Networking is vital as a freelancer. If you make good connections and establish a presence on social media platforms, work starts to come to you. The hardest and most time consuming aspect of freelancing is constantly having to market yourself and find work. Having it walk right up to you and say, “How ya doin’? Wanna make a living?” is invaluable. Another difficult aspect of freelancing is the loneliness. It’s a solitary profession that keeps you sitting at a computer for most of the day. Networking connects you to others like you; people you can share your struggles with and ask advice from.
Facebook groups are a great way to network, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of groups related to freelance writing. How do you select the right ones? How many should you have? How do you utilize them?
Three Vital Types
You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with groups. If you’re a part of ten, but you can’t find time to actually get in there and interact on them, they aren’t doing you any good. They’re just clogging your profile with notifications. There are three types of groups that are beneficial as a freelancer, and if you can find one quality group in each category, you’re going to get a whole lot back.
1. Career Experts
It’s really nice to find a group full of seasoned freelance professionals. I don’t mean that everyone in the group is an expert with a decade or more experience; if that was a requirement, I wouldn’t be allowed in. However, when you first enter or begin to consider a group, scan the posts. Are the majority of people asking beginner questions like “What version of WordPress should I use for my blog?”, or are they asking highly targeted questions about specific jobs, swapping high-paying job leads, and using industry jargon fluidly? When someone does ask a beginner question, are people providing solid, actionable, and encouraging answers that actually guide the beginner? That’s what you want for this type.
It’s so beneficial to find a group where confident industry professionals hang out. You may not be able to actively take part in all the discussions, but you can sure learn something new just by sitting back and reading the comments.
I am a part of a group like this. It’s actually a “super secret” writer’s group for females, transgenders who identify as female, and non-binaries. It’s like Fight Club; you’re not supposed to name it on your blog. However, if any of my readers who fit in that category would like to join, go to my contact page and use that email to request that I add you. I’ll be happy to; it’s not that super secret. You don’t need a code word (although if you work “Bubbles McGee” into your request email somehow, brownie points!).
That group has a very wide range. Not everyone on there is a freelancer. Many are authors. Great for me in my niche. Lots of publication knowledge gets thrown around, too. So do calls for fiction submissions and calls for article pitches. It’s a HUGE group, so it’s not as good for making one-on-one connections, but it’s great for industry knowledge. Many editors of major publications are a part of it, and when they post calls for submissions, they give insider tips on how to get noticed at their publication. Uh, yes please!
2. Beginner Hangout
Groups comprised mostly of beginners are great whether you’re a beginner yourself or whether you’ve been doing this for a little while. I wouldn’t call myself a beginner, but I’m also not at the same level as many of the members in the group I mentioned above. I recently joined Jorden Roper’s new Facebook group, Writing Revolters, which is related to her blog, Writing Revolt. There are many people with the same experience level as me in that group, and there are also a lot of brand new freelancers. Jorden, herself, is very active in the group, and she’s been doing this a bit longer, and she also makes a sizeable income. So, it’s a very well-balanced beginners group.
Brand new freelancers can get advice on the basics from freelancers who’ve been doing this for a few years, and folks who are at the same level can swap ideas, interact, and form friendships and business relationships. It’s still a pretty small group (around 1,000 members, with only a few hundred actively participating regularly), so you get to know people’s names and faces if you pop in regularly.
From a business standpoint, it’s a networking goldmine. While the large majority of members are freelancers (because that’s what Jorden’s blog centers around), not everyone is. There are quite a few beginner authors on there, and I’ve been able to get my name and services in front of them should they need me once things get rolling. I’ve already gotten interest from one person, and I only joined like a month ago. I’ve also made a business connection with a woman who is in the book ghostwriting niche. We both have self-help as one of our specialties, and after connecting in the group, we actually formed a referral agreement. If one of us has a client come to us with a self-help project that we can’t take on for any reason, we will refer that client to the other person, and then the referrer gets a 10% commission on the project once the client pays. Being a part of the group has also begun to help me grow my blog.
The greatest thing about joining a beginner group when you’re still establishing yourself is that you can form relationships in the earlier stages of your business, and then as the two of you grow, you already have a good bond forged. Industry connections make you look great to clients and help you out with your business. Need to outsource work to lighten your load? You know exactly where to go.
3. Prospective Client Hub
This is one I still need to work on. I have found and joined a few author’s groups (really only on LinkedIn), but I haven’t found one that really clicks with me yet. I’m going to start looking more actively, because if you’re looking to network for jobs, getting into a group that is comprised of people who could use your services is the way to go. Chances are, you’re interested in what your clients do; that’s why you chose it as your niche. I’m an author myself, in addition to helping other authors with my editing and ghostwriting services.
If you can make genuine connections with people in need of your services on a personal level before you start pitching, you’ll have a much higher rate of success.
Avoid Toxic Groups
I feel I need to touch a little more on this topic because you are going to run into these. The obviously toxic groups where everyone is outright rude and no one is helpful are easy to spot, and there’s nothing that keeps you coming back. The real danger is in finding a group that is helpful in many aspects, but perpetuates a toxic underground environment that rears its ugly head deep in the comments section on occasion. You’ll soon find that “on occasion” begins to turn into “frequently.”
