The holiday season means more parties than you can count, for most of us. Whether it’s a neighborhood cookie swap, a partner’s work event, an association meeting, or a friends’ get-together, these events are great opportunities to network and even find paid writing gigs—yet many writers don’t take advantage of seasonal parties to promote their services. Here are 7 sneaky ways you can strengthen your network and even find paid writing gigs at holiday parties, so you can truly make the most of the festive season.
1. Say yes to every invite
You really never know who you can meet at a holiday event. Every party is an opportunity to connect with someone who needs your services—or to do good by referring someone you meet to another person who can help them.
Connecting other people strengthens your network, too. A grateful person will return the favor if someone asks them whether they know any bloggers by recommending you.
Say yes to every holiday invite you can reasonably attend, then show up focused and ready to make conversation.
If you’re an introvert, this is super demanding. Take breaks from holiday parties when you need to, and remember the holiday season is a sprint. You’ll have plenty of time to rest and recharge come January.
2. Practice your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch helps you explain who you are and what you do in a few memorable sentences. All you need are 30 seconds—or three to five sentences—that highlight your skills and areas of interest to a general audience.
Ditch the jargon and use clear language in your elevator pitch.
It’s the start of a conversation, so trust the other party will ask follow-up questions if you pique their interest.
3. Dress professionally and take business cards
If you don’t have a business card, get them made now. I’ve used Moo for years—their basic card stock is high quality, and their templates are attractive and easy to customize.
My best advice with business cards is to keep them simple and general, so you don’t need to get new cards made if you change your niche or add a new service, like writing white papers. All you need is your name, a professional title (like writer or content marketer), a phone number, an email, and your website URL if you have one.
Dress professionally even if you normally wear jeans or sweats to work. This shows other people that you take yourself seriously. It also helps you make a positive first impression.
4. Make a personal connection first
Holiday parties are full of potential leads, and it’s understandable that you’re eager to dive in and make connections. But before you pivot to talking about your writing services, connect on a personal level.
Ask about interests and hobbies instead of work. Find out whether they’re planning a vacation or have an exciting holiday tradition. This establishes common ground and shows that you care. It also makes the conversation more memorable, which increases the potential for paid writing gigs to flow your way.
Keep an open mind, and don’t count anyone out.
That work-at-home-mom who sells essentials oils might not seem like a strong lead, but she could call you for help establishing a blog if you’re the only freelance blogger she knows.
Once you’ve established a rapport with someone, find a natural way to insert your elevator pitch. You might explain that you’re seeking new blogging clients, and you’re an avid gardener and traveler.
Even if someone doesn’t seem like a high-quality lead, give your pitch anyway. The more you practice it, the more natural it will feel—so when you meet the right person, you’ll be confident in pitching your writing services. Plus, you never know who someone knows or when they might need someone with your skills.
5. Practice active listening
After you’ve made your elevator pitch, switch to active listening. In active listening, you focus on what the other person is saying, really taking it all in and remembering it.
When you’re actively listening, you’re bound to remember more of the conversation so you can take notes for follow up. A contact can provide helpful advice, such as pointing out an influential person in the room who could need your services or recommending a local networking group.
If you’re doing all the talking, you’ll miss out on opportunities.
6. Talk about how you can help
When you’re listening actively, you can naturally solve a problem for your contact. For example, you might respond to their comment about starting at Etsy shop by saying something like, “It’s so great you decided to start selling your homemade soap. If you ever need help writing product descriptions that will rank highly, I can help with SEO writing.”
If the other person is in a position to help you—say, by making an introduction to someone else in their network—now’s the time to ask.
All you need to do now is start the conversation. A holiday party isn’t the time for making deals or closing leads.
Say something like, “I’d love to follow up with you after the holidays about that. Can we exchange cards?” Most people will respond positively, but if someone declines, don’t take it personally.
7. Take notes and follow up later
After you connect with someone who seems like a strong match for paid writing gigs, thank them for their time and trade business cards.
When the conversation ends, take a second to jot down notes, such as what you talked about or the right next step. Then follow up at an appropriate time by referencing where you met and something specific to your conversation. It never hurts to refresh their memory; they probably met a ton of people at holiday parties, just like you did.
Many freelancers don’t follow up with potentials leads. They forget, they’re overwhelmed, or maybe they get shy. Be the one who follows up to increase the number of paid writing gigs you get, grow your writing income, and boost your confidence.
If you make time to strengthen your network at holiday parties using these 7 tips, you’ll reap rewards all year round.