Do you have a freelance writing squad? Can you name at least five editors and writers who support your work, give you opportunities and help your career grow?
A lot of early-career freelancers focus on getting clients and clips, or pitching those higher-paying gigs — but while you’re building your portfolio, you should also be building your squad.
Why do you need a freelance squad?
Freelance writing is often a solo act, and it’s no secret that a lot of writers are introverts. Who needs people when you have the blank page, right?
Well…you still need people, and I don’t just mean “that client you email once a week with a project status update.” Building a group of editors, writers and friends who both support and help you is essential to your freelance — and, dare I say, personal — growth.
Your squad is different from your network. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ve probably built up at least a small network: your current clients, your previous clients, that editor who invited you to pitch their publication, the freelancer you met at an event and friended on Facebook, etc.
But that doesn’t mean you have a squad. A network is aware of your existence. A squad wants you to succeed.
If you find yourself falling short of your income goal, for example, you could email someone in your network asking if they know of any gigs and they’d probably send a polite response back. Someone in your squad would already know you were looking for work and be ready with a potential new lead.
How do you find your squad?
You might have already found a few squad members without realizing it.
Do you have an editor who always replies quickly to your emails, gives you constructive feedback, asks you to contribute more work and passes along new opportunities? That person is on your squad.
You might have another editor or client who gives you steady work and pays on time, but never offers any bigger projects or higher-profile opportunities. That person is not on your squad. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t work for them, it’s just to note that they are not actively invested in helping you grow.
Same goes for other writers. You might already have a freelance bestie who is ready to offer an extra pair of eyes on a draft or recommend you for a new gig. You might know a writer who consistently promotes your work on social media or gives you good advice in a forum or Facebook group. These people could be your squad members.
If you don’t yet know those editors or writers, here’s how to find them:
- Keep pitching. You can’t meet an editor who loves your work until you pitch them.
- Join writing groups and online forums. Writing groups like Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den are often great places to get to know people. You can also join The Write Life’s Facebook community!
- Meet other freelancers in person. Go to conferences, join Meetup groups or ask local freelancers if they’d like to get a cup of coffee. Introverts: here are some good conversation starters to help build those IRL friendships.
A note about social media: Sites like Twitter used to be one of the best ways to meet other writers, but the way we use social media has shifted. Following or replying to someone on social media is not necessarily going to lead to a professional relationship the way it might have a few years ago. People are now building those kinds of relationships in private forums and online groups — which means you’ll need to figure out where those are and which ones are accepting new members.
#SquadGoals go both ways
Your squad is there to support you, but you need to support them as well.
If you know that a publication is hiring, it’s time to tell your friend that they might be perfect for this gig. If one of your most supportive editors puts out a call for pitches, you should respond — even if it’s to say “I wish I could take this on but I’m fully booked right now.”
Your goal as a writer is to build your career — but you can do a lot towards building your squad’s careers, too. Share their articles online. Recommend them to other people. Offer to be a beta reader and provide constructive feedback. Be present in the forums or Slack channels when they need to vent.
Be aware that good squads are often small. You can provide better support to a few select people than you can to everyone in your writing forum — you don’t have time to read everyone’s first drafts, after all. It might take a while to figure out who in your network should become a member of your core squad. (You might also have the experience of thinking you’re in someone’s squad when they consider you part of their larger network. Don’t take it personally.)
With a squad by your side, you’ll have a group of people whom you know you can trust. You’ll also be building the types of friendships and professional relationships that many people find in a traditional workplace. All of this will help you both personally and professionally — and, even if you are an introvert, having a squad will make your freelance career a lot more fun.
Do you have a freelance squad? How did you find your people? Share your #squadgoals in the comments!
Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer and a Senior Editor at The Billfold. Her debut novel, The Biographies of Ordinary People, was published in May 2017.