That super secret writer’s group is so large that it has many branches that sort of “niche down.” Once you’re in the main group, you will find invites popping up in the forum to join a more specific group. For instance, I joined one for authors looking to self-publish, one all about contracts, one about tips on where to pitch, and one geared specifically toward full-time freelance writers. It was the latter that harbored a toxic gas deep within its piping.
Many long-time freelancers from the main group were in that group, and when I first joined, all I saw was great tips on freelancing, people sharing editor contacts, etc. It looked awesome, and I dove in. After a few weeks, though, I found myself hanging back more and more, until I realized I wasn’t contributing, even when I had an opinion or a tip I thought could help. Why?
Well, the group was rife with social justice warriors. Now, I firmly believe that it is a writer’s duty to address social issues in her work because stories teach so much more and make a much deeper impact than any lecture or pamphlet can. But … Facebook is not the place to get into social justice debates (especially not in a group that says it’s meant to help you find freelance writing work). Instead of a calm, educated, polite debate/careful and deliberate hashing out of ideas, you get pissed off people banging away on keys, trying to respond quickly without thinking. It’s so hard to gauge tone in a Facebook comment; people take offense where none was meant, and things turn horrifically ugly.
Even in simple posts that were just someone asking for a professional opinion on a publication to pitch or an angle to take in an article, I began to watch the comments section spiral out of control into crazy cat fights about gender, race, and politics. (I’m 100% sure someone in the group would have accused me of being sexist for using the term “cat fight” just then. See why I didn’t make a peep after a while?) When a Hispanic woman politely and calmly pointed out in one of these threads that she felt things had strayed far from the original poster’s comment and into the realm of a “PC” (aka politically correct) debate, she was called a white supremacist … by a white woman. Yeah … let that one sink in for a sec. The multiple admins were some of the biggest bullies in the group, even though they preached tolerance until it oozed from their ears, and I’m certain that’s what fed the beast.
You don’t need that shit. I held on for way too long for the job leads and the occasional conversation that didn’t explode into madness. Things just got worse and worse, though. Eventually, it was hard to find any posts that didn’t go down this path, and I cut ties. I didn’t get anything out of that group but an occasional half-amusing shit show that gave me the strange urge to grab some popcorn and watch the comments roll in. I never landed a job or made a friend in that group, even though I convinced myself to stay in it because maybe the occasional leads would pay off. Things stop being productive when everyone is having a daily meltdown. Worse yet, if you’re not a closet asshole like I am, and you can’t just sit back and watch (and occasionally laugh at) people tearing each other apart over stupid, minor, perceived offenses without trying to jump in and mediate or (God forbid) give your level-headed opinion about something, you’re just going to invite lots of stress headaches into your life by trying to interact in a group like this. I don’t care if people in there have good connections; RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
Facebook Group Checklist:
There are TONS of groups out there, and your definition of what makes a great group might not be the same as mine. Many times you have to join a group to actually see what’s going on in it, but once you get in, there are some questions you can ask to figure out if you want to stay or not:
- Large or small? From what I’ve experienced, large groups are great if you’re looking for insider job postings, industry knowledge, and if you want a large amount of feedback on your questions. Small groups are better for making more intimate connections and forming business relationships.
- Mostly beginners or experts? Either can be great no matter where you are in your career. Try to find one of each.
- How do they handle sharing links? You will find that most groups have a designated day for sharing links to your blog, products, business website, published portfolio pieces, etc. This is the best practice. If the group has no restrictions, you get lots of spammy posts that are just links to somebody’s book or business with no interaction. Those groups will also attract scammers. However, if the group doesn’t allow you to share at all, it limits your networking ability. Some groups with the “share day” feature also allow you to post links if you have something helpful and the poster directly requests the link from you. I like this rule because it keeps you from having to PM just to share a helpful resource that the poster actually wants, but not all groups have it.
- Is the environment healthy? I think I’ve already said enough.
- Is the group active? Even if people are nice in the group and it’s comprised of people in your niche, it isn’t going to do you much good if there is hardly any activity. Scroll when you first arrive. How often are new posts created? How many comments do posts usually get? Don’t waste your time in a dead group.
- Are there people in your niche hanging around? I am a part of one group thanks to an affiliate course I’m taking, but I’m not sure I’m going to stick around much longer because literally everyone in there is a money or mommy blogger, and my posts get no traffic from that group on share day, and I have trouble finding relevant posts to share, myself. The group doesn’t need to only be comprised of people in your niche (actually, the more variety, the better) but some niche comrades are necessary for maximum payout.
Once you find a few good groups, get active. They aren’t going to do you any good if you don’t milk them. Check into your favorites daily, or at least multiple times a week. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion. If the group makes you wary of doing either of those things, get out. On share day, post your latest piece and actually take time to read others’ posts that interest you. Like, share, and leave a comment. Get people familiar with your face. Learn from those who are more experienced than you, and help those who are struggling through things you’ve already conquered. A good Facebook group can bring you new business, support, and valuable industry connections.