Just a couple of years ago, if you would’ve uttered the words “freelance community” to me, I would’ve immediately scoffed.
“What do you mean community?” I’d say, “Freelancing is competitive—the last thing I want is a close group of people who are in-the-know on my secrets and could potentially scoop my clients right from under me!”
Are you nodding along?
That’s true—freelancing is competitive. With 55 million people who identify as freelancers in the US workforce today (that means roughly 35 percent of workers are freelancers, by the way!), there are tons of people out there who are doing the exact same thing as you.
So, seriously, why on earth would you want to communicate or—gasp!—collaborate with them?
I subscribed to this same philosophy for quite some time. But, soon enough, I realized that building my own freelance community—or, group of fellow freelancers that I could share and commiserate with—was actually one of the smartest things I could do for my success (not to mention my sanity!).
Why? Well, here are just a few of the many reasons a solid community will be one of your greatest assets as a freelancer.
1. A freelance community battles your feelings of isolation.
Whether you park yourself on your couch, in your home office, or at your favorite coffee shop, this same common thread likely holds true: You spend the majority of your time working completely alone.
That can inspire some amazingly high levels of productivity. But, it can also lead to a pretty overwhelming sense of loneliness. There are some days when 3 p.m. rolls around, and I realize I haven’t uttered a single word to anyone besides my dog.
In AND CO’s recent ‘Slash Worker’ study, 61% of respondents stated that a sense of community was missing from their freelance life. Moreover, another 60% said they feel that freelancers as a whole are stigmatized in the context of the traditional workforce.
So, why is this? Well, much of it could be attributed to the lack of close relationships—which is an acute risk factor for major depression.
Building yourself a strong work community can help to battle these feelings of social isolation that come along with freelancing. There are also robust freelance communities ready to join, like the Freelancers Union which is now 350k strong!
Building a freelance community will help you battle those feelings of isolation. Click To Tweet
Find a local group that you can meet up with for a cup of coffee, a brainstorming session, or some co-working time. Even if you connect with some fellow freelancers online, being able to engage in some friendly and relevant conversations will reverse some of those lonely emotions you deal with day in and day out.
2. A freelance community provides a network of collaborators.
Yes, as a freelancer you’re going it alone. But, beyond that being just plain lonely at times, it can also often make you feel like you’re in way over your head.
How do you deal with this tricky client situation? How can you know how much to charge for this project? Should you take on that assignment even though you’ve never done anything similar before?
Nobody can help you sort out those circumstances and answer those questions better than someone who’s been in that exact place before—which is yet another reason why having a community of fellow freelancers is so helpful. They can provide real-world advice and help you figure out how to navigate the freelance waters that sometimes feel murky to you.
But, wait, won’t opening yourself up like this make you vulnerable? Won’t that provide other freelancers with the opportunity to sabotage you or steal your projects?
Listen, when you carve out a niche for yourself, freelancing is a remarkably small world. Plus, there’s a certain level of mutual respect that freelancers share.
Is it impossible for someone else to slide in and scoop your work? No. However, if you build a community of honest and respected freelancers that you trust, it’s not something you actively need to worry about—the benefits far outweigh the potential and highly unlikely drawbacks.
3. A freelance community allows you to commiserate.
Freelancing is great. But, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. You have to manage all of your own administrative and accounting tasks (by the way, AND CO can make that way easier!). You need to figure out your own health insurance. You don’t get paid vacation days—which often transforms that relaxing trip you had planned into a stressful nightmare.
So, what do you do?
As it turns out, emotional avoidance can be bad for you in the long run for a number of convincing reasons—including extending the amount of time you feel anxious about that situation. It’s much better to get those bad feelings out promptly, especially if you can commiserate with someone who better understands what you’re going through.
Science even says that talking about your problems is helpful and cathartic—it’s why people pay good money for therapy sessions.
Here’s where your freelance community comes into play. With that network of fellow freelancers behind you, you have a great outlet that allows you to vent about those headaches with people who share your same struggles.
4. A freelance community helps you land more work.
Did you think that building a community of freelancers would actually mean less work for you? Think again.
A freelance community can actually help you score more projects—just take me as an example. I landed this very gig as a writer for AND CO through a fellow freelance writer in my community. Her schedule was too packed to take on additional work, so she connected me with the team here—and I’ve been writing for AND CO ever since.
You know this by now: Having a large and strong network as a freelancer is never a bad thing. The more people you can get connected with, the higher your likelihood of securing even more gigs.
Plus, in addition to having people who can refer work to you, you can also return the favor. If your plate is too full, you’ll be armed and ready with some recommendations that you can offer to that client for other freelancers they could reach out to. Or, if you’re working on a writing project for a client who could also benefit from design work, you’ll know just who to refer them to!
5. A freelance community boosts your reputation.
If there’s one thing that’s crucial to your success as a freelancer, it’s your reputation. Foster a bad one, and you’ll have a tough time landing gigs. But, foster a great one, and work will have a way of finding you.
Ask yourself this: What sort of reputation do you think you’ll establish if you’re that freelancer who’s always sitting in the figurative corner with your lips zipped, unwilling to connect or help other people in your industry? Well, not a great one. Use these tips to get in a great mindset before your next industry conference, so you’ll feel more confident going into it and perhaps get some leads. And don’t forget about leveraging social media to keep in touch with fellow freelancers and make new connections. Building up your own personal brand on social, and having your friends and freelancers spread the word about it will foster a strong community that has each other’s backs.
As a #freelancer, community over competition should be your motto. Click To Tweet
Freelancing in and of itself is a shockingly small world and a unique community—and it’s one that you should want to be an active part of. Beyond just being a nice and respectful professional, doing so will solidify your own personal brand and get your name out there even more.
In a career field as competitive as freelancing, it can be tough to prioritize community over competition. But, the sooner you realize that having a strong network behind you will help you and your career in numerous ways, the better off you’ll be!