How writing helped me build a network
Working as freelancer anywhere in the world would be a challenge but as a foreigner with little or no German language skills, it was doubly so for me to begin with. I had too many disadvantages back then in 2010: I had no work experience in Germany or Europe, my German language skills were faltering, I had a five year gap in my resume and I didn't have a local white collared network to tap on like my peers (local freelancers) typically would their contacts from internships, alma mater, friends and family.
Looking for ways to reach out, I was clear that I didn’t want to resort to the repetitive and wearisome ‘hi, please find attached my resume…can we meet to discuss…’ emails that would instantly put me as one in the crowd.
So, what to do?
I resorted to blogging/writing. I was never a writer, although I did well in compositions and essays in school and university. I used to pen down thoughts to send my (future) self a time capsule, which I loved, but really, nothing more. Yet I was fairly well read and aware. So, I shared my ideas and viewpoints in short blogs with the intention of connecting with a select group of relevant people. I wrote about hobbies, travels and general lifestyle-related, non-controversial topics (which had nothing to do with the projects I was pitching for).
Over time these little blogposts turned into conversation openers. They began to open up spaces in the invisible walls people built around themselves in the name of being ‘local’. The blog topics were either fun or useful and written to reveal personality, aptitude and attitude - key elements a resume may fail to reveal.
Through my blogs I shared my personal views and experiences, often disclosing my flaws, follies and failures even. Whatever I wrote came from a space of honesty and authenticity. I chose to be seen human as opposed to being that super-human freelancer who had an opinion and panacea for every business situation. My readers responded in their own unique ways. Sometimes with comments, sometimes with questions and sometimes no reaction at all. The replies or comments didn’t necessarily mean that a project was looming and similarly a lack of reply didn’t mean disconnection either. Often the reticent readers have filled my work calendar with exciting projects that I hoped for. Important is, that a human connection is established. Important is, that the reader has a chance to browse the mind of a freelancer in a nonintrusive way. Important is, that you stand out amidst people using similar keywords/descriptors in their resume and pitching for the same space/assignment as you.
How to gauge oneself as a Writer?
Over the past years I have come to realize that the ultimate response I was looking for was not the push of a like button or a re-share but the clinching of a valuable project. So the common metrics associated with the success of a blog such as comments, likes and re-posts didn’t seem to really matter that much to my motives in freelancing. I can only assure you that subtle changes in perception and reception become evident as you continue to do what you do through the ups and downs of your independent work life.
Over the years, many freelancers (particularly expats in Germany) have asked me how I go about finding work – the answer to that is a combination of many factors such as the right place, time, references. Eventually the work you do brings you further work and references. But writing can be an effective door opener.
An ice breaker.
A conversation starter.
A relationship builder.
Writing for me is a way of thriving. A way of kindling one’s network from time to time. A subtle way to grab mind space. A gentle way to nudge the reader to engage with you.