One of the things I like best about freelancing is that I work at home alone. It only took 17 or so years in an office setting to realize that interaction with people from 8 to 5 M-F was way too stressful for me. Add to that weekends that were usually packed with social engagements and weekday evenings of bowling or choir or whatever . . . I didn't realize how stressed I was about all that people time until a week or so into freelancing and the kids mentioned how calm I seemed now.
Anyway, working alone doesn't mean working isolated. If you ask me what I think a writer's most valuable tool is, my answer is networking.
Networking, pure and simple, leads to job opportunities. There is no way I'd be where I am today without not only talking to other writers, but listening. The beauty of the internet and on-line groups is that you don't have to be actively involved in a "conversation" to come away with something. I found out about places to submit essays or the names of editors to pitch thanks to listening and paying attention.
And expand your networks past writers, too. You never know who might be of help down the road. A conversation with the mother of one of my son's friends led to one job. Spending time with my husband's co-workers gave me the skills and confidence to write for engineers. Even an old professor of mine remembered I was a writer and editor, and she called me to help her with her most recent book. With the holiday season and its multitude of parties, I plan to do some networking and see what happens.
But the bulk of my networking is done during the day when I'm sitting in my office. Here are some of the things I do regularly to help me network and keep me from feeling too isolated:
* Keep my IM open during the day. Doesn't mean I can always chat, but it sure is good to be able to talk to someone who understands the life of a writer. And sometimes my friends will see a job and send me a link. In fact, it was during an IM chat that a friend suggested I try writing for the construction trades, telling me to use my work background.
* Email my goal buddy every day. This keeps me on track, and she's sent me job ideas.
* Join a few writer's groups/lists and cultivate friendships there. This is a big one. I can't stress how helpful it is to be in contact with experienced writers. This is the equivalent of hanging around the coffee pot in the morning at an office job.
* Read blogs. I learn a lot from reading blogs. And don't forget to comment so you can start a nice dialogue with other writer/bloggers.
* Reach out to editors. I like to drop my editors a quick note periodically, if I haven't heard from them in a while or sometimes even to say hi.
Good things have happened to me because I've networked, and because I've been willing to share my own expertise and experiences. Back in my office days, I'd never want to network because I was too frazzled from other regular interaction. Now it's easy to smile and be friendly and reach out -- and people smile and are friendly and reach back to me.