It’s the ultimate irony: thousands of people are leaving their 9 to 5 jobs to pursue a freelancing career — yet as their numbers grow, so does their sense of isolation.
It can be tough working alone in your home office without any friends to talk to. Sure, you probably don’t miss the office politics, but having someone to bounce ideas off of or share concerns with can really help your productivity, not to mention your emotional health.
Then there’s the idea that you need to build a freelancing career completely on your own. Getting business advice and forming contacts is a lot harder to do without your office team.
Well, guess what? Lots of other freelancers feel the same way you do. And fortunately for you, they’ve been forming freelance communities that provide the support you need to build a thriving career.
Just how do these communities help freelancers — and where can you find a group that fits your needs? In this article, we’ll examine the answers to both of these questions.
Ever feel that nobody “gets” you or your desire to freelance? You might feel differently after joining a freelance community. Depending on the type of group you find, you can enjoy many benefits, including:
Probably the first thing many freelancers seek when they join a freelance community is a sense of belonging and encouragement. It’s heartening to know you can visit your Facebook group at any time and chat with freelancers dealing with the same issues you are. It’s even better when you start getting jobs and contracts and want to celebrate with your friends.
Be aware that encouragement runs both ways. While you may have joined a community to be supported, there are always other people who could use a friendly word from you. In fact, as you get more comfortable freelancing, you’ll discover you can offer answers to many of their questions and concerns.
Share your knowledge. It won’t be long before the freelancers you help become experts too — and many will be more than happy to help you when you need a hand. It’s the ultimate way to pay it forward!
If you’re worried you don’t know how to start freelancing, offer your services, or satisfy your clients, take heart. Every freelancer has been where you are at one point in their lives — and most are willing to share their experiences and offer useful strategies for solving your problems.
Being mentored in a freelance community can be as simple as asking a question on a message board or Facebook group and receiving dozens of replies from people further along in their freelancing careers. Or you might find an expert who’s willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes of creating a freelance contract, interviewing clients, pitching projects, and sending invoices.
In fact, many people join freelance communities simply because they want to help and mentor other freelancers. Some even offer formal online courses or provide professional consulting services. There’s a wealth of opportunities out there for learning what you need to know about freelancing at various points in your career — and a good freelance community can put you in touch with many of them.
If there’s one thing all freelancers are worried about throughout their careers, it’s finding work. Maybe your brother or second cousin provided you with some freelance gigs when you started out, but once those jobs end, how can you keep building your client base?
Freelance communities can help. Lots of freelancers turn to their online groups and networks when they hear about a new job their freelancer friends would be interested in. Sometimes, freelancers overloaded with work will offer jobs to other freelancers in their niche area. This is great since you’ll be getting jobs that don’t make it onto freelancer job boards.
Worried you don’t have enough credentials in your portfolio to present to clients? Plenty of fledgling freelancers stress over not having enough published clips to showcase on their website or social media channels.
Luckily, a freelance community opens up new opportunities for portfolio building. In my case, the facilitator of my freelance writing community Elna Cain accepts guest post pitches from writers who want to be published on her popular blog Freelancer FAQs. Not only did I get published multiple times on her website, the articles attracted the attention of Hectic and got me a writing contract with them!
The same thing can happen to you. Plenty of freelancers have found small gigs, guest posting opportunities, or contract work through their freelance communities. Even if the work isn’t steady, it’s a great way to build up your portfolio and work experience so you’re better prepared to present yourself when the big opportunities start coming in.
While you can find many lucrative freelance writing jobs online, the sad truth is you’ll also run into freelance writing scams as well. From fraudulent check schemes to fake “test” project scams, you’ll need to learn how to protect yourself from scammers.
An active freelance community will offer alerts on shady companies and new scams targeting freelancers. If you run afoul of a scam yourself, do your fellow freelancers a favor and tell them about it!
One of the greatest challenges a new freelancer faces is choosing their “niche.” It’s not enough to say you’re a freelance writer or web designer — you need to promote yourself as a specialist in a specific (and ideally lucrative) field like digital marketing, healthcare, or entertainment.
This can feel overwhelming, especially if you see so many people in your community confidently promoting themselves as LinkedIn social media managers or finance writing experts.
But take heart. Sometimes, seeing how different you are from your fellow freelancers also reveals what makes you unique — and helps you discover how you should advertise yourself to prospective clients.
Accept unique job offers to see if any of them are a good fit. Ask people in your group about their niches to see if they’re something you’d like to research. And bounce niche ideas off of your fellow freelancers to see what they think of them. It’s always possible your community members will know the perfect job for you once you share your niche with them!
So, how do you find “your people”? While you can still find good freelance groups who meet in person in your local community, these days most freelancers socialize and network online.
