If you’re a developer, we’re hoping that you’ve found an excellent source for leads. There’s another component for freelancing success that can’t be found on a job board. That’s the support of other freelancers in your niche who can give you advice on running your business. You need a freelance community.
While the freelancing life has an air of independence, sometimes we need help from others. This could be for a job or it could be just to commiserate about the ups and downs of the lifestyle. There are several places freelancers go to have their own private “break room” to swap tips. We’re going to share a few of those for developers (and related design groups) with you.
Slack for Devs
Slack is an obvious one to some, and that’s because it’s the most popular place to build a freelance community, hands down. If you haven’t used Slack, consider it to be the next level up from the traditional forum. Slack’s original purpose was to allow real-time collaboration between teams for project management, but there are now thousands of groups where people with similar interests come to chat and share ideas.
One of the benefits of Slack is that the groups can be quite granular. Unlike a freelancing forum on a job board site, you can really drill down. Here are a few examples:
http://ios-developers.io/ (iOS developers)
http://alexnab.github.io/android-united/ (Android developers)
http://frontenddevelopers.org/ (Front-end web development)
https://twitter.com/fedsonslack (Another Front-end development group)
http://sass-chat.herokuapp.com/ (Software as a Service development)
http://www.angularbuddies.com/ (Angular.js development)
http://bit.ly/rubyslack (Ruby development)
http://larachat.co/ (Laravel framework)
https://bootstrap-slack.herokuapp.com/ (Bootstrap development)
There are also more general groups, such as:
http://hashtagfreelance.co/ (General freelance community)
http://www.designerhangout.co/ (Slack group for designers, great for front-end)
https://codenewbie.typeform.com/to/uwsWlZ (Code newbie)
Some of these groups have strict sign-up policies. Others are more open. Explore these groups and Slack to find others that are active and have a sizeable population.
Facebook for Devs
Facebook is another place to find freelancing groups, though it is not nearly as popular. Facebook’s interface doesn’t allow for good group collaboration like Slack does. Most attempts to create freelancer groups on Facebook end up turning into job boards eventually or become closed/private to prevent people from trying to turn them into one. This is the main reason why Slack is far more popular for freelance communities.
Many freelance communities on Facebook are actually extensions from another site selling services or offering content. For instance, the Being Boss group is a place for freelancers to discuss the latest podcast from that site. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, but you have to be choosy.
One group that is development-focused is Unstoppable Basecamp. This is a group for web developers and designers with very strict entrance policies. Be sure to read the sidebar to see if you qualify. You might have to do a big revamp of your profile before attempting to join!
Another group that might be of interest is Simplified Systems. This is a group that shares systems for simplifying businesses. It could be an excellent place to get ideas for new web-based tools.
Another way for developers to network is to start participating in projects on Github. Github is a place for people to create and collaborate on open source software projects using the Git VCS. Due to its focus on coding, most of the people you find there will be developers of one sort or another. Collaborating with someone on a project will build your skills and your portfolio. Get a good reputation on Github for open source contribution and you’ll start making a lot of contacts.
The best way to start is to learn Git and then dive into a project by offering improvements. Git does have a learning curve, but grasping good Git etiquette is pretty easy.
Professional Dev Organizations
There aren’t many professional organizations for the overall freelance developer community. Granted, there are the excellent general organizations like The Freelancers Union (US) or IPSE (UK), and those might be good places to seek out others. Depending on your personal programming niche, your language might have their own professional organization. However, it’s not likely to be freelancing specific. If you are a front-end developer, you might want to consider joining AIGA, a long-standing professional organization for designers.
Are you a developer and you have a place you like to hang out with other freelancers? Let us know in the comments. We may fold your information into an updated version of this article. Until that time, we really suggest starting to explore what Slack groups and Github have to offer, as that is where you will get the most reward for your efforts.