8 Ways that Twitter Can Grow Your Freelance Business

Are you a Freelancer? Today Jenny Cromie, editor of The Golden Pencil, (follow her at @JennyCromie) talks about how Twitter can help grow a Freelance Business.

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When I first read about Twitter in a Wired magazine article a little more than a year ago, I thought: What a waste of cyberspace! Why on earth would anyone waste their time trading banal “news” items like: Wearing pink slippers and eating a PBJ. Or, Cleaned toilet. Now for the sink.

Even productivity guru Tim Ferriss called Twitter “pointless e-mail on steroids.” At the time, I couldn’t have agreed more.

But what a difference a year makes! Like me, Tim Ferriss has now joined Twitterville. Of course, he follows no one and has about 10,720 followers. But that’s beside the point.

What I’m trying to say is that if you’re not orbiting in the Twitterverse, you might as well be living on Mars.

Everyone is all atwitter about Twitter now. It’s the THING. It’s the new pet rock of the worldwide cyber village. But I also don’t think it’s a fad. Twitter and other social networking tools are changing the way companies and individuals do business, get information, and communicate.

And the Twitterverse is getting more crowded by the day because late-adopter dolts like me finally get it. We’re all doing the “I-coulda-had-a-V8” head thump: Duh! Twitter is great for growing your business.

If you own a business of any size and you’re still not Twittering, you’re missing out on what amounts to a worldwide virtual chamber of commerce networking event that’s at your fingertips 24/7. Only on Twitter, you don’t press flesh or swap business cards—you exchange links to your Web site, blog, e-books, and online résumé. And you build relationships 140 characters at a time.

Still not convinced that Twitter can help your freelance business? Maybe my list will change your mind. As a business tool, Twitter can help you:

1. Find new clients

When I first joined Twitter, I didn’t think my participation would amount to anything but wasted time. But as my list of followers continued to grow, I began to realize the full potential of this microblogging tool. Just in the last week, I’ve received two inquiries from people who found me on Twitter and are interested in hiring me to do some writing for them. These are people who I would not have met otherwise. And I’m betting they would not have stumbled across my online portfolio and Web site without the aid of Twitter.

2. Make new contacts

In the past few days, I’ve made contact with two magazine editors and a literary agent via Twitter. We’ve chatted back and forth, and I’ve received an invite to pitch a story idea to one of the magazines. If not for Twitter, I never would have made these contacts or had the opportunity to talk to these people in near real time. Most editors and clients have overflowing inboxes, so I’m finding that Twitter can help you bypass the e-mail backlog that plagues most editors and potential clients these days. I’ve also made contact with other writers and editors from all over the world, tech people, social media gurus, other self-employed professionals, recruiters, and a number of other really interesting, talented individuals. Next time I’m looking for someone to interview for an HR or business story I’m working on, I’ll know exactly where to look—in my very own list of fellow Twitterers. And if I don’t have the expert I’m looking for in my current list of followers, all I have to do is use the Twitter search function, look for new people to follow, and contact them.

3. Stay informed

Staying on top of breaking news events and other news in your industry is a snap with Twitter. Witness how Twitter forever changed the way elections are reported or how the recent tragedy in Mumbai was broadcasted almost instantaneously by people who were actually living the nightmare. I don’t think Twitter will ever replace good old-fashioned reporting, but it sure does add another layer of real-time information that is invaluable. And if you have a question about a particular topic, all you have to do is post it and someone will answer. The other day, I wanted to find out how to change the background on my Twitter page. Within seconds, I had answers and some great new tools at my disposal.

4. Generate story ideas

Can’t figure out what to write about? Tune in to Twitter and listen in on some interesting conversations. Twitter is great because it allows you to be a virtual fly on the wall. In fact, I would argue that tracking Tweets is the cyber equivalent of sitting in a coffee shop with a notebook and writing down interesting snippets of conversation (if you’re a writer, don’t tell me you’ve never done this). My followers and the people I track on Twitter also have some very interesting blogs and articles sitting out there in cyberspace. And if you’re like me, reading always helps generate more story ideas.

5. Build your brand

One thing that distinguishes me from other freelance writers and editors is my area of expertise: HR and business. So every time I write an HR story or a post for The Golden Pencil, I publicize it on Twitter with a link. This helps build a following, and also provides information about my writing to potential clients, editors, writers, and other professionals. It also helps build my brand. Building a brand is a must for your business. I know, for example, when Darren Rowse has posted on Twitter, there’s probably a new story about blogging or Twitter that I will want to read. So if you Twitter often enough in a targeted way, your followers will start associating your name with a particular area of expertise. And that will help you grow your business.

