Freelance Blog + Tips & Tricks

Help, Don’t Hinder, Fellow Freelance Writers

When I tell people I teach a class on freelance writing and wrote an eBook with tips for fellow writers, the common response is “great, but don’t you worry about creating even more competition for yourself?”

Not really.

That’s not to say I’m arrogant enough to believe I’m untouchable. Far from it. However, I gladly dole out advice via this blog and my eBook, share leads via email and Twitter, and participate in forums. Here are several reasons why it actually makes sense to cozy up the competition (if you choose to see them that way – I see them more as colleagues) and help your fellow freelancers.

• Realistically, one person can’t do it all.
Even with the challenges of the changing media landscape, there are plenty of opportunities to go around if you’re resourceful and hard working. I’m not always the right person for every freelance gig, and I’d much rather help someone else find a gig that’s the perfect fit for them than deal with the frustration a project that isn’t quite right for me. After all, each writer offers a slightly different set of ideas and experiences. When someone lands a great gig, it’s a triumph for them and also a mini-triumph for us knowing that great projects are still out there (and perhaps that we helped a little).

• Sharing fosters a sense of community.
Writing and freelancing are two very solitary activities. However, chatting with other writers and creative types via email or Twitter makes it feel less isolating. More experienced writers have helped me because of their desire to participate in the broader writing community. It’s like blogging: you can have great content, but it’s often when you start linking to others and participating in the larger conversation that things really start to take off.

• Helping others positions you as someone in the know.
Full disclosure: when I see a listing for something that screams “Apply for me, Susan!! You are the one we want,” I don’t broadcast the link all over Twitter. A girl’s gotta earn a living, after all. But I frequently share ads for great-sounding gigs that are outside my areas of expertise or my geographic area. Emailing it to someone else or sharing on a forum also lets others know that I’m plugged into the industry. As a fringe benefit, I’ve been interviewed, invited to guest post, and spoken on panels as a result of this reputation.

• It’s just good business and good karma.
Smart business-people know they can’t afford to ignore (or worse, alienate) competitors. When you offer someone a juicy bit of advice or throw them a useful lead, it’s more likely that they’ll do the same for you in the future. Even if that person doesn’t offer up help in the future, the universe often has a way of rewarding people who help out others. Case in point: a few years ago, when business was slow and it seemed like my marketing efforts were going nowhere, I devoted some of my extra time to volunteering. Business eventually picked up (and stayed busy). Certainly my marketing tasks played a role, but I suspect there was also a bit of karmic turn-around.

Now, there is a limit to how much help you can reasonably be expected to give. If someone requests information that’s readily available elsewhere or asks to name-drop with an editor and you aren’t comfortable with that, you can politely steer them elsewhere. But overall, I’m a big believer in spreading around the wealth.

What do you think? How much are you willing to help other freelancers and what are your reasons for doing so? Flickr photo courtesy of Eduardo Deboni

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Help, Don’t Hinder, Fellow Freelance Writers + Tips & Tricks