Paying It Forward in Your Writing Career

Many people are aware of the concept of “pay it forward.” Maybe you’ve even done it yourself. Here’s a common example. In the drive-through lineup, you buy your coffee and, feeling generous, tell the cashier, “I’d like to pay for the person behind me.” Perhaps that person is so grateful for your act of kindness that they tell the cashier they’ll pay for the next person and so on.

So what does that have to do with writing? It’s the motivation for what I do — sharing information, via social media, about freelance writing, markets and the latest trends in the newsroom. I do it to help other freelance/content writers. Why? Because I owe my career to other writers who taught me the nuances of building my freelance business, connecting me to clients, answering my questions and referring me to teaching opportunities. Without these mentors and incredible people, I wouldn’t be writing this column now.

I’ve always felt that freelance writing isn’t about competition as much as it is about helping others. Any writing listserve, Facebook group and organization I belong to is about collaboration and sharing information. Someone posts a link to a story they wrote and dozens of people “like” and praise it. Someone else asks for help and there’s a flood of information and support. This is the way I’ve always loved to work and appreciate that my profession is one that both celebrates the achievements of and lends a helping hand to others.

I have always been an early adopter of technology, including social media. I signed up for Facebook in its early stages, later launching my Facebook business page. Then I joined LinkedIn and Twitter. I created accounts on other social media platforms but they just didn’t click for me, which in this case worked out perfectly, because as it turned out, I only needed three to effectively market myself.

Along the way, I learned an important lesson about social media for creating a professional platform. I was at a networking function and met a well-known newspaper editor. I asked if I could add him to my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. “You’re not one of those people who tweets about what you’re making for dinner, are you?” he asked, “because I don’t have time for that.”

His comment made me think about the “why” of social media. Why do we post on social media? To share recipes? If that’s what you do, I hope you’re a food writer or critic or a chef, because, if you just like eating and you want to gain credibility as a professional writer, you should probably limit your culinary posts to your personal Facebook friends.

I decided that I needed to be strategic and focus on who I wanted as my target market. At first, I thought it was potential clients and sometimes that happens. But truthfully, it was about me sharing information with other writers to help them. And after a while, I realized it was about paying it forward.

It can take a chunk of time to curate and share the information, so I streamlined the process. At first, I signed up for newsletters and blog post links, then changed my strategy, following those same people and groups on Facebook, thereby cutting back on the overwhelming amount of email I was getting. I also set up Facebook to see their posts first in my newsfeed.

I realized I had to figure out how to continue doing this and still have time to make money freelancing so I’ve honed it further, posting once a day and setting my posts up ahead of time. To disseminate my own information, and although there was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, I use Hootsuite and the Google Chrome extension, Hootlet, allowing me to input one post to three social media streams at the same time and set specific dates and times to release the information. I use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but you can choose whichever three social media outlets work best for you. Currently I’m setting up posts for the end of August. If it’s time-sensitive, I post it the same day.

I could tell you about the links I’ve shared, but Twitter says I’ve had 16.2K tweets since I started, so I won’t. But I will say that 99 percent of these contain information I’ve shared to help other writers, sticking with the platform and continuing to pay it forward with gratitude!

If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to follow me on one or all three of my social media streams:

Suzanne Boles, Write Connection on Facebook

Suzanne Boles on LinkedIn

@suzanneboles on Twitter

Who knows? You might just find your next client there!

Suzanne Boles is an award-winning freelance writer with 20-plus years experience in writing, teaching and coaching writers. Her articles and personal essays have appeared in numerous trade and consumer magazines and blogs on topics ranging from freelance writing to franchises to foodservice and more. She is adept at turning business research papers into reader-friendly articles. She enjoys diverse topics and loves researching and writing about new trends.