Working as a full-time freelancer or as a solopreneur has its perks: you have a lot more control over your schedule, what projects you decide to take on, and even where your office is for the day. But all that flexibility and freedom does pose a challenge: not having a manager to report to or a team to check in with also means having no built-in support system to bounce ideas off of and learn from.
Flying professionally solo can easily become an isolating career path and can prove to be ultimately unsustainable. If you want to successfully continue your line of work, it’s important to surround yourself with a community. Luckily, there are several ways you can do so.
4 Ways to Find Your Freelance Community
1. Join Organizations
There are tons of professional organizations out there to consider, from informal meetups to international organizations with local chapters. You may consider beginning by looking up what organizations related to your field are in your city. Then, pick just one or two to get involved in. By limiting the number of groups you join, you’re allowing yourself to invest more time in them and, ideally, get more out of them. If you pick too many, chances are you won’t be able to serve as an active member in any of them.
There are plenty of compelling reasons to join an organization. For one, you are surrounding yourself with people to share ideas with, learn about news and best practices in your field, and grow your network. Depending on your experience, you can also potentially find a mentor or even serve as a guide to others.
If you don’t find an organization that feels like the right fit for you, don’t be afraid to start your own. Being the organizer of a group does not mean you have to be the most experienced in your field. You’re not serving as a leader, but rather as a facilitator to bring like-minded people together.
2. Look into Online Communities
While it’s always nice to have in-person connections with people, don’t overlook online communities as valuable resources and a great place to network. We’re not talking about sites like Yahoo! Answers or Quora, although they can be helpful in finding answers to your one-off questions. Rather, we’re talking about online spaces that are specific to a professional field where you can go to really talk shop (whatever your proverbial shop may be).
When looking for an online community, you may start by seeing if a dominant tool in your industry curates one. For example, digital marketers may consider becoming part of the Moz Community, a forum supported by the marketing software company that regularly hosts webinars, a Q&A database, and regular in-person events and annual thought leadership conference.
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3. Consider a Co-Working Space
Co-working spaces are all the rage these days, with companies like WeWork expanding rapidly to meet the demands of rising startups. Not only do these spaces give you an “office” where you can host meetings with clients, but they also often provide a wealth of resources and networking opportunities for its members, from professional workshops to even workout classes at its New York offices.
If you’re tired of your home office or rotation of coffee shops, it may be worth considering a membership to a co-working space in your area. There are several different models out there, with some merely providing a desk where you can focus on getting to work each day, to those who encourage collaboration among its members. Most, you’ll find, offer regular socials and events to help foster a community.
4. Make the First Move
Whatever step you decide to take in developing your professional community, don’t be afraid to make the first move. It could be as simple as messaging someone on LinkedIn whose work you’re familiar with or serves a familiar role in your field. Asking them out to a cup of coffee can go a long way in starting a network. By reaching out to one person, you’re one step closer to connecting with their contacts, and so on. And even if that professional relationship doesn’t end up working out, they may still have different resources and suggestions to share that will help you find your way.
Another thing to remember is not to give up. Chances are that’s not really a habit of yours – after all, getting to a point where you work by yourself probably took a lot of hard work and setbacks that you saw through. Creating your own community is not as easy as having one given to you at a company, but just like all the other perks of working for yourself, consider it a freedom to form the ideal support system that serves you best.
She started fifteen media over seven years ago. Since then, She has worked with PR firms to get them more media placements for their clients (think: ghost publicist, similar to a ghostwriter) AND small businesses who need media placements to gain additional credibility and exposure. Her clients have been featured in Forbes, Health, Refinery 29, Everyday Health, Men’s Health, etc.