If you're a writer, you likely want to make a living from your craft, but the idea of networking to market your skills or work may seem too intimidating for you. As a shy writer, I've had to develop the skills to connect with others to promote my work. Here are three quick tips to get you started.
Be No One Else But Yourself
Be No One Else But Yourself
Much of Western business culture is biased towards extroverts. It seems that you need to be outgoing, charming, and charismatic to really make it big. For a shy writer, this belief is not only intimidating, it's repulsive. It seems that we must become someone other than who we are to succeed. That creates an understandable resistance to the whole idea of making a living from writing.
Writers thrive most whenever they express themselves authentically. That's why it's important to walk into every networking event as yourself. If you're shy, be shy. If you hate small talk, don't do small talk. Simply be yourself in every interaction you have when meeting others to promote your work.
Of course, you may be asking "how can I be myself and still be sociable enough to succeed at networking?" The best way to defeat your anxieties about networking for your writing is to actually go and do it, as yourself.
Attend Two Networking Events a Month
In the same way that you didn't have to take a class in order to learn how to ride a bicycle, the best way to learn networking is to just do it. Find two open networking events happening this month in your local area, and then go to them. Ideally, space them two weeks apart so you can establish a rhythm to your routine.
A great resource for finding these events is Meetup.com. This is a site designed to connect like-minded individuals, so if you're a writer, look for writer's guilds, book clubs, and marketing groups to start.
If this idea stirs up your anxiety, then this should calm you: when you go, you don't have to talk to anyone. What you're doing is learning through immersion. Show up without attachment to any particular outcome. Your only goal is to get in the room.
At these events, you don't need to invent an icebreaker. Everyone is there for the same reason you are: to connect with others in business, so feel free to walk up to anyone and just say "hi". For that same reason, you may not have to do anything to have someone come up to you. As with riding a bike, you'll get used to networking with practice. Let your connections happen naturally, and be gentle with yourself.
Learn From The Experts
As critical as learning by doing is, don't forget to read up on what the experts have to say about connecting with people. I recommend Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People, the cardinal guide on communication for business and pleasure. Another great read is Nicholas Boothman's How to Make Someone Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, which uses an approach based on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Jody Aberdeen is a freelance writer and the author of the sci-fi romance Convergence. You can visit his page at www.jodyaberdeen.com or his blog, Another Odd Place For A Hill.