try taking or teaching a class. You’ll find yourself among a group of people with similar interests. Having developed your knowledge and skills, you’ll be more likely to find yourself on the short list for editorial work related to your interests. Your instructor may be planning to self-publish an instructional book, or perhaps a classmate has a website in the works. Turn that passion for knitting, auto repair, or photography into a new revenue stream. The Toronto District School Board is a good place to start looking for a course. They offer hundreds of adult courses at schools across the city. Their course calendar is available as a download from the TDSB website. If you live outside the city, check with your local school board or community college to see whether they have continuing education courses available.
Did you earn a degree in an unrelated field before deciding that editing was going to be your career? Staying in touch with your alma mater can present opportunities not only with the university itself, but with professors and students from your former faculty. Whether you studied architecture or microbiology, you are a subject-matter expert in your field. You could be the ideal editor to tackle a doctoral thesis or academic paper. Staying involved with your former university is a good way to keep your foot in the door. Even if you live in a different city, or a different country, than where you went to school, the alumni association might have a chapter near you.
Charities and non-profits
Time spent volunteering can be rewarding in many ways. If you are launching your career, offering to help a charitable or non-profit organization for free is one way to build your portfolio. But volunteering doesn’t have to mean working for free as an editor or writer. You could walk dogs at the Humane Society, read books and newspapers for the blind, help to organize fundraising events, or sort through donations at a food bank. If you’re more of an activist, you could make phone calls or distribute flyers for political parties, advocacy groups, and other special interest groups that you support. Whatever you do, you’ll be meeting potential clients or people who could refer you to potential clients—and, best of all, you’ll be helping others while you network.
Casting a wide net as a freelancer can result in some surprising and gratifying new streams of revenue. Rather than thinking of networking as a separate task, incorporate it into the activities you already enjoy. Your time spent networking will be far more effective. These suggestions are just a starting point. If you have other techniques for expanding your professional network, please share them in the comments section.
Michelle Waitzman is a freelance non-fiction writer, editor, and proofreader in Toronto. Before she became a freelancer, Michelle survived careers in TV production and corporate communications, after which she ran away to live in New Zealand for seven years.
This article was copy edited by Afara Kimkeran