I want to tell you a story…
In 2008, I pitched an article to a magazine. It was immediately accepted.
- In January 2010, it continued to languish in the slush pile awaiting actual publication.
- In March 2010, I got an email saying the magazine was cutting down on its number of articles per issue…meaning I would wait even longer.
- In May 2010, I went to a training event and met a guy who knew the editor of that magazine.
- In December 2010, I edited an article for that guy I met — an assignment for the magazine.
- The next day I got a note that my article would get published in the next issue.
- In August 2010, I went to the same training event. The editor also attended and we had a chance to talk.
- Since then, I’ve gotten an average of an assignment a month from that editor.
Since 2009 I’ve been sending pitches to a regional travel magazine with not much in the way of responses. At a recent conference I sat with the editor and he asked me to pitch him some ideas we spitballed.
The moral of this story is events and conferences will jumpstart your freelancing career. You should go to them as often as your budget allows.
I’ve identified four kinds of events that can help you advance your freelancing business:
These are industry events where writers, editors and vendors get together for a few days to talk shop. Activities include lectures, panels, intensive trainings, and often chances for formal networking such as one-on-one pitch sessions. They tend to be pricey, but are probably the most effective career event.
Get-togethers for fans of a specific activity, genre or hobby, these don’t focus on writers — but writers about a related topic can get some good attention and sell a few books. You’re also likely to meet editors and business owners who can buy your work after a good chat.
Some hobbies (including martial arts — my other hobby) have a culture of getting together to learn more about the hobby. These are like conventions, only with a strong focus on learning rather than entertainment or socializing. They’re a great way to meet enthusiasts and professionals in a field where you have expertise.
Never underestimate the power of a party. In your 20s, you went to meet members of the opposite gender (or whatever gender you prefer). As you begin your career, go to meet people who might want your services. Don’t be a jerk about it, but always keep your antennae up while you’re at these.
What are your experiences with conferences and events?