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EPISODE 30: Networking for Writers

by Apr 20, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Challenges to networking as a writer
  • Redefining networking so that it works for you
  • Creating your own networking space
  • Making deeper connections in your existing circle
  • Setting reasonable expectations and goals when networking

When you think of networking, you probably think of a corporate event. A room full of dozens of people in business suits, all looking to climb the career ladder.

And whether you’re an introvert overwhelmed by the prospect of talking to all those people, or an extrovert excited for it, one thing is always true: it’s a lot of pressure. After all, you’re networking in the first place because you know it’s crucial to the success of your career. 

But while building relationships is important, it doesn’t have to be so intimidating. 

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The challenges writers face when networking.
  • How to redefine networking so that it works for you.
  • How to create your own networking space and make deeper connections in your existing circle.
  • How to set reasonable goals that take the pressure off networking.

Business is about relationships, but you can form those relationships outside of big, corporate networking events. You can make networking work for you!

For more information on networking as a writer, check out our blog.

 

Additional media referenced in this episode includes:

The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
Alright. Welcome back to another episode. And today we are going to dive into a topic that took us a really long time to be comfortable with ourselves. And that is networking specifically networking for writers because while the concept of networking is pretty much the same across industries, I feel like writers have a very special set of challenges when it comes to networking. As sort of a unofficial rule writers spend a lot of time kind of on their own. Not all writers, but many writers, self identify as introverts and networking can be a step outside of the comfort zone for a lot of people who are in the writing space. As a copywriter, as a content creator, you spend a lot of time alone with your computer, you know, getting those words out, serving your clients and not necessarily stepping out into the greater world of conversations. And that can make initiating that feel a little tricky sometimes.

Marie:
Yeah. I mean, we definitely identify as introverts, um, and been our whole life and just owning a business, but I'm going to change that. And so we were so uncomfortable every time we would go to like a local in-person networking event. I say every time, not every time. There was like one group when I moved to Albuquerque, that was great because it was a very small group. And I think the most people that ever came was like four or five. And that was way more up my alley than like, you know, a big conference room filled with people who were like from all different industries. I didn't know any of them. And I was there in a very uncomfortable businessy suit thing where like, come on really most days I just like work in a t-shirt.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think, you know, the big issue that I always had with those sorts of networking events is it really didn't feel like it was me authentically representing me. Like you said, it's like, okay, let's put on the uncomfortable business outfit, put on the persona of here's Jessi, the business person who's stepping into CEO role when really like, even when I'm working at home in a t-shirt, I'm still Jessi, the CEO. Like it doesn't... you can be both an, but it took me a while to really feel like that was possible. And I think that that was compounded by the fact that when we did go to networking events, which we kind of started doing slowly, because it was intimidating for various reasons, it was really uncommon for us to see other writers in those rooms. It often felt like we were surrounded by a ton of business owners, which was great because a lot of them became future clients or future connections. They were complimentary business owners. So there were plenty of opportunities for building relationships, but we also didn't see a lot of opportunities where other people were navigating the space that we could look up to that we could look to as examples of, Oh, Hey, here are some writers who are really knocking networking out the park. And this is how they're approaching networking from the perspective of being content creators. I think that kind of held me back a little personally. I don't know if you feel the same way, Marie.

Marie:
Yeah. Or you would see things like the Copy Cure or whatever. Right. And it's like, okay, that's great. But I mean, you know, even by the time we started paying attention to like the entrepreneurial online world, like that course was already so big, it was like, you know, I couldn't see a connection between what we were doing right now and how to get to a place where you could have that kind of audience. I mean, we still don't have that kind of audience and that's fine. But I think, yeah, there was either people who were so far ahead of us, we couldn't see how they got to where they were or people who had no connection to what we were doing. So we did find that joining smaller coaching and mastermind programs and memberships created a bit of a safer container for us to meet people and feel comfortable showing up in our t-shirt. But even then it was very rare for there to be other writers in the room. And, it struck us as a bit sad that, you know, that there are supportive communities for writers, there's Facebook groups and subreddits and discord channels and courses and all kinds of things. But when you're looking at these more diverse groups and I mean, diverse in terms of diverse industries, writers are not often in the room and this is good for us because it allowed us to kind of think outside of the traditional writer business model and do some things that might not have occurred to us otherwise. But it was also kind of sad because we didn't have others who really understood, uh, you know, the ins and outs of our world.