6. Drive traffic to your Web site

Every time I Twitter about one of my blog posts on The Golden Pencil, I see a nice spike in traffic. And since I started building more business relationships on Twitter, I now have a few more regular readers who drop by every time I post a new link. If not for Twitter, I’m certain I would not have these new readers visiting my site every day. At the moment, I can’t think of a more immediate, effective, interactive marketing tool than Twitter. Can you?

7. Improve your writing

I can almost hear some of you now: How on earth can Twitter help improve my writing? Each post only allows for 140 characters! Well, as one of my journalism professors used to say: “Write tight!” Twitter helps you learn how to trim unnecessary fat from your sentences. And as someone who writes a lot of headlines for various e-publications, I’ve found that it’s also a great way to practice headline writing. You can tell when you’ve written a good one, because you’ll get a lot of comments. And on occasion, someone will like it so much that they’ll retweet it. This is valuable information—particularly if you have a blog. Using Twitter as a training ground, you learn how to write headlines that make people click on the link and read the rest of the story.

8. Learn about new tools

I recently started following @AlbertMaruggi, a very nice gentleman on Twitter who knows a ton about about podcasting. After finding out what he did for a living, I started asking a lot of questions. And as a result, I found out about Utterli. which is without a doubt, the coolest tool discovery I’ve made in weeks. Twitter also is how I learned about hellotxt and Ping.fm—two tools that I now use on a daily basis.

So have I convinced you yet? Let me know! Please feel free to say hello on Twitter: @JennyCromie. Or drop by and visit me on my blog at The Golden Pencil. I’d love to hear from you!

Written by Jenny Cromie, a full-time HR/business freelance writer, editor, and Twitter convert. Jenny also is editor of The Golden Pencil, a b5media blog about freelance writing and how to build a successful freelance writing business.

Comments

  • December 18, 2008

    I completely agree – and thanks for a great post. Especially on following new tools. With consulting being a large part of my business, I struggle to stay on top of all the new technology – with twitter I can follow people who develop and sell new tools and have open dialogue about features, value etc. It really has made a difference in my knowledge learning straight from the source.

  • December 18, 2008

    Very useful tips, Jenny.

  • December 18, 2008

    Very well put, Jenny. I guess a 9th way could be to use Twitter to help with Public Relations. You can do a search on your product/service/company name and find out what people are saying about you. That way you can validate what you are doing good. And make course corrections on the things you are not.

  • December 18, 2008

    Great Post Jenny! Thanks for the great tips. Well put by the way.

  • December 18, 2008

    Great post Jenny! I loved the fly on the wall analogy, it is a great place to listen to conversations. Twitter is a great place to find out about new tools like Monitter and Digsby. I have also met some great people locally who I would have never met before if it weren’t for Twitter.

  • December 18, 2008

    To add to Larry’s point about public relations, Twitter also allows you form relationships and learn about journalists at prominent publications. Journalists like yourself are now more accessible, and this makes it easier for PR people to be more informed and to pitch accordingly.

  • December 18, 2008

    For the brand new Twitter-er, this post can be invaluable. There simply aren’t enough waking hours to explore all that Twitter has to offer. Simple basic use, which is the level I’m on now, has proven Twitter to be a great tool.

    I guess I’m a reformed Twitter skeptic. Thanks for some fantastic information.

    Alan

  • December 18, 2008

    Jenny,

    If I’m not mistaken, I found your site through Twitter and I’m so glad I did! I love The Golden Pencil! This is a bookmark-able article for anyone who does freelance writing. Each one of your points is spot-on.

    It’s nice to see you here.

    Cheers

    George

  • December 18, 2008

    These tips are good for anything not just freelance. Great thoughts.

  • December 18, 2008

    I am on Twitter (@marynmck) but more recently opened a separate Twitter ID for my blog (@MRSA_blog). I tweet each new post: short description plus an is.gd link. Doing this doubled my traffic within a month.

  • December 18, 2008

    Great piece Jenny! As a fellow freelancer I can’t stress how useful I’ve found Twitter in the last months. I’ve seen a big growth in work: I’ve got SEO copywriting and translating gigs in the last month directly through contacts I’ve made on Twitter.

    I’m curious to see how this will continue. Whether or not it will just become too noisy as more and more people get onboard.

    My personal tip is get TweetDeck ASAP. It makes it so much easier to track people, keywords, etc

    All the best !

    (PS: I just added the Golden Pencil to Netnewswire too!)

  • December 18, 2008

    Thank yoy i open the pots to read it and well it surprese me how good it is thank you all.

