By Karen Eisenbraun

A while ago, I had my Twitter profile (@HaveANamaste) on my computer screen at my “day job,” and one of my coworkers spied it.

“You have a Twitter?” he asked in a tone that conveyed both disgust and amusement.
“Of course,” I told him. “I’m a freelancer.”Grandma loves Twitter“So? Why do you need a Twitter?” Given that this is someone who spends little time in front of a computer outside of work and refuses to join Facebook, it isn’t surprising that he would fail to see the importance of social media for someone who is, at least part-time, self employed. But what amazes me is when this attitude persists among my freelancing colleagues.

In one of my roles as an editor, I hire writers. I have received dozens of inquiries from writers who regularly seek out online writing opportunities and yet have no blog, no web site, no Twitter profile, no online portfolio to speak of. You can’t expect to effectively market yourself without these tools. And like it or not, if you want to gain clients and establish yourself as a freelance writer, you need to market yourself. And these days, marketing is practically synonymous with social media.

Sure, you can muddle through as a writer by coming Craigslist ads and writing for content mills, but wouldn’t you rather build long-term client relationships? Wouldn’t you rather spend all day focusing on content for one Web site rather than churning out article after article? My days of writing $15 SEO-driven articles about golfing school are way behind me, and that’s because I built up my social media network. Some of my best clients have found me because I followed them on Twitter or had a shared connection on LinkedIn.

Recently, someone asked me for help with getting started as a health writer. I told her to create a blog and a Twitter profile, STAT. “I am not a blogger, and I am not a Twitter,” she told me in an e-mail. “Kinda old school … grew up in the 80s.” Well, guess what, so did I. But age doesn’t have to be a barrier to effective social media. I know people who are considerably older than I am and yet are more in tune with social media.

If the technology aspect intimidates you, start small. Twitter requires no technical skills. Blogger blogs, though fairly basic, are easy to set up and use. It’s always a good idea to have a place where potential clients can learn more about you and access samples of your work. There are all kinds of free tools available for this. My first web site was a free portfolio site on freewebs. At the very least, maintain an active LinkedIn profile and post some links to your best writing.

A note on blogging: You don’t have to blog about freelancing. If you’re not sure what to blog about, pick a topic you’re interested in and which you would like to write about professionally. My blog, Have a Namaste, began as simply an exploration of my career goals and eventually morphed into a natural health blog, which helped me grow my career as a health and nutrition writer. Focusing on a certain niche will allow you to establish yourself as an authority in that industry and help you connect with people who just may need blog posts or web content written on that topic.

Image courtesy Sexy Social Media.