Jessi:
Yeah. And the challenges that were faced by writers. You know, when you look at the types of topics that come up at networking events, the types of workshops there are, you know, a lot of them were tangentially related to what we did, especially to the running of a business, but they often would use examples and have, you know, case studies and everything was more focused on other industries, which was fine because we still always managed to glean something out of that conversation. But, you know, Marie's right. It was a little sad. And, before we go any further, I do also want to say that the, the point of this episode is not to tell you to go seek out large networking events. If that is not the thing that will best support you. Networking can look many different ways. It can show up many different ways. Networking events are one way. And especially now as we're recording this in COVID times in person networking events aren't even happening. So yeah, networking is this term that I think a lot of times we go immediately mentally to a networking event, but I want to also use this conversation as an opportunity to rewrite what networking means. It doesn't have to be going to some fancy event in Los Angeles or New York city where you're meeting with a bunch of people in one place and having these high profile workshops and things like that. It can be something as simple as a zoom coffee chat with someone who you've really been wanting to connect with. So I wanted to kind of establish that before we dive any deeper, because we believe very firmly that, you know, business is about relationships and relationships don't just happen at networking events, but you can network outside of networking events.

Marie:
Yeah. So we want to encourage you to define networking in a way that works for you. Like Jessi was saying, they don't have to be big. They don't have to be fancy. They don't have to be in-person always, you know, know that it can happen on your own terms and you can even create your own networking space or community. Stepping into that as a leader, if that feels better to you than creating something or going into something that someone else has created, that doesn't quite scratch that itch because chances are someone else probably also really would appreciate your vision.

Jessi:
Yeah. I don't know if anyone else has experienced this. I'm sure someone, someone has the, the brain works similar to the way mine does. I found a picture of the other day of me at a, this wasn't a business related event. It was actually a party that I threw for a friend and in the picture, like the event is happening. And it's me like with a clipboard in hand a to do list hanging off of it, staring at my smartphone. And I know I'm looking at the schedule that I created, and this was like, this is not a fancy party guys. This was like a backyard we're hanging out with friends. And I wanted to make sure that it was a structured event. And Marie's laughing because she's like, of course she did, but I bring that up because I looked at that picture, I was like, this is the most me picture that has ever existed in all of eternity. And the reason I say that is because when it comes to events, as someone who is super introverted, but also really enjoys spending time with people, the place where I feel most comfortable is a place where I have control over the event. And I'm in charge a little bit and I don't have to, I don't feel like I've, I'm in a position where I have to step out of the wallflower mode. I'm in a position where I do have a little bit of control over the event itself. And so that's why that- what Marie mentioned, you know, you can create your own events because for some people even introverts who really are not super excited about spending a lot of time with other people. Which by the way, introverts and shy are two different things.

Marie:
Uh huh.

Jessi:
That's a whole other soap box to get on. But it's about finding what works for you. And so for me, what works for me is close intimate conversations with smaller groups of people or one-on-one, or if it is a group, a larger group of people seeing if there's some way that I can have a stake in the event, either by being the person who spearheads it or by volunteering or being a part of the behind the scenes, because then I feel more invested in the event. And more like I have a clear reason to go and talk to people and start conversations beyond just I'm schmoozing, because that's what you're supposed to do.

