5 things freelancers do to keep clients coming back
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Freelancers, Don’t Self-Destruct With These 10 Bad Professional Networking Behaviors on Social Media

Hello, it’s me. The person you’ve been waiting for – the one with the opportunity. In fact, I may have just sent you an email, a DM, a tweet, a text. Maybe all four. You probably didn’t answer.

I’ve cast people for influencer campaigns, commercials, TV shows and live events for the past 5 years. And as a producer and natural connector, I often find other talent as well: stylists, photographers, writers, videographers. In the last month, I’ve scouted talent for no fewer than four major projects — paying anywhere from credit-only (Sorry!) to $5,000/day (Oh, hiii!). And let’s not forget that I often refer people to this very platform, ClearVoice, which proactively seeks to promote creatives, and which exists to match freelancers with paying clients.

For one brand alone, I’ve contacted 80 individuals. Fewer than 20 have responded. I recruit on a dozen Facebook groups, send people DMs on Instagram, post on Twitter, and have even been known to text complete strangers if I’m on a deadline. The response rate for every platform and form of outreach is equally dismal.

This is part of the job, and I’ve gotten used to it. Humans are much more prone to use Facebook for bitter arguments and rants these days than to answer an acquaintance’s DM inviting them to meet a client.

But here’s the thing: If you’re only on social media to rant, argue or enjoy the latest memes, why are you attempting to keep professional pages up, or stay in professional groups? No matter how well a page or Instagram feed is put together, it can only get you on a company’s radar. At some point, actual communication between you and the potential client is necessary. And honestly, 80% of people are failing at some connection point.

I typically try to keep these columns positive and proactive. But on this topic, I have quite a long list of just do nots.

Note that these are not only my personal pet peeves. Brands are increasingly in the habit of keeping potential talent and partners under a microscope via social media lately. They engage people like me to identify and track talent, sometimes for weeks, completely incognito. And any one of these behaviors can earn you a red flag or a “Pass / Not Recommended” verdict.

Networking is everything to becoming a successful full-time freelancer. But have you committed any of these networking no-nos? #freelancing #writerslife @lenatic @TiceWrites Click To Tweet

10 no-nos for professional networking on social media

1. The bot follow

Do not follow a person on Instagram or Twitter and then, when they send you a personalized message inquiring whether you might be interested in a specific opportunity, fail to respond to them whatsoever. Hello stranger, you followed me!  Ignoring my greeting makes me think that a robot or an offshored VA you’re paying $3 an hour is behind the wheel of your account.

2. Playing hooky

If you’ve got an out-of-office message claiming that you’re sick, on a business retreat, or out for serious personal reasons, do not post publicly viewable images and status updates from the beach/a bar/a Starbucks. Yes, I know people go to Starbucks when they’re sick. And, I know that work-life balance is very important. But I don’t want to see evidence of you living your best life when I’m on deadline and you haven’t signed and returned our deal memo.

freelance don't self destruct bad networking habits

3. Out of town — and out of line

Do not RSVP “Yes” to events if the event is in New York and you are definitely going to be in Scotland. Three weeks ago I hosted an influencer lunch and one of my attendees “got his calendar dates transposed” (i.e., didn’t look at his calendar) and never bothered to update me.

Was his decision any different than the 25 media acquaintances who didn’t answer their invite, told me they had something better to do (in one case, literally getting her hair styled), or straight-up told me that my event was not of interest? No! But a person who RSVPs “Yes” and then posts from Scotland is illustrating via Instagram Stories: “Hi, I believe I am not beholden to normal grownup behavior. I committed to you, but I had no intention of following through.” Talent, you better be sure the client cannot actually live without you before stunting like that on the person who controls the budget.

4. Asking not-asking — for what?

Do not respond “What about me?” on a post that’s recruiting for an opportunity if you are going to ignore the original poster’s answer. This week I had a former magazine staff editor “What about me?” on a thread and then not respond to my on-thread comment, nor to a DM, and nor to an email. Guess what? In the time it took her to not respond, another person without staff editor credentials, but with a professional demeanor and prompt follow-through, got a 3-month retainer.

I’ve seen all professional types and levels do this, and it seems a little similar to waving at someone and then when they say “Hello,” the waver turns all big-eyed and runs away. It is charming behavior… in a shy four-year-old.

freelance don't self destruct bad networking habits

5. The non-exit — a dramatic enactment

Do not loudly and repeatedly announce your intentions to quit a certain social media platform as though it‘s a self-care act. It’s actually just thirsty. A comic personality I know turned her Facebook departure into a 10-act melodrama. It was exactly like this video. And then, 12 weeks later, she repeats the same thing on Twitter. I’m not really following her on Twitter, so the way I know this is, she was screenshotting every dramatic Twitter goodbye and posting the screenshot on Instagram where I do (correction, did!) follow her.

