You Must Remember This

I once got stranded in Vermont with a boyfriend after a catastrophic storm. Electricity vanished. All roads closed. Meals comprised of bottled water and soggy pastrami sandwiches wrapped in plastic. Hotel California of the East, we laughed, until we teared, nearly tripping over candles lining the halls. On realizing we were stuck with no power, my last drops of evaporating smartphone juice were directed to a mad-dash round of calls to writer friends. Who could take over a website concept project on a tight two-day deadline?

Leaving my editor high-and-dry with a “sorry” was not an option. I had been in that spot before. I had seen other editors in that spot before, racing home frenzied to speed-read books and rattle out features. One thing I know for sure about freelancing: Failure to file? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Ring. Ring….Rinnng. Six percent battery remained, and, hand-swipe-across-forehead, an ideal writer friend picked up. I’ve never talked faster, spewing details and deadline. She was thrilled to have an extra gig. My editor was relieved to have a trusted replacement on-assign. I raved about my talented friend. I knew she’d perform, and she did (with sparkling on-time quality to boot).

That same friend has sent stuff my way a dozen times since. She gets it. It just feels better to share info and help people than to not.

Man, I try hard not to harp on what I know you, reader well versed in the science of life, already know. That, of course, would be an absolute waste of time, which none of us has to spare.

Yet, color me stunned, it does surprise me to a tremendous degree how often the one Golden Rule of freelance survival, if there ever was one, is overlooked, downplayed, and all but forgotten.

If there’s one motto to remember, embrace, and place under your pillow at night, let it be this: Don’t ever underestimate the power of relationships and referrals.

Since deciding to “take the plunge,”  it has surprised even me (and I’m a believer!) how much amazing work has popped into my lil ole e-mail in-box simply because a friend thought of me when a writing project cropped up. We’re talking all sorts of editorial projects (from blogging to ghost-writing e-books), and all sorts of friends (from besties to goodies I see tri-monthly at that Eataly catch-up chat sipping Malbec).

If you’re thinking of running your own writing business, the best thing you can possibly do is to keep being you, to reach out, and to connect. Be unapologetically, one hundred por ciento, genuinely yourself. No matter what. Of course there will be haters, and those who just don’t “get” you, and those who don’t like you, read you, or hire you. C’est ca. Lose yourself and you might as well call it quits.

There are two types of writers, I find.  There are cagey writers with beady eyes. They’re ultra-threatened and uber competitive. They ask how many Twitter followers you have. They hole away, hoard work, and hide information on what they’re up too. They never share. They’d leave a client gasping for air, or an e-mail cold in an in-box, rather than hand over a project that may help you.

Don’t be that writer. Not if you want to extinguish worry and stay in business.

Because then there are the comrade writers.  They never hole up, clam up, stiffen up, or close off. They fight the good fight to relinquish all fear. They understand that the biggest race out there is against yourself. They know that there’s more than enough work to go around, when you stay connected.

Trust me on this one: Relationships and Referrals, my dears.

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