A Little Help from My Freelance Writing Friends…

Do you ever stop to wonder why you’re wasting so much time doing things that don’t put food in the fridge?

Why are you screwing around commenting on some joker’s blog while the fine folks at Discover are perfecting ways to stab you in the chest with an interest rate ice pick that barely avoids running afoul of the new CARD Act provisions.

You’re going to get old and when you do, you’re going to be staring at a pantry that contains little more than canned tuna and store brand mac and cheese if you don’t get your you-know-what together. So, why are you answering some question to help someone else on LinkedIn?

What’s with taking ten minutes out of your Thursday to IM back and forth with someone you’ll probably never meet face-to-face when you have deadlines and paying clients?

Why are you wasting midnight oil and adding to your sleep deficit just to write a guest post for someone?

Blah, blah, blah. Etc.

We talk about community in this amorphous Web 2.0 sense. We talk about the “freelance writing community”. All of that community comes with a price tag. Hours. Precious, precious hours, minutes and seconds. And time is money. Every moment spent being friendly and contributing is real life cash money you’re not making.

You could make the argument that having big virtual arms that hug the population of Writersville is good for business in the way it increases your recognition and credibility.  You’d probably be at least a little right, too.  But I think most of us could find more efficient ways of achieving those ends if we decided to pull the plug on making friends and participating.

So, why don’t we retreat into our individual cocoons and devise improved client-facing marketing strategies instead of setting aside time to share our thoughts about writing with other writers.  Why are we bothering reaching out to newbies in the field to offer our perspectives?  Why do we opt to be part of a community?

Ego? Maybe for some.  Not for me.  I’ve been just as full of myself while sleeping on a buddy’s sun porch on a fast-leaking air mattress without a dollar to my name as I am when I’m dispensing gems of wisdom from an online platform.  I may have an ego, but I’ve had it since I was wee and history has proven that it’s unrelated to anything I actually do.

Companionship? Maybe that’s a big motivator for people.  It’s not really my thing, though.  I’m not a misanthrope, but I’m close enough.  I could handle solitary confinement for a year or two if it wasn’t for the fact I have two adorable tiny tots and a bad-ass wife.  I’m not the kind who needs a large number of amigos to survive.

A Genuine Desire to Help Others? This one does apply to me–at least a little.  I like the idea that some of my participation could actually benefit someone.  I try to be helpful.  I really do.  However, I don’t wake up in the morning hoping to find a way to better the lives of all freelance writers in a meaningful way.  Some people do.  Not me.

Somehow, though, all of those reasons and some that I didn’t mention sort of combine to create this pull toward being meaningful and at least somewhat actively involved.  Try as I might, I’ve never been able to put my finger on why I feel that way, though.

Last week, I really figured it out.

A series of wacky events, unforeseen expenses and a history of spending like I am a Rockefeller and my wife is a DuPont  mixed with my traditionally poor approach to cash flow management.  Of course, these bits of nastiness hit right as our planned vacation date with the non-refundable airline tickets approached.  In other words, I needed some dough until a chunk of my A/R paid up.  Fast.

Shaking the usual trees landed me a few great projects–alas, none will pay until next month.  Even the oft-dreaded content mills weren’t going to get the cash turned around fast enough.

I decided to send out a few emails to a handful of special clients with good connections and to a few of those writers who comprise part of the “community”.  I didn’t pull punches.  I explained my temporary predicament with those folks because I trusted them and because I wanted them to appreciate just how serious I was about making something work.  The results were fantastic.

One of my virtual amigos was kind enough to send out a series of emails to people in his social circle who might be able to take advantage of specific things I do that he does not.  That worked.

Another writer–someone I’d paid for work in the past–was just as cool sitting on the other side of the table as she was when I was writing her a check.  She kicked a nice gig in my direction and paid me in a hurry.

Another writer who’s part of the “community” helped me out, landing a rush project for me.

You get the idea.  Thanks again, folks.

When I needed something, other members of the “community” made sure it was there for me.

It was almost like–gulp–having friends.

And really, that’s why we should be doing all of this stuff.

The social media and social marketing worlds are rapidly becoming a numbers game for many people.  People are trying to build these “connections” that consist of little more than one automated tool agreeing to befriend another automated tool.  Bob’s mannequin is agreeing to be “friends” with Sheila’s robot.  It’s a drag.  And, to tell you the truth, it’s pretty damned stupid.

The whole idea of networking, communicating, collaborating and sharing really only works when it’s a sincere person-to-person thing.

I have a few thousand Twitter followers.  I could’ve broadcast an SOS to that list every hour on the hour for three days.  Do you know what would’ve happened?  The same handful of people I emailed would’ve probably been the only ones to respond.

I guess I’m extending an invitation with this post.  It’s an invitation to operate on a more sincere level than others might sometimes use.  It’s an invitation to provide something of value to others–to really make human contact.  That’s not just because you’ll have someone to hit up when you confront an issue.  It’s also because you’ll be able to help other people when they need it.

In the end, that’s how we all get by, isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s a Lennon/McCartney Beatles song, but I think Joe did it better than anyone…


3 responses
  1. Veronika W. Avatar

    Getting the “business” out of the way can be difficult; having the network of people who actually understand what you’re going through can be terrific…and beneficial when you need support. Don’t know if others can really understand that all the time, but we writers do!

  2. NessaNix Avatar

    I loved reading this piece. It’s like you were in my head. This is exactly how I feel (and BTW, I too, prefer the Joe Cocker version!)

  3. pamela wilson Avatar

    As I was reading this post I couldn’t help but feel you wrote it just for me! I am that person who spends countless unpaid hours doing things for others, posting, commenting, etc, and I never really knew why. “Because it helps my profile,” I tell myself. Funny, though, I had more work than I could handle before I started all this, and I still have more work than I can handle. It’s not like I needed any of this to help build my profile or bring in the jobs. I am still yet to figure out why I do what I do – I think I am waiting for ‘something’ to happen from it all and then I can say, “that’s why I do it.”

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