Marie:
My ideal networking event, I've just like realized is probably like hosting it at a dog park because then you like have something to talk about. But yeah, so, and also I want to say like, not all writers are introverted, some writers are extroverted and if you're listening to this and you're an extroverted writer, you're like, okay, thanks for the assumptions. Like we're not making assumptions about you. We're sort of speaking for my own experience, but also know that, like, it can be just kind of weird when like, you know, even if you are an extroverted writer in, you're like the only writer in the room, it's like, Oh gosh, I got to represent my whole industry. Right? So here's some of the cool things though that happen. When you do decide to step into this, this thing that you may not want to do.
You get to meet people who share your values and vision. You get to meet people who are not sharing your values and vision and who are not a good fit for you and help you like, a good fit for you, not just as a client, but like good fit for you as a connection. And it helps you define that and kind of identify your red flags easier. Ultimately, I really think this actually helps you define your brand voice better because part of your brand voice sure is like the words that you use. It's also the stories that you share. And those little like snippets of stories are really great to have at events like this, where you can just kind of introduce yourself and like have a few things you can rattle off, but also part of your brand voice is your values. And so being super clear on those and seeing them in action is a huge benefit of kind of being put out there in the deep end.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. And it's also an opportunity for you to, especially if we're talking about a larger networking event to plant the seeds for those deeper one-on-one conversations later, so that you can connect with people more individually. I love to reach out to people I briefly met at a networking event and ask if they want to have a coffee chat after the event, because then I feel like I can show up in my t-shirt in a zoom room and just, you know, the hype of the event is not there. It's just two people having a conversation about things that they're passionate about. And I think that that's a really important piece of it. And if your networking is a smaller version of networking, if you're already, you know, saying, Nope, the big events are not for me, I'm doing the smaller, just reaching out to people, having coffee chats, doing some sort of one-on-one or small group conversation thing, then that allows you to really have those conversations that go a level deeper.
It allows you to get some market research in potentially. It allows you to make new relationships. It allows you to stay top of mind with other people, but also have other people stay top of mind for you. One of my favorite things is when someone comes to us and says, I need this. And it's something that we don't offer, but I can immediately say, well, we don't do that, but I know someone who does and who is great at it. And that's always such a great feeling to be able to connect people. And those connections, most of the time would not come about if it weren't for some of the networking events or networking one-on-one conversations that have happened.

Marie:
Yeah, for sure. Another, just like little kind of mindset hack, I guess that has helped me is, you know, I'm coming into this conversation or opportunity or virtual or in-person room without these connections. And so the worst that happens is I still don't really have any of these connections. But the best that happens is maybe I meet like one person or two people who like, I really connect with and want to follow up with later for some kind of like one-on-one conversation. And so like, you know, you're already kind of at the bottom of the curve, right? Like it's only going to get better from here or stayed the same and that's fine, you know? So, how do you actually do this? Where do you look for these relationships? So I mean, I really obvious place, and this is like, hopefully not so scary because you already know these people is like past clients that you loved. Like those past clients that you love, like great. Have you ever had a conversation with them that wasn't business focused? Maybe like take them out to coffee, virtual coffee or in-person coffee sometime and just like talk as humans and just get to know each other because you never know what's going to come up that conversation, you know, this person could hire you again. They could refer you to someone else. They could become the godmother of your child. Like you don't know what's going to happen.

Jessi:
Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, the strangest relationships can pop out of something that started off as, Hey, we had a working relationship once and then it just evolves into something else. That's beautiful in its own way and in a different way. I think another way, another place where you can network without feeling like you have to go to some big, intimidating event or if you are in the extrovert camp and you're like, I can't wait until those a big events open back up, something you can do in the meantime while you're waiting inside like everyone else is to look at the other areas where you express your creativity. It may be something that's tangential to the work you do. For example, Maria and I hang out in a lot of fiction writing communities because we also write fiction lo and behold, a lot of fiction writers are also copywriters and content creators.
And so that's allowed us to build our referral network up through talking about something that we love that is not directly related to our work. We can have a conversation about Sci-fi or our latest fantasy novel, and also it can, it can delve into, Oh, Hey, well, what type of copywriting do you do? So that if you know, we're booked, we have somewhere to send them. But also other activities as well, you know, where do you like to spend your time and where can you create friendships in those spaces? Because often the connections that benefit our business, they don't always come from business relationships. They come from friends, they come from being a part of a community. They come from stepping either actually, or virtually outside your door and seeing where you can build just relationships in general.

