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Building a community of freelancers

Making the move to Freelance can feel so exciting in those early days, but living the Freelance life can be much more challenging in reality.

It’s not uncommon for Freelancers to underestimate how much they will miss being in a shared office environment until they take the leap.  That five-minute “how was your weekend?” conversation, the mid-morning perk of hearing someone say, “I’m getting a coffee, anyone want one?” are unlikely to factor in your thinking when you’re trying to suss out if you can make freelancing work for you in the long-term.  But these interactions which break up the working day provide even the smallest of breaks and can re-invigorate you to move onto the next piece of work.  How do you stay motivated, how do you make sure you’re not working 10 hours straight, when you’re against the clock and there is nothing to distract from your “to-do” list?

It’s important to first understand what many freelancers miss from working in an office and work out whether this can be replicated by simply creating a community of freelancers.  The combination of regular conversation, plus the freedom which comes from working for yourself, is surely the most attractive combination if you’re going to live the freelance life.

Most freelancers work in isolation, their daily communications limited to emails and requests from clients, rather than having a community of colleagues around them.  But the reassurance from talking through your ideas, or just the company from seeing someone else in the morning can really help combat freelancer loneliness and prolong your career as a freelancer.

If this is what you feel you are missing from your day-to-day, how do you create a freelancer community? There are a few key methods we would recommend:

First, look at where you work.  Are you sat in your home office, or at your dining table?  Do you see anyone other than clients during your working day?  Are your interactions with other people all based upon transactional conversations, where clients give you work and you report back to them?  Is there any fun in any of this?  Thought not.

Think about working in a co-working space rather than your living room; co-working spaces can be surprisingly affordable, often come with no minimum contract to commit to and can provide the buzz of an office without the need for you to take any staff on.  <add link to co-working vs coffee shop article>

Second, ask yourself how many freelancers do you know?  Do you have anyone to use as a sounding board for your ideas or talk through your frustrations with?  Look into local “Freelancer Clubs” in your area.  Mostly they are an opportunity for some social interaction with other freelancers, happen in a local coffee shop every other month (so not a huge drain on your time) and are the brainchild of a fellow freelancer who was keen to combat the negative aspects of working for themselves.   The opportunity to meet other freelancers not only offers networking benefits, but also provides a community in which you can be surrounded by people who have exactly the same work-based challenges as yourself.  If a Freelancer Club doesn’t exist in your locality, maybe it’s time for you to set one up.  Yes, that’s right, you can be the leader of the pack!

One final thing to consider is how you split up your working day; are you sat at your desk from the beginning to the end of the day?  Why not work elsewhere for an hour or two during the day?  Lots of coffee shops offer incentives to those who want to work there mid-morning when business is otherwise slow.  Breakfast deals, free refills, free WIFI; they’re all set-up to encourage a community within the coffee shop during the quietest part of the day.  Go regularly and you’ll begin to see the same familiar faces, all tapping away, all escaping the house for some human interaction whilst they deliver their freelancing objectives for the day.

One of the biggest barriers to the continuation of freelancing work is feeling lonely.  By building a community of freelancers, or joining one, you can prevent this threat to the future success to your business.  And who knows, you might even make some new friends and generate some business associates too!

If you are looking to make the leap to freelance, you may find these links useful:

Posted in: Freelancer Blog