Here are some of the best ways to join a freelance community:
When I first got into freelance writing, I purchased Elna Cain’s (very reasonably priced) Write Your Way to Your First 1K online course. Not only were Elna’s modules and online videos packed with information, everyone who purchased her course got access to her private Facebook group WriteTo1KSuccess.
Suddenly, I could chat with dozens of new and seasoned writers at various points in their freelance journeys. People regularly posted job leads on the page and asked questions about how much they should charge and what contract template they should use. And since the members included professional lawyers, business owners, and consultants, the answers we got were often very well informed.
Naturally, not every Facebook group is going to be like this — but if you find a well-reviewed online course with an online group, odds are you’re going to find some supportive resources.
Slack is a business communication platform that offers persistent chat rooms where you can collaborate with groups of people on common interests, such as freelancing. You can post your questions, ideas, and findings in real time and get immediate feedback from other freelancers in the room.
You can also search through the chat history to see if other people have asked similar questions to yours and get immediate useful information from freelancers like you.
To start, check out freelance chat rooms like Workfrom or CreativeTribes.co. You’ll be able to participate in “virtual coffee chats” and connect with other solopreneurs, content marketers, writers, and more.
Keep in mind that some of these communities come with a signup fee, so you’ll want to make sure you’re going to participate before joining to get your money’s worth. A few Slack communities, such as Ladies Get Paid, also eventually move off of the Slack platform, so you’ll want to keep on top of new developments with your freelance community.
To paraphrase “Field of Dreams,” If you build it — they will come.
Don’t feel the established freelance networks out there fit your needs? Or maybe you think being a freelance community manager could be your freelancing career?
Then create an online community for the type of freelancers you want to interact with. There are plenty of online platforms you can use. In addition to Facebook and Slack, Mighty Networks offers a community software platform that lets you build online communities, create online courses, and develop branded mobile apps.
Megan Williams, a guest on Hectic’s podcast, runs a freelance community called Black Freelance on Mighty Networks aimed at providing support and opportunities for black freelancers. By doing this, she’s carved out a very specific niche that helps change the way black workers view freelancing.
When building your own freelance community, don’t just stop by creating a platform on Facebook or Mighty Networks. Build your online presence by sharing helpful content on your blog or YouTube channel. Offer reviews and testimonials of freelancers who’ve benefited from your network so others can see the value of your community. And leverage social media by learning what channels your target audience hangs out in so you can market your community there.
A lot of people think of LinkedIn as a place to find jobs. But LinkedIn is also a great place to network with other like-minded people, find support, share your work, and build an active community.
To really take advantage of everything LinkedIn offers, don’t just stop by creating a great LinkedIn profile page that advertises your freelance services. Keep returning to LinkedIn every day to send out connection requests to other freelancers in your industry. Read their social media posts and like, comment, and share them with others. As LinkedIn members see what you’re doing, they’ll be more likely to do the same with your posts, increasing your online visibility.
Ask questions to other LinkedIn members — and share your knowledge. Much like Facebook, people will be more than happy to connect you with useful resources, especially if they see you do the same.
LinkedIn also provides a platform to publish your own online articles and promote them on their site. This is a great way to build both your portfolio and your professional network. For instance, I connected with several folks in the entertainment industry and wrote articles on them for my blog and LinkedIn. After promoting the articles on LinkedIn, I attracted more attention from professionals who asked if I could write paid articles for their businesses as well.
Quora can be a fun place to learn what people online are asking about different subjects. I’ve actually used it as a research tool to come up with article topics for my own work.
But Quora can also be a good place to get in touch with other freelancers and get feedback on your questions. This platform is particularly popular when discussing topics dealing with Upwork, Fiverr, and freelance tips and hacks. Naturally, you’ll have to sift through multiple answers and comments to find the truly useful pieces of information, but you can gain some valuable insights here.
On the flipside, if you have a lot of freelancing insights to share, Quora can be a good place to share your knowledge. You might even make the Most Viewed Writers list and begin establishing yourself as an expert or thought leader.
While freelancing may seem to operate in a very isolated workspace, freelancers actually have some of the largest and most supportive communities today. With more and more people joining the freelance industry, the demand for online courses and support networks will just keep growing. And thanks to the Internet, anyone (including you) can start, manage, and join a freelance community.
When choosing a freelance community, be very clear on what your needs are. Research the groups you find online and determine what they offer and the type of members they attract. Freelance communities are built around many niches, including race, gender, and industry, so you’ll want to decide how you relate best to your fellow freelancers before joining.
Above all, be sure to participate heavily once you join a freelance community! This means more than asking for encouragement or asking questions — you’ll also want to contribute knowledge and resources as you grow more accustomed to freelancing. Somewhere out there, a freelancer could really benefit from your experience, so be willing to share.
Hungry for more freelancing knowledge? Hectic Academy is an online learning hub where experienced freelancers contribute their knowledge to help you succeed in your own freelancing career. Check them out today!