Greetings from wet, rainy, lonely Allen Park Michigan. I’m the last one in the office, this final day of school before Spring Break (technically the break has started) because my bestie is arriving at the airport in about an hour and rather than drive home to Ann Arbor and then BACK to Detroit (Romulus, really) I figured I’d just stay here late. I haven’t been productive since we officially closed at 4:45.
But what could be more productive than a blog post?* I wanted to share an experience I had the other day because it was a very good learning experience and something that I already struggle with. If you read this post, you know that I’m an introvert and that I have to remind myself that there is a world outside of my head. Sometimes. I was reminded about this again a few days ago while researching an article for Winedom.
Winedom was my first wine writing gig and I love it. I have a great partner in crime based out of Athens, Greece. We enjoy working with each other, communicate beautifully, and have similar interests when it comes to wine. He has me cover wine news, mostly, with a few listicles thrown in. When I decide what to write about if he hasn’t found a particular topic that he needs addressed immediately, I just go to googlecom/news and type in wine and start reading. Upon doing this the other day I was bombarded with articles from all over the place about a new product called The Oak Bottle. I’ll let you read about it on Winedom because I can’t recreate the article here nor does it have to do with anything I want to write about today.
So, The Oak Bottle. It was nearly every result on page one of my search. The idea is that you can take a lesser quality bottle of wine and improve its taste to that of an oak barrel aged wine, on the bottle level, in a matter of days. Magic? No, science. I like science (it’s my best category in trivia). And I like wine. And it sounded really interesting and had to do with both of those things. So I checked it out. The basic premise is that you increase the surface area of the oak while decreasing the volume of wine thus allowing for more contact and getting the job done faster. I was intrigued.
In one of the articles I read I noticed a great little video but being not as tech savvy as I would like, I couldn’t figure out how to embed it in my own article. So me being me, I sent a contact through the web page asking if they could send me an embed code. In a moment of planning I realized that if I were going to send that I should also explain who I am, what I was doing and ask for a quote. I wasn’t sure if I’d get one. Companies with new products (this was just launched in late March in Chicago) are often busy and may not be able to respond to an unknown wine blogger on a deadline. But what did I have to lose? Nothin’!
I included in my query a request for a quote and only a few minutes later I had an email from The Oak Bottle with a quote and suggestion for how to get the video (I already had accidentally found how to access the source code and pulled the embed code myself – rock on, Nancy!). And then another email came through letting me know that the emails were coming from the inventor/company founder. We exchanged a few quick emails about the product and another one they offer for aging and flavoring spirits and then I was done. Joel Paglione also sent me high quality photos to use with the post. Pretty cool, eh?
There’s an important lesson here. Despite my present lack of street cred in the wine world, here was someone who understands the value of connections and took the time to reach out. It gives him a chance to reach someone writing for an emerging blog and to be mentioned in a new forum, on my social media pages, etc. And it lets me get an edge by having a direct quote. I didn’t get a free Oak Bottle out of the exchange** but I’m certainly more likely to buy one, try it out, and leave reviews on various wine sites.
If you are just starting as a freelancer, do not be afraid to contact people. Ask for quotes, get an inside peek, stick your hand out and offer your name. Relationships are the cornerstone of this work and the way to network is by taking the first step. What is a risk you’ve taken in writing that has paid off?
*”Working on your novel, Nancy!” is a good answer. Also, “Writing some of those articles on your to do list, Nancy!”.
**To be clear: this was never even on my mind but I know that many people have found that reaching out will enable them to get a product to review. I’m more than happy to drop the $80 bucks to try it out.