  • December 18, 2008

    Jenny,
    Thanks for the props, the follow, and glad to see you like Utterli. I have used that to do interviews when on the road, I love the ability to attach a photo with the commentary too. They have done a good job of updating the product over time. I was with them early on.

    If you are into a new style of polling. I’ve been using and working with (client) Quick Comments It’s a hybrid of either super poling or light version of a survey. I have it on the Marketing Edge podcast page. They are also looking for feedback on the concept. She is a frequent twitter @panda444

    Love the article and appreciate your comments.

    All the best

    Albert Maruggi

  • December 18, 2008

    Darren, I’m so glad you added the Twitter id on your comment system. Great idea! I’ve found that twitter is great to find ideas for my writing. I can easily use search.twitter to find the latest hot topics. I also generate more traffic to my website and blog when I post a link on twitter. And I’ve made many great connections. Even when I had trouble sleeping and mindlessly accessed twitterville, I had suggestions for ways to get to sleep. People actually care and want to help others. How refreshing is that? BTW, Albert Maruggi is great and a very engaging and helpful person to know.

  • December 18, 2008

    I joined twitter after listening to other writers on Freelance Success, you included, talk about how useful it was. I couldn’t really see it until I tried it, but now I’m glad I did. Good idea to add Twitter ID to the comment form. I should do that!

  • December 18, 2008

    I have found a few highend vendors that I would not have found without twitter. These conversations have allowed me to build value into what they are doing. In return they are going to help me. Its the “don’t eat alone” philosophy. Give value first….always first….even when they don’t ask for it first.

  • December 18, 2008

    Great post Darren! We’ve only recently begun using Twitter, but finding it very useful!

  • December 18, 2008

    I used to think that Twitter was a waste of time too – until i started using it. It has helped me take my blog to the next level – promote my brand, network, come up with story ideas, etc. It really has been awesome!

  • December 18, 2008

    Excellent post, Jenny! I’ve found Twitter to be very useful in attracting blog readers, and also developing relationships with other bloggers by tweeting links to their content. It also helped me find my tech guru after I tweeted one night that I had broken my blog! I think I could be more strategic with it, but I’m getting there. :)

    Cheers,
    Kristen

  • December 18, 2008

    [Update to Fix tag] Jenny, I am talking a contrarian view (per a recent post on this subject) to you in that I don’t think Twitter can directly help your blog or other online business much in a revenue perspective – other tools/channels are better. I agree it can grow your traffic (temporarily) or presence, but with so much Twitter noise out there, I question its long term ability to help. Also the type of folks who use Twitter are quite web savvy and not the best revenue generating customer. Mind you, it does depend which industry you are in an some of the other uses you have mentioned are excellent.

  • December 18, 2008

    Don’t Blink! If you do, you might miss something in the speed of today’s contacts and marketing. Like you Jenny – I had no idea about Ping and Hello.Txt!

    Sheesh! Communications just goes faster and faster!

    Thanks for these wonderful tips. I like your theme and overall outlook of your blog. Clean – crisp and efficient!

  • December 18, 2008

    wow, i have to brush up on my writings. at least i have to do it more frequently :p

    Great Tips!

  • December 18, 2008

    Wow! Thank you so much for your feedback everyone!

    I’m really glad this post was helpful to so many of you. I know that I really didn’t *get* Twitter at first, and I certainly didn’t understand how it could help my freelance business. But like a few of you have mentioned, it’s such a powerful marketing tool and a great way to connect with so many people and organizations.

    Twitter continues to amaze me, and as you can tell from my post, I’m a true convert. I hope I convinced a few more people today to tap into the power of Twitter.

    Thank you to those of you who mentioned other nifty tools as well. I will be checking those out. :-)

  • December 21, 2008

    Great post! I wonder why on earth had I not thought about them. Sure you look much more different at things than I do. With what I read here about Twitter, I’m gonna rebuild what I have done using Twitter.

  • December 23, 2008

    You’ve convinced me, Jenny. After reading your advice and the opinions of writers at Freelance Sucess, I think it’s time for me to start twittering. I’ll be referring to this post and the comments as I learn the ropes. Thanks!

  • December 23, 2008

    Yay Donna! I think I’ve converted a couple people with this post. You’ll have to let me know what you think once you’ve had time to explore Twitter a bit.

