When you’re a freelancer, the word worry takes on a whole new meaning. It comes with the territory.
Unlike the more traditional 9-to-5, there’s a different set of expectations that fall on your plate.
More specifically, all of the expectations.
Outside of the work to be done relative to services you’re selling, there’s the actual selling, invoicing, marketing to juggle as well.
Honestly, that’s part of the fun of it all. You’re challenged in an entirely new way as the sole driver of your business. Even the worry takes on a positive spin when you consider that it stems from a place of genuine passion. You care about your business, you want it to succeed — of course you’re going to embrace the stress that comes with giving it all you’ve got.
But how much of the stress you’re feeling is necessary or self-inflicted? As entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to believe we can do everything.
And just try to tell us we can’t. Just try.
It’s us against the world, which is an awesome mentality for taking the leap into freelancing but not always super beneficial for growing a profitable, even six-figure, freelance business over time.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Or simply someone to talk to.
The Real Competition isn’t Other Freelancers
One mistake you can make as a freelancer early on is to narrow in on other freelancers as your competition. This mentality will only get in your way.
As a content marketer, I run up against a similar type of argument when businesses let their “secret sauce” ruin the quality of their content. They shy away from developing content with too much detail (i.e. value) or a unique angle for fear their competition is looking in at all times — ready to steal their secrets and customers in the process.
Here’s the thing:
Your freelancing business isn’t the only one of its kind.
You’re always going to have competition in the sense that there are other freelancers, agencies, or organizations that can do the same type of work as you. And sometimes, you’ll lose business to them — but not for the sheer reason that they exist.
More often than not, if you’re struggling to gain or retain business, it’s because of a downfall in your business processes. Maybe your pitches fail to convey value. Maybe you struggle to meet deadlines. Maybe you aren’t communicating fast enough for the client’s liking.
Whatever the case may be, before you fall into the deep dark hole of comparison, focus on yourself. There’s no time to waste on blaming all other freelancers and companies in your field when you could be spending it on perfecting the elements of your business that you can control.
Especially when other freelancers can prove so valuable in your success. Your fellow freelancers are your allies, not your enemies.
If you want to learn how to get freelance work effectively and consistently, you need to build a freelance community.
Freelancers Can Be a Resource for Building your Business and Brand
Running your freelance business solo may be manageable at first but at some point, the scales are going to tip. One day you’ll wake up and suddenly, all the time-blocking, long-hour working, and productivity tips in the world won’t help you in keeping up with your to-do list.
At first, this is scary. But hey, it means you’re doing something right if you have so much work that you can’t keep on top of it single handedly.
In this scenario, other freelancers can be a lifesaver. Virtual assistants, for example, can prove a vital resource for adding time back into your day for the high-level strategy that’ll move the needle forward.
This route is also great in the sense that it eases you into employee management and the financial considerations that come with it. Pool a group of trusted freelancers together that you can delegate work to and build relationships with over time.
Other freelancers are also great to tap into for the sake of building your brand online. If you’ve built a website with the intention of using it to get clients, you’ll need a plan for getting it in front of these potential clients.
This plan may revolve around a common SEO and content marketing strategy that involves building backlinks.
When other authoritative websites link out to your website — such as those managed by other freelancers in your industry — you increase the chances of it being seen (whether through third-party content or organic Google searches).
Freelancers Connect you to New Clients
Referrals, referrals, referrals. Take it from someone who worked in sales prior to freelancing: referrals are as good as gold in building new business.
There’s a certain level of trust that comes with word-of-mouth recommendations. And there have been plenty of times when the relationships I’ve developed with other freelancers have resulted in client pass along.
But why would another freelancer give me business?
Well, sometimes as a freelancer you get requests from a client that fall out of your wheelhouse of capability.
Telling a client, “I can’t do this but know someone who can,” has a much better ring to it than “no, I can’t do it”. It shows that you’re invested in a client’s success, even if you can’t personally get the work done.
Freelancers Provide a Sense of Belonging
Working solo in your pajamas is all fun and games until you realize the only person (well, creature) you’ve had a verbal conversation with in the past week is your dog.
The isolation is real in the life of a freelancer. Unless you put in the work to combat it.
Other freelancers aren’t just an asset for your bank account, but for your sanity and well-being. Create your freelance community with a meet-up or weekly chat that involves freelancing friends you hold near and dear. Talk to them as you would a co-worker and commiserate over the business hardships your friends and family can’t quite understand.
Freelancers Have Walked in your Same Shoes
Other freelancers know first-hand what you’re going through. They’ve walked in your shoes and have run up against the same obstacles.
Put the lessons they have to offer to work for your business so that you don’t end up repeating the same mistakes. There are even freelancers who teach others how to freelance.
Take on an “always be learning” mindset for the sake of honing your skills and creating processes that’ll take your efforts to the next level.
How to Get Freelance Work: Connect with Other Freelancers
Connecting with other freelancers is really not as hard as you might think it to be. For many, it starts without getting out of your own head and over your fears of networking.
You’re not inconveniencing anyone by genuinely trying to connect with them. And if you are, they’re probably not someone you should be investing much time in any way.
If you’re lost at where to start in meeting your fellow freelancers, here are a few starting points.
Do your Research
Hop online and start searching. You’ve ended up here after all — a blog boasting articles written by freelancers of all disciplines and experience levels. Start clicking on those author names and see what comes up.
In most cases, whether on this blog or others, you’ll find contact information associated with the contributors. It’s there for a reason.
Don’t Shy Away from Cold Emailing
With an email or LinkedIn profile in hand, don’t hesitate to reach out to freelancers you admire. Now, by “reach out,” I do not mean sending a one-line message that says, “Hey, what’s up?”
This isn’t Tinder, people.
Treat your note as you would a cold pitch to a potential prospect. Make it personal, establish a sense of connection, and share a reason for why they should write you back.
What you put into the relationship upfront is an investment relative to what you hope to get out of it. Why should they care if you don’t?
If you don’t want to send a private message right away, consider starting the relationship by engaging with other freelancers’ content. This could be in the form of comments left on blog posts or in the threads of their professional social posts.
Engage with Groups on Social Platforms
Social platforms make it easy to connect with other freelancers through the use of groups. People join them for the sake of interacting — get active.
Say ‘Yes’ to Local Networking Events
They say when you move somewhere new to say ‘yes’ to everything.
If people invite you to do something, yes. If you see activities happening around town that you’re interested in, yes. The more you experience your new home, the quicker it begins to actually feel like home.
Freelancing and networking kind of operates in the same way. You can either dive into the new surroundings that is being your own boss and get overcome by memories of easy work days gone by, or remind yourself of why you took the leap to begin with.
Put local networking events on your radar. Or, if there’s a distant conference that seems worthwhile, invest and write it off as a business expense. Commit to making a certain number of face-to-face connections when you go for the sake of holding yourself accountable and maximizing your effort.
Final Thoughts – How to Get Freelance Work: Build a Freelance Community
Freelancers are a great source of knowledge, comradery and business potential if you know how to make the most out of the relationships you seek out and build along the way.
Building relationships with other freelancers is not always easy and can certainly take you out of your comfort zone. But you’ve made it this far already. What’s a couple more emails, Google searches, and a friend request going to hurt?
It’s easy to feel like you don’t have time for anything outside of existing work and deadlines but six-figure freelancer Preston Lee recommends setting 10-20% of your time aside to work on developing and growing your business.
How have your relationships with other freelancers shaped your business into what it is today? Tweet @ANDCO with your thoughts and we’ll share our favorite responses.