Guess what? There is no secret.
I always tell aspiring writers and freelancers all the time to make friends. You just never know when having someone you’re friendly with can work out in your favor. I must stress, I am NOT advocating you go make friends in the industry just to use them for favors. Work your ass off and people will notice. Making friends is part of networking and networking is essential if you want to progress towards whatever your goals might be, whether it’s a full-time gig somewhere or more freelance work.
“I’m not good at socializing and talking with people.”
You better get good at it because odds are, at some point in your freelance career, you’re going to have to talk to someone. It’s one thing to email an editor, get a gig, and then email an invoice. The odds of only ever doing work without interacting with other human beings seems unlikely. If that’s the case for you, more power to you. Most of us have to put ourselves out there to not only land a story but interview people, something I offered some tips on recently.
To get ahead in this business, you’ll want to network with other writers and editors. They may hold the key to your career or you might just need a shoulder to cry on sometimes when the chips are down and you can’t write your way out of a wet paper bag.
So what do you do? Daily interaction with humans is a start. It doesn’t have to be in-person, although, that would be a good idea. Get on your favorite form of social media and start up conversations with people. Some might not be interested or may not respond, don’t take it personal. Sometimes people are busy. Twitter is probably the easiest way to find someone within the industry. USE IT.
Me (middle) with MarkMan from Mad Catz and Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada at Evo 2015
“But I feel awkward contacting someone via Twitter.”
I heard something once that I’ve used as a guideline for social media. If someone didn’t want to be found, they wouldn’t have social media. Follow them. Interact with them. Don’t harass them because that will get you muted or blocked. If you have a question for someone, tweet at them. See if you can direct message someone or get an email address. I don’t care for Facebook or LinkedIn myself but I do use groups in Facebook to stay in constant contact with my peers. Don’t be a jackass on social media. That will come back to bite you in a bad way. There are editors who will search your history.
I use email specifically for business. Editors have enough to do in the day. They don’t need me cluttering up their email with personal stuff. If I’m that close to someone, I likely have other means to contact them anyway.
Now the biggies. Say you got lucky and you are attending your first tradeshow or some event where you might actually get to meet someone in the industry. You see someone you greatly admire for their work or someone who could be in the position to offer you work in the future. What do you do?
- Walk away because you’re too shy to introduce yourself and say hi?
- Don’t introduce yourself and say hi because they look way too busy to be bothered?
- Take some initiative and politely and briefly introduce yourself?
Pro-tip: ALWAYS DO #3!
Me with Brian Altano on my first visit to IGN in 2014
Even if they look like they’re on a mission, try to introduce yourself and offer up a business card or swap contact info for later. Nine times out of ten, folks are busy but they’re happy to take a moment to at least say hi. Get yourself in their consciousness. Will Dan Hsu remember me because I tweet at him out of nearly 20,000 followers? Maybe, but probably not. Will he remember that time at PAX Prime when I stopped him outside of a hotel to tell him how much I admire his work because I was an avid magazine reader back in the day? Probably more likely. Does he think I’m a creeper because of that? Possibly… But those kinds of interactions can lead to something down the road. Full disclosure, I didn’t do it for any other reason because I’m truly a fan of his work and appreciate what he’s done in the industry.
You want to work with an editor at a big outlet someday? You should go say hi. If I’m around other freelancers at a tradeshow and I know an editor but said freelancer is too shy to meet the editor, I’ll gladly introduce the freelancer to that editor. Someone has to break the damn ice.
Sometimes you might have a bad experience online. That happens. If you feel like there’s an issue, be respectful and bring it up. Often it’s just something we make up in our heads. But if there truly is a problem, do your best to make it right and keep your side of the street clean. Not every experience is going to be a great one.
In summary, reach out to people and expand your network. Don’t be afraid to ask a question or to start a conversation. We’re humans. This is what we do. But don’t be a jackass. Be sensible and reasonable with your expectations. If you are constantly spamming someone’s Twitter feed or email, you’re doing it wrong and you’re likely the last person that will get work from an editor that way. Treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Writers and editors are people too.
As always, feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or ask questions here or on Twitter at @Bizarro_Mike.