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.