Marie:
Yeah. Um, also, you know, take a look at other business owners that could benefit from a mutual partnership. So, you know, website designers, SEO, researchers, something like that, where they do something that's related to copywriting, but isn't copywriting. And oftentimes they are looking for someone to refer to. That could be really great area for partnerships that are mutually beneficial. Of course there's a lot of virtual communities, you know, there's Facebook groups, there's discord servers, there's subreddits, you name it. There are virtual communities that doesn't have to that's, you know, COVID proof for you to go ahead and dive in. And that's a great place too for you to like, get to know a few people and then see what's interesting. And then you can just direct message some people sometimes and just say like, Hey, I liked that you wrote this, do you want to chat sometime?
And then also the other place that I find really can bear some fruit, um, is long-term community is like with some kind of commitment, like a six month mastermind or a membership program it's like month to month to month, or some kind of like business focused group where you're all business owners and, you know, you get together once a month over zoom or in person or whatever, where like there's a commitment there and you actually get a chance to make those relationships because if you are an introvert and big groups are exhausting for you, they become less exhausting for you once you actually know the people and have friendships with them.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think the one other thing I want to add is if you do decide that larger events are for you or something you want to sprinkle in. One of the things that's been really beneficial for me is to two things actually that come to mind. Number one is to go in with one specific goal. So often if it's a networking event, especially if it's one where Marie's not there, because she's like my safe person, I'm like, okay, at least I have one person to talk to. But if it's just me going to an event I'll often go in and I'll say, okay, if I get one person who I can have a conversation with after this event and reach out to it will have been a success. It doesn't have to be a big goal. It doesn't have to be, I want to meet 20,000 people and add a bunch of people to my email list and also have like 10 coffee chats lined up. Like, no, it can be, I want to have one real tangible conversation with another person where I feel like we connect person to person.
So set a goal for yourself and make that goal something that feels attainable, especially if you do fall into the camp where networking events feel, especially big networking events, feel difficult, you don't need to also set a difficult goal for yourself. That's just adding to the pressure that you're going to feel. And the other thing I wanted to say as we sort of wrap this episode is, that writers have a tendency often by the nature of their work to be on an Island. And it's so powerful to step off of that Island, even if it's difficult sometimes into, you know, get in your boat and go to another Island for a little while and then come back. I've been playing a lot of animal crossing so I speak in islands now. And it can be hard.
And the other thing that's worked for me is I'm going to put a plug in here real quickly although I think it's something I was intuitively doing even before I knew the methodology behind it is, for Todd Herman's, Alter Ego Effect. I think he articulates it much better in the book, but the whole idea of it is that you essentially create an alter ego for yourself where you stepped into that persona, especially when you're in places where there's a little bit of friction and it doesn't feel easy and natural. And that's something that I have used when I go to networking events to make it seem less scary and less intimidating because I would often much rather stay home and read a book. But when I step into the persona of someone who really does step up to a networking event and enjoy themselves, it allows me to enjoy myself. And, if you do find bigger events, frustrating, intimidating, exhausting, I highly recommend that you give that book a read because it may give you a different perspective on stepping into situations that feel a little difficult.

Marie:
Yeah. We'll put the link in the show notes.
So quickly time for your homework. First of all, before we dive in, I want to just explain the idea of lead and lag metrics. So lead metric is something that essentially you can control. Like I want to buy a ticket to one networking event this quarter or whatever, right. Lag metric would be I want to get 14 clients out of that event. Right? You can't control that like, so I would encourage you to take a look at the lead metrics, set a goal that feels good to you for networking. It could be any type of, you can redefine networking in a way that works for you. And also then, you know, as you set that goal for like what you're gonna do on the lead metric side, also set a goal for how you're going to approach it. Like Jessi said, right? Like I just want to get one conversation out of this, or I want to meet one new friend, or I just want to show up in a way that I'm proud of. Or I want to feel better about some of the stories in my brand voice and sharing them in a, like, it doesn't even have to be anything that leads to anything concrete. So whatever it is for you set that goal, put it somewhere that you will remember it and go forth.

b>Jessi:
And really just think about it from the perspective of getting off that Island. And you can always come back to it once you're done.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, Northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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