Whenever clients ask me if they need a social media presence in order to be successful as a freelance writer, I always tell them this: No, but it helps. A lot. In other words, if you have never set foot on a social app and you have no intention to doing so, there’s no one saying that your career as a freelance writer is doomed. It’s not. But, on the other hand, if the only thing holding you back from being a little more thoughtful about your social media presence is sheer stubbornness or the fact that you feel awkward about self-promotion, you’re probably only hurting yourself. You’re also probably overthinking it.
The fact that I have grown an organic and engaged social following over the years is part of why I believe I stand out from other freelance writing coaches, courses, or consultants. Journalism is exceedingly digital these days, and that means the ways in which editors think of story ideas, find writers, and network is increasingly digital as well. Being thoughtful about how you use social media makes you that much more likely to be on their radar. Who knows? Maybe you posting about a TV show you love or a house-cleaning gadget you’re obsessed with will encourage an editor to message you and ask you to write about it for them (these situations and similar ones have happened to me probably a dozen times).
Still, I get it. Changing how you approach social media can be daunting and overwhelming. That’s why I have a whole section on harnessing the power of social media and personal branding in my freelancing course, Zero To Freelance. It’s also why I encourage freelancers to start small by making tiny, low-cost changes to their social media profiles and habits that make a big difference. Here are three examples.
This one’s pretty simple, and something I remind myself of often. The more people associate you with something specific, the more they remember you. But association takes a bit of time, which means you have to get used to being a bit repetitive. This doesn’t mean you have to be annoying, though. Whether you choose to only use one color/font for text on Instagram stories, or you decide to host weekly Q&A sessions on the same day each week, the repetition will force people to remember you a little bit more than they would otherwise. Challenge yourself to form one repetitive habit or series on social media and you might be surprised how fast people (and editors) begin to remember you.
- Sharing a weekly round-up of your favorite stories on the internet each week and tagging the writes (helps build a network of freelancers/writers + helps people associate you with good work)
- Live-tweeting your favorite show (a show you’d like to write about, perhaps…) each week
- If you’re working on a book, sharing a graphic which updates your audience on your word count every day, or every week
Whatever you do, they key is to be consistent. It takes people longer to associate certain things with others than you’d think.
Update All Your Profile Images
This is the first thing I tell people to do when it comes to social media, because it’s ridiculously easy. If you have a different profile picture on all of your active, public social media platforms, update them so they’re all the same image. Why? Well, believe it or not, there are almost certainly people who would know who you are by your profile picture even if they didn’t remember your name. That’s why having one photo across every public platform ensures that people can glance at the image, even when it’s teeny tiny, and know it’s you. If you don’t like your current photo, have someone you trust take new headshots of you sometime soon (or invest a little money and have a professional do the job).
Focus On One Platform
Look, I hate Twitter. I just do. Is it entertaining? Yes. Can it be hilarious and amazing? Absolutely. It is an excellent tool when it comes to finding editors and story opportunities, and promoting your work? Yes, yes, and yes. But it can also be miserably depressing and generally exhausting. So while I have an active profile that I update every now and then, I don’t invest a ton of my time in it. I don’t even have the app on my phone. Instead, I focus on Instagram. Should I attempt TikTok and harness the active audience there? Probably, yes. But I also know myself, and I know that I don’t feel great about adding another social platform to my plate right now.
Maybe one day I’ll feel like I have the capacity to try something new or to spend more time on Twitter, but I don’t right now, and that’s OK. I’ve still been able to build, nurture, and capitalize on a personal brand and social presence that I’m really proud of while just focusing on (mainly) one platform. All of this is to say: If you feel overwhelmed by all the different social media platforms, it’s OK to just choose one. It can still work. You can still create a personal brand and build a community. Maybe you won’t go viral as quickly as you would otherwise, but hey… maybe you will. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to social media. Ultimately, what’s important to remember, is that social media is much more about how you can use your own unique qualities to connect with others than it is about the platforms themselves.
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