This week I’ve been to a fiction editors mini-conference, superbly organised by the lovely Carrie O’Grady and Sarah Calfee. It was a great opportunity for a lovely day of CPD and networking. I can hear some of you scoffing at the placement of “networking” and “lovely” in the same sentence. I get it. Networking used to be a word that put the fear of God into me. What was it? How the hell was I supposed to do it? Why should I do it? Thankfully, as a not very senior member of staff in a very inward-facing department of my old company, it wasn’t something I had to do very often. On the rare occasions I was made to go to a conference or other event, I usually stood around talking to the people I’d come with from my own team, wondering how many free glasses of wine or canapés we could take before someone noticed.
But now, all is different. I’m supposed to be a Proper Businesswoman, and, whether I like it or not, that means I have to do networking. It turns out I like it a lot. Gone are the days of awkwardly nursing a glass of terrible chardonnay while men in suits talk to each other about things I neither understood nor cared much about. It seems that networking, if you love what you do and don’t often get a chance to chat in person about it, and are pretty plugged in to an online community, mostly involves squealing “It’s you! I know you from Twitter!” at people and telling the kinds of stories that are only remotely interesting to those in the same profession as you.
These days, I take any opportunity to network, because it’s SO MUCH FUN. I’m aware that it’s not quite so much fun for everyone – many editors are much less gobby more introverted than me, and I know networking can be a struggle. If that’s you, you may need to figure out strategies to make the whole thing less horrifying (the SfEP blog has a great guide to surviving a conference as an introvert). But I think that’s definitely worth doing, if you can. And that’s not just because of the aforementioned fun. Networking is a valuable part of marketing your business, because you are your business. If you want to grow your business, you have to make sure people know you exist, and that doesn’t just include your potential customers. Editors are generally helpful, kind people, and when an editor can’t take on a job, perhaps because they’re too busy or don’t feel they’re the right fit for the project, they often want to be able to point the client in the direction of someone else. If nobody knows you, that person is not going to be you. But if you’ve made an effort to get to know people and let them get to know you, you never know what opportunities will come your way.
Oh, and should you be within easy reach of Newcastle and would like to test out my Networking is Good theory, why not buy a ticket for the SfEP NE mini conference on 22nd May? It’s going to be fabulous, and it will be even better if you’re there. Yes, you 😊.