Building a network is one of the most important things you can do for yourself as a screenwriter.
Networking helps you connect with other writers to encourage and support each other; helps you meet with other creatives to start bringing your vision to life; or even meet with an executive, producer, or teacher to bring your work and career to a new level.
Even without the strange year we all had, the world of networking was bound to expand into, and take place largely on the internet. While in-person and online networking have a lot of overlaps, going online allows you to leverage new tools to help you stand out and meet new people you could otherwise never meet in person.
Without further ado, here are five tips to help you build your network online.
Leverage Social Media
Social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are great options for screenwriters to build their network. But not all social media is built the same. Each platform has and attracts a different audience and different content. You wouldn’t use Instagram the same way you’d use Twitter, so you shouldn’t use Instagram to network in the same way you’d network on Twitter.
For example, Instagram is a great place to share pictures and stories about the projects you’re working on, and to see what others in your community are working on. Post pictures or stories of your writing space for today, online events or classes you attended, post what inspires you to write, ask your followers about the same. Use Facebook groups to have more intimate and focused discussions with like-minded (or nearby) writers. See what the audience is like on each platform and whether they’re aligned with your personal goals.
And if you’re serious about building a network, there’s no better option than Twitter. Increasingly, there are more and more people looking for writers via social call-outs on Twitter. Make sure you have your profile ready to share so it stands out for those call-outs. Use your Twitter account to interact with others through updates, questions, or asking for general advice. Ask the Twitterverse what they do when they have writer’s block, and retweet responses you like. Ask if anyone has seen any great films from the 70s recently. Make and respond to polls about when to outline or when to free write.
Don’t limit yourself only to those social media platforms. Others, like Twitch, TikTok, LinkedIn, Discord, or Reddit are also great ways to meet with fellow writers and creatives in different ways. Explore and see which ones you enjoy using the most. And don’t forget to #hashtag your posts.
Put Yourself Out There
If you’re networking to promote your scripts, you have to put yourself and your scripts out there. This means when using social media, share, retweet, or regram stories or articles that spoke to you, share useful links, show the world what you’re working on, follow people or topics you’re interested in, and engage! No one networks in person by lurking in a dark corner, so don’t do that online either! Reach out to and follow other writers with similar interests. You can network with everyone, but you can really start connecting and building your online community with like-minded writers, and you can only do that by putting yourself out there.
Also, put yourself out there on Coverfly! It’s a great way to get feedback on your script and to meet peers. Coverfly has share options on your project page to help you promote your work. And many writers will screenshot their badges and post them on social media. This helps not only to get the word out but also to spark up a conversation with fellow writers on Coverfly. A big part of networking is not showing off what you’ve done but showing people what value you can offer and finding a connection.
Join in a (Free) Online Event
Especially in the last year, many in-person events have moved online, and many more have been created. Lots of organizations have online events, classes, and programs, many of which are free! As an example, check out the offerings from Screencraft, Coverfly, and the WGA for informative and useful sessions on the craft and business of screenwriting, with Q&As afterward.
When you attend these events, don’t go with the intention to plug yourself. Go there to discover other writers and professionals. Listen and learn from their goals, passions, or struggles. This isn’t to say you should hide your accomplishments or not talk about what you’re working on, but that shouldn’t be the reason why you’re attending. Go with the intention to learn instead of brag; to listen instead of talk; to have a good discussion instead of monologuing. And if you feel like you’re talking too long or the conversation is slowing down, have an open question that everyone can participate in ready to go, like “has anyone read anything recently that sparked your creativity?”
Don’t forget to share your experience on social media!
Keep it Short and Personal
So you’ve posted on social media, gone to events or classes, and have a nice list of emails of people you want to reach out to. Fantastic! Follow up with them and nurture those connections. When you email them, keep it short and keep it personal. When in-person (or over video), a good conversation is hard to beat. But online, the last thing you want to do is sit down and read a long message.
As the great bard said, “Brevity is the soul of wit”, so keep your messages concise, easy to read, and easy to understand. And when you reach out, don’t reach out with just a general ask or a generic message. Get personal and specific. See how the other person is doing and how their project is coming along. Think about the next steps you want to take to develop your relationship with the other person. It should be easy enough. We’re all writers.
Just like you need to write stories that speak to you, you should network the same way. Sure you may need to step out of your comfort zone from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you have to develop a new persona just to network with people. Find your own voice and be genuine when you network.
Most importantly, as you network, think about how you can add value to your new connections. Don’t just reach out asking people to do things for you or pester someone incessantly to read your script. Offer to help others, ask to volunteer at an organization’s event, set up a monthly Zoom coffee break one-on-one or with other writers, offer to read scripts, think about how to connect your networks or how you can make it about the other person, not yourself.
Networking is about finding and building your tribe. As you continue to move forward in your craft and career, these will be the people you will rely on and who will rely on you.