Thursday’s Home for Traveling Freelancers: My Corner of the Freelancing Community

This week, I had two friends — fellow freelancers — come to visit. One came from Rhode Island, one from Texas. We spent a lot of time talking about the launch of EnhancedFreelance.com, as well as just the details of where we are in our own careers. We talked about the nuts and bolts of a marketing plan one of us wants to put into play and how the other can build up a video series that will interest potential clients.

I try hard to make sure that I get to spend a lot of time with other freelancers. I routinely invite out of towners for visits, I ask people out to lunch, I throw parties and I do everything else I can think of. I don’t have a problem sharing my spare room or feeding a wayward freelancer to get the chance to talk shop.

The Freelance Support Structure

As freelancers, there isn’t always an easy way to find a support structure. If our families aren’t experienced in running their own businesses, they can be supportive, but they can’t always actually be helpful. And even if you have a family like mine — more interested in how little Timmy’s paper route is going than if he made the football team — it’s hard to come by freelancer-specific advice.

When I started out as a freelancer, I spent a lot of time in writing forums online. More than once, that lead directly to me banging my head on my keyboard. The fact is that most writing forums (especially those with sections specifically about craft) are geared towards people writing fiction on the side while working a day job. Freelancers are few and far between.

I’ve found some better options since then. There are a few forums, mostly associated with blogs, that cater to freelancers. You can get some decent support, although you may have to wade through a fair amount of newbie questions that could have been answered with a quick trip to a search engine.

More than Just the Obvious Reasons

It can be hard to quantify having a community of freelancer friends. The feeling that you’re not alone (particularly if you’re used to working from home all on your own) is crucial. But that sort of community is how certain projects get done: referrals get passed around, barters of one service for another get made, joint projects get set up.

I feel that having access to a community is a crucial benefit to EnhancedFreelance.com — if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have included a forum in the package. Running a forum takes a lot more work than writing up materials that can help a freelancer educate herself.

But here’s the thing: if you’re not at the right point in your career to need to expand your client list or specialize in a particular type of freelancing, that’s okay. I may be a shameless promoter, but I’m not about to tell you that you have no options but to buy a membership from me (though if you want to, you’ll get what you need and we’d love to have you). You still need a community. Go find one. Now. Online is fine, but if you can meet up with fellow freelancers in person, do it. I don’t care if you never leave your house. Find a way that sitting down and talking about freelancing with someone feels comfortable. It’s the greatest thing you can ever do for yourself as a freelancer.

P.S. In My Area? I’m Always Up for Coffee

I live in the middle of Maryland. I go to Baltimore and DC pretty regularly. Have your people call my people — by which I mean send me a message through my contact form. Let’s meet up.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan October 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I am a wuss when it comes to community building. I have some ideas why, but it’s all psychological. I’m trying to get better at it, especially since moving from NYC to ATL.

Traveling while freelancing while pregnant is an art form. I depend on the community I already have in NY (we’re here visiting) to be empathetic to both schedules – needing a little more down time than I use to in order to recover and making deadlines. I’ve found most people crave wanting to slow down a bit. As a freelancer, you tend to say yes and go from 0 to 100 at a moment’s notice. It’s something I’ve been talking to my freelance cohorts here about. Being pregnant has really forced me to evaluate the priorities and what the ultimate gain will be.

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thursday October 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm

That’s a really interesting perspective. My husband and I don’t have kids yet, but I expect that when we do, having a support system is only going to be more important — along with some other major shifts.

I moved right when I was getting serious about freelancing full-time and it was very difficult at first. But just by putting myself out there, I’ve made some great freelancer friends in my local area.

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Susan October 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm

We moved in the middle of my 10 years+ freelance career, but it’s been a bit slow for me lately. It makes it harder without local contacts, but being able to build up remote contacts is huge. I just landed a big lead that should pan out from a contact that lives hundreds of miles away.

It’s been our goal to have mobility + stability and my husband found a job that is mostly remote. That gives both of us even more freedom to pursue freelance projects.

For me, it’s really important to have control over what I want my life and future to look like. So scaling down with the baby, and then back up when she’s on more of a routine. But ultimately life is just unpredictable, so I’d rather have control over my lifestyle. Which means I need control over my work.

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