Dear Freelance Dude,
I’m a soon-to-be college grad just starting to try his hand in the freelancing world. After being published on a handful of sites, I’ve managed to get a media pass to the PAX East convention in my hometown of Boston. It’s common knowledge that networking is a key to success for freelance journos, and conventions like these seem to be one of the best places to get started on making friends in the industry.
Could you shed some light on how to go about this whole networking process? Are there any particular do’s and don’ts that I should be aware of before walking up to complete strangers? I’ve got my personal business cards printed out and ready to be shared, so what can I do to get people to remember my name (without looking like a total weirdo)?
You’re right. Networking is super important in this industry, since it can open lots of doors for future freelance gig opportunities. PAX East and other conventions are great places to rub elbows with fellow writers, editors for major outlets, game developers, and PR folks alike. The connections and friendships you forge amidst the chaos of covering demos, churning out words, and running around like a madman are invaluable.
Folks attending and covering conventions are often insanely busy, but you’d be surprised how willing they are to take a moment to chat. Take every opportunity you can to introduce yourself to people when the situation allows. Don’t interrupt an interview or conversation to say hi, but don’t be shy either. Just be polite, friendly, and don’t take up too much of their time. It’s better to leave a good impression than annoy the hell out of someone and make them late for an appointment.
Some additional basic convention protocol to consider: Not everyone will want to shake hands, due to the inevitable prevalence of nerd flu. If you’re talking close to someone’s ear due to high background noise, don’t shout and blow their hearing out. Keep a pack of tic-tacs or gum handy too. And the love of all things sacred, shower every day and use deodorant. Stay fresh. Stay clean.
Aside from an opportunity to get work done, hanging out in the press room is a great way to meet other writers and editors. While a lot of folks in the media room are trying to crank out words and meet deadlines, people do strike up conversations with their neighbors and hang out between appointments. If you’re polite and respectful, it’s ok to introduce yourself for a minute. But save the heavy chit-chat for when it’s clear the person you’re talking to has the time to spare. Sometimes short conversations with friendly comrades-in-arms are welcome distractions from the stress of meeting crushing deadlines on a chaotic schedule.
When bumping into editors, keep in mind that they’re likely even busier than fellow freelancers, so tread lightly. Have a quick, casual introduction on deck to fire off, and make friendly chit-chat if there’s time. Then offer up your business card, a “nice to meet you, hope we can work together at some point in the future,” and move on.
Outside of the press room, you may find opportunities to chat with your neighbors or other writer folks at game demo sessions or when you’re waiting in long lines. The best way to have folks remember who you are is make a good impression and be friendly. Connect and do your best to have a pleasant interaction. And if you get business cards from editors and other writers, send an e-mail follow-up after the convention to touch base.
Good luck and have fun!
The Freelance Dude
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