Writer? Graphic designer? It doesn’t matter. Self-employment is a lonely business.
I’m fortunate that my partner and I both work from home. It’s not as bad as it sounds – we have offices on separate floors. Every few hours or so, we’ll cross paths, complain about our days, and get back to work.
But there are things I deeply miss about working in a traditional environment.
I thought I’d miss the paycheck, but it turns out I love creating my own.
I thought I’d miss the customers I served in sales, but I encounter just as many challenges as I deal with some of my clients.
What I do miss are my coworkers.
There were one or two people with whom I connected especially well. We had a mutual respect and trust, and I still consider them my friends. But even aside from those allies, I just miss the busy-ness. Walking down the hall to be greeted by five people by name. Or taking lunch in the break room with the guy from accounting.
Freelancing is lonely work but there are communities out there if you’re struggling. You’ve just got to know where to look.
Yes, social media.
Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to get picked on if you had “online friends.”
Oh, she’s not a real person. She lives in Minnesota and you met her on the internet. Are you sure her name is Katie? Maybe it’s Bruce and he’s trying to kidnap and sell you.
More and more, however, we’re becoming a digital neighborhood. And within that digital neighborhood you can find a great freelancing community to keep you company.
Search Facebook groups or Twitter hashtags for people with common goals to yours. Join the conversation, and you’ve begun a freelancing community.
Join a co-working community
Speaking of social media, I’ve met many freelancers via Facebook and Twitter both. Social media has provided a wonderful opportunity to learn from colleagues and share what I know, too.
One of the freelancing colleagues I’ve come to admire is Moe Long, Founder and Editor-in Chief at Cup of Moe. And while he, too, primarily works from home, he offered another suggestion to me: co-working.
Co-working has its advantages. You can:
- Draw a distinct line between work and home, which is tough especially for beginning freelancers.
- Meet others who share common goals – most people you’ll share space with are self-employed, too.
- Have access to conference rooms and other facilities if you need to meet in-person with a client.
- Kill the isolation that comes with your work from home job.
Can you accomplish most of that by working at a coffee shop? Sure, if you can stand the terrible music. But by committing to a shared space, you’ll surround yourself with the same people daily. You’ll build a team. Best of all, you’ll have someone to go grab burritos with at lunch time. When you’ve finished your burrito, go check out Moe’s work.
Join or start a Meetup group.
Remember Meetup? Well, it’s still out there.
Depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to find a Meetup group which exists to connect freelance workers. If you can’t find one, that’s no problem. Just start one!
Meetups are a great way to get in touch with like-minded people. Connect with freelancers who are also writers or build a team of writers, designers and even tax accountants. Create a freelancing community of professionals in any field, and then decide whether you’ll share working space or just meet every now and then to share success stories (and horror stories, too).
Do You Need a Freelancing Community?
If you’re happy with your current situation, then by all means continue to endure the sound of your solitude. But there are benefits to beginning, finding or joining a freelancing community.
- You’ll face fewer distractions. This is particularly true if you travel to a co-working space and is especially important for beginning freelancers.
- You’ll meet people who share common goals. Collaborate on projects or just vent about a pesky client with your freelancing community.
- They’ll just understand. How many times have you been asked, “You get paid to what?” Your community will get you.
- You can share referrals. When your web dev coworker’s client needs a new content creator, you’ll be first on the list of referrals.
- Share costs. You’ll incur expenses as a freelancer, whether they be internet, software or even seminars. Share the expenses with your freelancing community.