To the lighthouse!§

BUILDING AND maintaining a profile online was the topic of London Freelance Branch's October meeting. Our speaker was Adrian ("Adi") Gaskill, head of online content at the Process Excellence Network and former head of online at the Chartered Management Institute. He blogs at See also advice on copyright implications of putting your work online, from the same meeting.

Adi Gaskill & Mike Holderness; © Matt Salusbury
Adi Gaskill makes a point while Mike Holderness finishes his speaking notes

Online authors need to change "how you think about your writing," says Adi, who believes writers (and photographers) need to create a "strong presence" that will follow you around the world, rather than just your body of work. He outlined five principles:

Be yourself: some of us are now expected, as part of working for a regular client, to send Tweets from the client's corporate Twitter account. This has a disadvantage. What happens to "what you've built up" on their Twitter account?

"If you move, your employer (or client) keeps it," says Adi: "it's wasted work in a way" as far as you're concerned. (See on Twitter for journos.)

Interact: on social media, "people are expecting you to be human, to "make the odd mistake here and there, be authentic and personal." They want to leave comments on what you've put online, and also expect you to comment on their comments, to interact with them. "The authors of articles on, say, the Guardian online don't respond to the comments, they're missing an opportunity. Traditional journalists don't do this," but if you put your work online yourself you can "engage, give feedback, interact with your audience." Some freelances report being commissioned by the likes of the Guardian and asked also to respond to readers' comments as part of the gig, at which point we should start asking "OK, but how much extra?"

Manage and cultivate your community: you want to be a "lighthouse brand", that is the "figurehead and authority on a particular subject. It doesn't matter who you're writing for, they're consuming you rather than your publisher." This, from a client's point of view, is "very useful: you're bringing all of these readers with you."

Be on top of the trends: If you're keeping up a conversation with readers about your work, you "can follow the trends, look at what's happening" and crowd-source information. When you have a community around you, "people are happy to share". Freelances can be more quick-footed than big publishers, so "you can capitalise on information they don't get. Spend a lot of time listening as well as broadcasting."

Persevere: It takes time: "you won't be an overnight success." Take the time to cultivate a following wherever you choose to show your writing or photos, advises Adi.

§ With apologies to Virginia Woolf.

Last modified: 28 Oct 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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