Seriously, that behavior is needy at the level of… She might as well be posting lingerie shots on her Insta-Stories. And she was! But since I’m not looking at her as a lingerie model, nor am I interested in hiring social influencers who are loudly quitting all platforms, it doesn’t leave us much room to discuss paid work.

6. “Too good to follow back”

Do not add your handle to a “followback thread” on a professional networking group — especially a small and friendly professional networking group — and then not follow people back. If you don’t want to practice follow-for-follow on social media in general, that’s a personal preference. But if you are voluntarily dropping your details on a mutual follow thread, sorry, but what makes you so special as to be exempt from reciprocity etiquette? Hint: nothing! You’re wasting people’s goodwill and their time with this silliness.

7. The repeat unfollow-follow

On the same note, do not unfollow someone you know from a professional networking group and then come back and follow them 2 months later — at least not expecting a refollow. This behavior is either bizarrely forgetful or emotionally unstable, and yes, people definitely see you! Even when I’ve got a couple hundred new people cycling into my consciousness and social media in a given month, I still notice the unexplained returns and find them super weird.

freelance don't self destruct bad networking habits

8. The sloppy repost

Here’s one for my branded content SMM colleagues: If you’re going to borrow people’s gorgeous, painstakingly styled and brilliant Instagram or Tumblr posts for a repost, for the love of sanity do not repost without proper credit. It is a copyright violation. Tag them properly or don’t use the photo. Posting with credit and tag is cross-promotion, and hopefully a path to a collaboration that pays. Reposting with the wrong tag is somewhere in the middle, but also it’s sloppy and can be remedied in about 30 seconds. Why do we not have that 30 seconds for content creators?

9. The sketchy rep

And one for the questionable “talent managers” who have cropped up in the influencer era: If you’re supposed to be the responsible party repping for your creative talent and interfacing with brands, don’t instead be a sketchy flake who can’t provide basic analytics and case studies. For a client last week, I dealt with several so-called influencer management companies. Each was asking for upwards of a thousand dollars a post for their influencers. But when I, on behalf of a brand, asked basic questions about post Insights and FCC-approved tagging protocols, the so-called managers all went radio silent. No response.

I deal with actual talent agencies like Two 12 and WME on the regular. Also with reputable platforms like Fohr for fashion influencers and ClearVoice for writing talent. Guess what: They answer verified brand clients’ queries. Even when something’s not pleasant to talk about, they still answer. It’s what separates the professionals from the rest.

5 things freelancers do to keep clients coming back

10. The do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do

A final do not for everyone: Do not rant on professional groups against certain behaviors that you’re blatantly guilty of yourself. There are probably research studies that explore why people who are the guiltiest of a certain behavior are the most likely to publicly complain about it, but TBH nobody cares about the weird subliminal motivations. It was quite disconcerting to see a freelance writer lecturing a Facebook group of colleagues about what she perceived as over-aggressive followups, when she herself had followed up with me two times on a referred gig only a week prior. That being said, when she got the gig, it was somehow no surprise to me that she sent a spammy unpersonalized email to request a quote — and did not respond to my direct question.

There are some people who inherently believe that their time is more valuable than everyone else’s. But is it more valuable than that of the people who are spoon-feeding you information and opportunities?  That’s a tough argument to make.

In conclusion: Admittedly, I’m one of the people who really would quit social media if we didn’t have a dozen daily professional motivations to be on it. I’m not saying “Please do not!” in order to be a jerk. I’m doing it because I’m swamped, and I have 20 spots to fill this week. Today, you might be on my client’s target list. But tomorrow, there will be another hundred names to take your place. So if you’re spending your days and nights and weekends on Facebook follow-threads and ideating clever IG Stories and what-not, you might as well follow some basic protocols so you don’t get THIS TREATMENT on everyone’s list.

Lena Katz

About Lena

Lena Katz's credits as a development producer, casting producer and locations manager include cable TV (WEtv, Revolt, HGTV), and digital-first productions (WhaleRock, mikeroweWORKS, Tastemade). She worked directly for major brands including Suzuki, Hormel and Brown-Forman. Learn more about her company at Variable Content.

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