Making Friends & Being Kind is Good for Your Freelance Career

The other day, I tweeted something that got more engagement than anything I’ve ever tweeted before.

It said: “Freelancer math: Connections + conversations + being nice = $”
I think it was popular because it distills a fairly complex concept into a simple idea, which is:
If you make friends, regularly talk to other people who do similar work or who understand your work, and are kind to them—it often translates into positive outcomes (and sometimes, that means work.)
It probably still seems like a fairly vague idea though. Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, so I just make friends online and then somehow it magically translates to money?”
Not exactly. I’ve talked about the importance of community before, but this time I want to give you some actionable ideas on how you can make this “math” work for your business right away.
Be Deliberate
When you work alone, it’s easy to stay in your own little bubble and only chat with your friends, family, and current clients. Personally, I’ve been there and done that. It’s fine, but it’s lonely sometimes.
Over the past year, however, I’ve found that being deliberate about making friends and talking/meeting with people outside my bubble usually results in amazing thing: Aside from talking with some incredible people I admire and appreciate, it's also lead to new opportunities for my business.

And that kind of makes sense when you think about it.
People tend to recommend people they know rather than total strangers in most situations. If you had to recommend someone for an opportunity, would you suggest a random acquaintance that you’re not all that familiar with, or would you recommend someone you personally know that is good at the work they do?
The latter, every time.
Now, I have to say: Getting referrals and introductions isn’t my main goal in talking to other people. I don’t do it because I ultimately want them to give me work or open doors for me. I do it because I genuinely like talking to them—and the extra stuff is just gravy. But guess what? The positive impact it makes on my business is a lovely side effect.
Here are some of the things you can start doing to be more deliberate about making friends and starting conversations online:

  • Scheduling Skype dates with fellow writers/internet friends
  • Meeting up with a fellow freelancer for coffee or co-working or conferences
  • Participating in conversations on Slack channels or Facebook groups on a regular basis 

These are all things I do on a regular basis—but again, I’m not doing it because I’m hungry for business. I do it because it’s good for me to take my nose out of my daily work and talk to some other humans—plus, I enjoy it. I want to hear what other people are working on, what their workdays look like, what projects they're excited know, things you'd talk about with a co-worker.
Quality Over Quantity
You don’t have to have oodles of friends and exhaust yourself catching up with everyone all the time—instead, focus on quality over quantity. Make time for the people online you actually like, stay in touch with them, and work on being a good friend to them.
Devote a few minutes of the time you spend on social media each day to talking to people—not just lurking and liking. Participate.
Follow some people you like on social media and go back and forth with them. Shoot them an email and ask how their projects are going. Be genuine in your interest.
As you talk to people on a more regular basis, you’ll form closer relationships (and hopefully friendships) with a core group of people you care about. This group of connections will eventually come to know you for who you are and what you do—and you’ll be more top-of-mind when they need to recommend someone who does what you do.

I wrote more extensively about this here (look specifically at the section on referrals.)
Again, it’s gravy—it’s not the reason you do it. People have pretty good BS detectors and they’ll see right through you if you try to forge a relationship for the wrong reasons.
Make an Effort to Make Friends

The bottom line: Human connections are valuable as a freelancer—even if there’s no immediate financial payout. The more friends you make, the more connections you establish—the larger your social web becomes.
Sometimes, that translates into opportunity. Other times, it’s just nice to have when you’re in need of someone who “gets” you and your work. Either way, it’s important.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and for your business is to make friends, to start conversations, and to be a kind person. It’ll pay in more than one way.

This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.