Isolation is a huge problem for work-at-home freelancers who don’t have the daily interaction of coworkers or familiar faces at the lunch spot near their office.
Freelancers who live in a city where they can easily walk to a coffee shop or attend networking events with like-minded freelancers have an obvious advantage over those living in less populated areas. But even big-city freelancers can get lonely, especially if they live alone or if they’re new to that city.
Here’s a look at strategies for combating this problem and connecting with other freelancers.
Finding Your Community Online
Social media, email lists and forums can be an introverted freelancer’s BFF. You can tweet, blog or share without changing out of yoga pants or leaving the comforts of home! But if you’re strategic about it, online interactions can lead to in-person connections and those face-to-face meetings can really deepen your rapport, perhaps leading to referrals or people who can help you handle a tough negotiation.
As you find people you click with online, try to find ways to connect in person. Maybe you’re flying somewhere for a wedding and can set aside an afternoon to meet with the other freelancers in that city. Or if you’re headed to a conference, make a point of grabbing coffee with the freelancers you’ve met online who are also attending. If you exchange tweets with someone who’s doing projects you admire and discover you’re within easy driving distance of each other, find a time to grab lunch and brainstorm together. If you can’t meet in person, then suggest a Google Hangout or Skype session instead of just trading tweets.
1. Facebook and LinkedIn
Join Facebook or LinkedIn groups related to whatever type of freelance work you do. You might find a group for pet photographers in your city, food bloggers around the world or any other variation. Groups can be a great place to seek advice, make new connections, share leads on projects and more. Just remember that some of these groups have thousands of members, so think before you post. If you’re venting about a frustrating freelance client, it’s possible that your client or someone she knows belongs to that same group, so better to vent privately to one or two trusted confidantes than the group at large.
Just remember that some of online groups have thousands of members, so always think before you post!
Some people have migrated to other social media platforms, but plenty of others still find a sense of community there. Participating in Twitter chats for your niche can help you connect with others in your industry. For instance, the #kidlitchat brings together children’s book authors and those interested in children’s literature every Tuesday. If you’re planning to write a book, then you might want to check out #bookmarketingchat on Wednesdays. You can also create Twitter lists of people by geography or interest so you can easily find someone to invite to coffee when you’re traveling or have a project to refer.
Meetup is a social network designed to help people plan events and meet new people with shared interests. If you live in or near a big city, the chances are good that you’ll find multiple Meetup groups of freelancers looking to have coffee with each other, writers looking to critique each other’s work and more. If there isn’t a Meetup in your geographic area that suits your interests, why not start one? You may be able to find free meeting space at your local library or a coffee shop so you don’t have to invite strangers into your home. Choose a spot that’s convenient for you and that you enjoy so even if attendance is sparse, you’ll still enjoy yourself.
4. Specialized Groups
Whatever type of freelance work you do, you may find an online community devoted to that discipline. Freelance Success and the Freelance Writer’s Den are popular online communities for freelance writers, while Translator Café serves the translation community.
Finding Your People IRL (in Real Life)
If the only person you’ve spoken to in the last 72 hours is your mail carrier, it’s probably time to put on real clothes and venture out into the real world. You might luck out and meet web designers, content strategists or other freelancers in your book club, yoga class or at the dog park, but attending events targeted at your area of expertise increase the chances of finding like-minded freelancers. Here are a few places to start.
5. Taking or Teaching a Class
Perhaps your local adult education center has a need for a class on travel writing or interior design. Some of the people in your class are likely to be beginners, but at least they’re interested in the same things you are. Occasionally you’ll meet other professionals who are looking for a refresher course, and you’ll usually get paid for teaching. Taking a night course can help further your skills or build adjacent skills (for instance, a freelance web designer might take a photography class or a writer might want to learn more about illustration).
6. Coworking Spaces
Joining a coworking space is one way to get out of your house and interacting with others. If you’re not ready to fully commit to a full-time membership, many coworking spaces offer a day pass so you can try it out or more flexible arrangements for part-time coworking. If you’re freelancing while you travel, you might look for a nearby coworking space where you can connect with local freelancers.
Social media, email listserves and forums can be an introverted freelancer’s BFF. You can tweet, blog or share without changing out of yoga pants or leaving the comforts of home!
7. Professional Associations
Many professional associations for freelancers have local chapters that regularly host events. For instance, the Graphic Artists’ Guild, the Freelancer’s Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (full disclosure: I’m co-president of the Texas Chapter) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If your local chapter isn’t very active but there are other local members, consider volunteering to help plan a chapter event so you can become more involved and meet with local members.
Attending regional or national conferences with others in your industry is one of the most effective ways to boost your skills and make connections. If you really want to establish yourself as a leader in your industry, look into speaking at a conference, moderating a panel or volunteering at the conference. This may also help you score free or discounted conference tickets while boosting your visibility as a freelancer who’s in the know.