by Michelle Guillemard
Networking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people – particularly if you’re an introverted writerly type. I get it. When I started out as a health writer, I just wanted to sit in the safety and privacy of my own home, do my work, and not have to talk to anyone except my clients (and even then I preferred to email them).
Why? Maybe because I was a little shy (still am), lacked confidence in my skills, felt like I had nothing to offer, and was worried about wasting my precious, child-free hours on any task that wasn’t directly income-related.
It wasn’t until I finally bit the bullet and attended what turned out to be a really fun event, where I made some great friends, that I realised networking was well worth my time – and then some.
What exactly is networking?
Networking is communicating with other people, exchanging information and developing professional contacts. When you network, you’re making acquaintances and business associates – and you’re maintaining these relationships by keeping in touch regularly. The idea is that the relationship benefits you and them.
One very important reason to network is that it opens your mind to new ways of doing things.
You can connect with others who have different skills to you and learn a lot from them – and then reciprocate the favour. And, for that reason, networking with people outside of the health writing industry is really important, too.
As part of your networking efforts, aim to connect with people who have nothing to do with health writing! There will always be common ground – this could be the strategies you both use, your processes, the way you manage your finances. Find the link, and explore it together.
Offline networking (in ‘real life’)
Associations are a great place to find networking events – and you can check out my list of 20 health & medical writing associations to get you started.
Think outside the scope of health writing, and consider joining business associations, generic writing associations and local area groups. There’s no other way to do it other than to book a ticket and go. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how much fun you have and what you’ll learn.
You don’t have to wait for the next medical writing event near you to begin networking. There are plenty of ways to network online, starting today.
Online networking (social media)
Social media is the most powerful networking tool you have. You can use it to get advice, share advice, find work and refer work. One of the best ways to get started is to join active groups with high engagement (and friendly people who are happy to share advice).
All over the internet, there are groups about health writing, medical writing, styles of writing (copywriting, academic writing), social media, freelancing and more.
The best platforms are probably LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Plus. If you’re a freelance writer, you can join business networks and communities to meet likeminded people and identify opportunities to promote your business to potential clients.
Here are some relevant groups you can check out right now:
- PharmeMed – a new social network for people working in the pharmaceutical and related industries
- Freelance Jungle (lively Facebook group for Australian freelancers who also do ‘real life’ meetups)
- MedComms Networking (LinkedIn, UK-based)
- European Medical Writers Association Group (LinkedIn)
- Copywriting Training: Insights for Copywriters, Marketers, Advertisers, Bloggers, and Journalists (LinkedIn, global)
- Cheeky Scientist (private paid networking for PhDs)
You can read even more about online networking for medical writers here.
The benefits of networking
Here are some of my favourite benefits of networking:
- Gives you a benchmark – you can compare your skills, rates, processes, strategies and more with those of other writers who are at a similar stage to you
- Advice – all writers experience problems and concerns, so it can be helpful to share issues and advice with people who understand
- Social interaction – if you’re a freelancer, networking will give you the regular social interaction you crave
- Grow confidence – if you’re just starting out, meeting other people and learning how they got started can help you develop confidence in your own processes and strategies
- Skill development – networking outside of the industry, for example business lunches, can help to give you core skills and meet others in related fields
- Career development – networking with people in other companies and organisations can give you contacts for future job opportunities
- Personal development – meeting and interacting with different personalities, explaining what you do and why you do it, talking about yourself, and listening to others talk about themselves, are all great steps for personal development
- Business opportunities – if you’re a freelancer, networking can help you to book in more work through connecting with other writers who may refer jobs to you
- New ideas – develop new ways of working, new ideas about your processes, and even new directions for the future of your business
- Share stories – laugh about the same things, fight similar challenges
- Lifelong friendships – there’s no doubt you’ll become close friends with many people you meet through your networking efforts
A few more thoughts on networking
- Quality, not quantity – don’t be phased if events or groups have just a few people – it’s not how many people are there but what you get out of the experiences that counts
- Be proactive – networking won’t just happen – you need to make the effort to put yourself out there and find like-minded people to connect with
- Be open-minded – when you meet new people with different backgrounds and experiences, they’re bound to think a little differently to you – this is a good thing, as this brings you out of your comfort zone and helps you to explore new ideas
- Don’t spend too much time doing it – don’t put all your efforts into networking and making contacts when you really need to be getting on with work (or spending valuable time relaxing and not thinking about work!)
- Stay positive – steer clear of negative conversations as, more often than not, these will drain your energy
- Know why you’re networking – are you interested in making friends, learning new skills, sharing your insights, finding work, referring work? Work out why you want to network – and then you’ll be able to ask the right questions, share your best knowledge, and get the most out of the experience
What are three things you can do right now to increase your networking efforts?
This content is based on lesson 9 of our 12-day email course, Breaking Into Health Writing.