Friday, July 01, 2005

Being Caught in the Net is Good for any Business

Many people know what I used to do before going completely insane and joining the unpredictable life of becoming a self employed writer. I was a collector, you know me if your bills have ever been late. But I just didn’t call on people who were a little late, most of my customers were considered “bad debt,” six or more months past due. When I ended my first “career,” I was working for an in house agency at Citibank. I wasn’t just a collector (or an account manager as I was officially titled), I was a darn good one.

What does that have to do with writing, you ask? Not much. My road to the writing life was a long and twisted one and when I did land here I took to heart what every writer in the business told me to do- I wrote what I knew. I started at small business publications and worked my way into what I really love-investigative journalism. But it wasn’t just the advice of writers that assisted me, I leaned on my business experience too, using the first rule of business: networking.

What they say in the corporate world is true: it’s not usually what you know, but who (that is if you don’t have something politically threatening to hold over your boss’ head). And since I’m not into blackmail, I learned early on in business that it’s the contacts you make that will help you go far.

The art of networking has helped me in writing as well. When I first got started, I had the names and numbers of 2-3 writers I had met at writer’s conferences while I was still working my day job. One of those contacts led me to the Kansas City Writers Group, a large critique group full of talent, which helped me gain two things I needed badly to start a new career at age 35: more contacts and more knowledge. I’m almost seven years into my freelance career and I can still trace most of my current editors and contacts back to that first networking opportunity.

The rest of them, such as new opportunities I’ve had recently, can be attributed to joining other groups, such as the Society of Professional Journalists and the Kansas City Press Club and the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). But I also didn’t get into the organizations trying to figure out who might lead me to a new assignment, I just allowed myself to relax at functions and I made friends. To me, that has been the most beneficial aspect of networking. I’ve also used all of the avenues available to advertise my services within those organizations.

When I first started out, not knowing which groups would give me the most “bang for my buck” (also a business term a manager I loathed used, but at least he taught me to do that), I did waste some money initially trying to figure out which ones would work best for me. However, like my experience in the business world, I did take something away from each and every one, even if I didn’t leave with a newfound friend. Now I’m a little more choosey about which groups to try, and which ones will give me that most bang for my hard earned buck.

Which brings me back to why some people would consider me insane. I still don’t make what I did eight years ago as a successful “account manager,” but I would much rather be a moderately financially successful writer than a well-paid collector any day.

But I confess: my husband and I collectively breathe a sigh of relief each month when all the bills just get paid, because I sure don’t want to have to receive one of those calls I once made.


Blogger Terri said...

And yet another great article!!

7:54 AM CDT  
Blogger Redundant Redactor said...

Liked the way you wrote that.
I've always thought that people might be more successful in organizations when they start thinking about how they can help the group instead of how the group can help them. And you have been of great help to the groups you were in.

9:07 AM CDT  
Blogger hooper2 said...

There's no guarantee that the cliche, "Do what you love and the money will follow" is always true. What is true, though, is doing what you love keeps misery at bay. Thanks for sharing evidence of this!

2:51 PM CDT  

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