How Not to Network

by Abby on July 27, 2011

NetworkingEarly in my freelance career, I took a writing class. One of the other students, “Kat,” was also a new freelancer. She was ballsy and brusque, the kind of person whose energy – negative or positive – took over whatever room she occupied.

A few weeks into class, she e-mailed me to ask for the contact info for an editor I was working with. It was one of my first national magazine assignments, and the piece wasn’t even published yet. Plus I didn’t know Kat that well. Against my better judgment, I gave her my editor’s info. I also asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing HER editor’s e-mail address at a different publication I was interested in pitching. Kat’s 3-word response: “Sorry. I forget.” Hmm, I’ll bet.

In my 15 years of freelancing, I have learned a thing or 2 about networking.
Lesson #1: Don’t be like Kat.
Don’t put someone in an uncomfortable position for your own personal gain without offering anything in return – even if it’s just a “thanks for the help.” (Which, BTW, I never got from Kat.)

Lesson #2: Offer to help without any ulterior motives. Perhaps I was at fault, too, for expecting a tit-for-tat exchange of contacts with Kat. If I know someone well, or even if I don’t know them that well but get the sense they’re a reputable person, I will happily share information with them. If you’re seeking sources for a story and I know someone, I’m glad to help. Want another opinion on your new web design? Done.

One clarification: always tell someone if it’s OK to use your name when contacting an editor or source. Just because I shared a contact’s e-mail address does not mean I am recommending you or your work. It’s never OK to say, “Abby Green suggested I call you” if you didn’t ask me first.

Lesson #3: Don’t be a jerk. This means that if a mutual friend or colleague sends someone your way – say, a niece who’s just graduated college and wants to be a writer – be nice. You’d think this would go without saying, but I’ve encountered enough people whose attitude is “Why the hell are you calling me?” to know better. Even alums of my alma mater! You can at least give them 10 minutes of your time, recommend a book or 2 and send them on their way with a “Good luck!” It’s good manners and good karma.

Lesson #4: Don’t make it all about you. Have you ever met someone who goes on and on about their lives or work without ever asking you a single question about yours? I have, and it’s not only irritating but alienating. If you do nothing but plug your book without ever asking me about my work, I will almost certainly never buy it.

Lesson #5: Don’t only call when you need something. Do you know people who only call you when they have a problem? Maybe they need help or maybe they just want to vent, but if that’s the ONLY time you ever hear from them, it gets old. Good, effective networking is not just about who needs what but about maintaining relationships. That could be “Hey, this article made me think of you” or, “Haven’t seen you on Twitter lately. What have you been up to?”

As a wise person who wrote an interesting book on marketing often says, “People do business with people they know, trust, and like.” It’s simple, it’s true, and it’s far too infrequently taken to heart.

What have you learned about networking? Any do’s and don’ts you’d care to share?

NEWS O’ THE DAY: Speaking of writing classes, my 6-week e-mail class, “Personal Essays that Get Published,” is open for registration NOW! Learn how to write, revise, and submit your personal experiences for publication. Students from every single class are getting published and paid for their writing, even if they never have before. And it’s a great way to network with other writers! Find out more and sign up here by Aug. 16.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie Mizzell July 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Great advice. Genuine and giving goes a long way. But we’ve all been burned a time or two. Is it bad that I want to punch Kat? And I’m not a fighter.


Abby July 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm

It’s OK, Angie, I don’t see her byline around anymore so I think karma came back around to bite her. 🙂


Kim July 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Abby, I think you just identified the reasons why blogging is such a success and such an awesome environment to write it. I could be wrong in saying this, but I have found the world of blogging to be a place where people aren’t so competitive in the sense that they are only out for themselves. Sure people leave comments and follow blogs, hoping to have it happen to them in return. But I think the majority of people blog and leave comments because it is a growing experience. In my mind I see it as a great big forum for discussion and sharing. It seems like everyone gains. I like this post so much and hope lots of writers read it!


It's Not Like a Cat July 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Great post and great advice–thanks!


Susannah November 8, 2016 at 12:23 am

Shiver me timbers, them’s some great inarnmftioo.


http://www./ November 14, 2016 at 7:37 am

Anon at 3.31 is right. You get what you vote for. The real problem in the UK is that the three main parties are in reality just one party.We live under a rotating dictatorship of the authoritian left.Paris Claims


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