Social networks and freelancing

work from home Pallavi Rao says freelance writers should utilise social networking sites

Social networks and freelancing


“‘Are you on Facebook?’ is a question I kept hearing all the time,” says Dr. Nishi Viswanathan, Director and Chief Content Officer at Chillibreeze, a content development firm. “I was a ‘Linked In’ member but Facebook seemed to be the new in-thing. Through the site, I can keep in touch with all the good writers in our network without having to send individual emails. At Chillibreeze, we went one step further and now are active on Twitter too.”

Writers have quickly realised that there’s more to social networks than just catching up with friends and reconnecting with long-lost schoolmates.  Joining the right writers’ groups on networks like Orkut, Facebook or Twitter can make all the difference between your landing that plum writing assignment and being jobless next month. A search for ‘writing’ related communities on Orkut throws up upwards of 380 results, while a similar hunt on Facebook gives you 500 plus results.

Picking the right one
So how does one sift the good from the dead? Here’s a quick checklist to help writers pick the right networks.
*Check for activity levels – when was the most recent post made?
* Check for membership levels – how many members are there in the community? 
* Quality check – it’s not just how many, but how good. Are the posts relevant or are they mostly spam? Are there questions but no answers?
* Is there a mentor or an active moderator who drives discussions?
* Does the network have job or project postings?
* Is there a space for writers from a city, to interact, so you can meet in the real world if needed?

Used well, such networks can help you with everything from finding a publisher for your manuscript to attending a writing workshop to getting a full time writing job or a short-term assignment with a prized client.

Connect with clients
LinkedIn, Ryze and other more ‘serious’ networks have gained huge popularity among the consultant, self-employed and freelancer segment because of their ability to expand the reach to clients from around the world. These are networking sites in the truest sense.

So how does one make a mark? For starters, upload a good profile, get recommendations from past clients and provide links to samples of your best work – all great ways to make a good first impression on a prospective client.

So why haven’t we seen more of writing-related social networking sites in India?
Social networking sites meant exclusively for the writer community are sadly lacking in the online space in India. There are plenty of forums overseas as part of larger sites or sections of smaller writing websites. In India, though, such forums often come as enablers for offline branches of write groups based in different cities and don’t have too much activity on a daily basis.

One reason for this is that being writer driven there is no overall mentor or guide available to help newbies and freelancers who are just starting out. A few regulars end up responding to most queries, giving visitors to such forums a very one-sided view.

Emerging trends
There are sites like Chillibreeze.com which offer more than just a casual chat/bulletin board service. This website, launched last year, has managed to capture both the online and offline networking space with services like their expert reviews, which use empanelled experts to give writers detailed feedback on their writing. The peer review sections, which leverage the presence of the 2000 plus members of the site and the 5000 plus members of their parent company site Chillibreeze.com, has taken off in a big way.

The company also organises offline workshops with experts, and writer meets for more informal networking.

Priya Kaushik, who organised a Travel Writing Workshop conducted by an American trainer, and a writers’ meet up, Write Meet, in Delhi recently says, “Though most writing jobs can be done virtually, more often than not, writers feel the need to meet in the real world. We are able to successfully leverage our online social networking space to inform writers of events we are having offline. Writers in turn make use of their networks on social forums to tell their peers and colleagues about such workshops, ensuring that we reach out the maximum number of writers. It’s the perfect mix of ‘social’ aspects meeting ‘networking’ interests of serious writers.”

Social networks are clearly more than a way for the freelance writer to break the isolation and monotony of working alone sans colleagues and coffee machine banter.
They are the new way to move up that workplace ladder, connect with experienced professionals you may otherwise never have had the chance to interact with and build a portfolio of work you can be truly proud of.

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