    Thank you to everyone else who has dropped by here. I’m glad that I’ve been able to help. :-)

  • December 23, 2008

    Great Post Jenny. I opened a Twitter account and want to promote to get freelance works.Thanks for these wonderful tips

  • December 25, 2008

    Great list! I’m still fairly new to Twitter (and I’m a freelance writer!) so it’s good to hear success stories and gather ideas. :-)

  • January 2, 2009

    Great content! I just have seen this on LinkedIn. I use many business networking websites but I thought Twitter as a waste so far. This text makes me change my mind!

  • January 6, 2009

    I was just born into the Twitterverse this morning after reading about it for months. In mid-2007, I could see the handwriting on the wall for business (mine) in 2008. But I’m a cautious risktaker (yes! oxymoronic but true) and am trying to learn as much as I can about Twitter and things related before I can translate the benefits to my clients. Thanks Jenny and Darren for good, well-written tips like htese to make this understandable to a neophyte like me.

  • January 6, 2009

    This is an excellent post that also parallels some Twitter truths for any business. Great stuff.

  • January 9, 2009

    thanks for the thoughful perspective, Jenny.

  • January 14, 2009

    Count me in as one who discovered you through Twitter via Twitip – and glad I did. :)

  • January 21, 2009

    Thanks for the post.
    Good information for me

  • January 23, 2009

    This does give me some great encouragement. I have always thought twitter to be a waste of time, but continued just in case. If I had other things to do, they would be done and twitter would be pushed to the back burner, only to surface when I have nothing else to do. Hopefully if I carry on, it might bring some traffic to my site. So far, not much, only 4 visits. But then again it is a new site anyway.

  • January 27, 2009

    Yep, I’m a convert too! Thanks for the post. Now following you.

  • February 15, 2009

    Hi Jenny, I agree with you on the point you are making. However, there is something none of us should forget. And I believe it should have been point 0. on your list. “It is all about relationships”.
    More than any form of communication, twitter is about sharing yourself with your friends. Sharing yourself puts you in a great position to share about your business and your possibilities. And even promoting yourself every now and again. However, the main reason people are following you, is because it is you. Of course there are people who still are in the numbers game. Trying to score as many contacts as possible. And nice as a 5 digit number of followers seems, it is not the holy grail. In the end, if you do not have the relationship with your followers, your tweets will just float away in cyberspace.
    To read more of my thoughts on this, take a look at my blogpost on Monetizing your social network.

  • March 28, 2009

    I kind of share your experiences with Twitter. As a web design company, We started using Twitter about 6 mjonths ago. At first I did not see the advanatges however with time as followers grew the benenefits started to become visible. We still do not have tens of thousdands of followers but the number is certianly increasing by the day. I can certianly say that soon it will be come a powerful resource for us. How exactly I do not yet fully, but surely a daily audience has got to be useful.

  • April 24, 2009

    Great Post! Totally agree. Twitter is a great way to promote yourself and your services and improve your online marketing strategies.

  • July 11, 2009

    I couldn’t agree more. After VOIS.com encouraged me to start up my own business(God, I love those guys!) I went ahead and started my own profile for my clothing collection on Twitter.
    Right away I was noticed by web designers and photographers who referred themselves to me which is great, because that means I don’t have get buried in extensive research for what I should be doing next! Twitterites give great tips and I couldn’t be happier!

  • November 21, 2009

    Recently I had a phone conversation with someone who put me to task by pointing out several insights about me, my online presence, and my goals as a designer. One of the most poignant was, “When I visit your web site I don’t know who you’re talking to.”

    This person told me my greatest strengths as a designer was in illustration – character illustration, to be precise. He said I should narrow down my focus on this one ability and make that the overriding theme of my web site.

    This has also led me to reevaluate my presence on places like Twitter. I will need to focus more here as well and narrow down my niche. Recently I checked out a great site that takes your Twitter lists and converts them into keywords so you can see which ones are most prominent. For me the biggest one was “bloggers” so I have some work to do in that area.

    I may also have to redesign my entire site to focus more on my work and so people who visit it will not be confused about what it is I do.

  • December 8, 2009

    I’d love to see some hard number results. How many clients did you actually sign up? How long did you spend tweeting to get the clients you have through Twitter.

    I find a ton of people promoting Twitter and other 2.0 properties, but I don’t see any real research, just hopes and prayers. So, you get a couple of clients after spending 50 days (whole days) having fun on Twitter. Where are the other nay-sayers?

    Just call me Doubing Thomas but only after a ton of experience on Twitter, trying hard too.

  • February 16, 2010

    What a great article! Very informative! Now following you as well!

  • May 4, 2010

    Thanks Jenny for the great tips. Freelancing, just like any other business relies on networking. That’s why we cannot ignore Twitter and its power to do this quickly and effectively.

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