Ever thought about freelancing? Working as a freelancer allows you up to use your skills, experience and core competencies in a meaningful way with many different companies over time.
Whether you source your own work or bid for work on one of the many online freelancing websites and digital platforms (across the globe), you have the flexibility to find and complete assignments and projects on your own terms.
The freelance marketplace – seek out like minded freelancers
Once of the biggest challenges that you face when considering freelancing is how you will form professional connections and indeed, source the work itself. There has never been a better time to consider freelancing but it does require some guts to take the leap.
If you are an introvert who loves to spend a lot of time alone, freelancing is a great way for you to work without being in close confines with other people day in, day out. Alternatively you may be raising children or caring for aging family members.
You may even be looking to free up some time to pursue other passions in your life. Freelancing offers flexibility to work around your other responsibilities.
According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, the self-employed sector now includes approximately 4.8 million people with freelancers comprising 42 percent of that population and 6 percent of the UK Workforce as a whole.
Traditional work arrangements are being challenged by new ways of working. Freelancers fall in love with work flexibility and creating solutions, solving problems and helping a diverse range of clients to thrive.
But traditional work arrangements allow you to make connections with those around you, more easily than freelancing. That means you need to find new ways to stay connected with like minded people.
Freelancers represent 35% of the total U.S working population and could represent more than half the country’s workforce by 2027 – Morgan Stanley.com
Joining a freelancing group in your city (or virtually, if you are so inclined) can be a great way to collaborate, stimulate conversation, share ideas and brainstorm solutions to common project challenges.
Finding freelancing communities near you
I bet there are freelancing communities that meet regularly in your city right now. Deciding which groups to join takes some consideration. Have a think about why you want to connect with a group of fellow talented freelancers.
Are you simply looking for company and general conversations about freelancing? Or are you looking to meet with people who do the same type of work as you? No matter what your reason for connecting, there are freelancing communities for everyone.
Related Article: Contingent Employment – Is this the sign you have been looking for?
If you are not familiar with how to find freelancer communities, scope out freelancer groups in your city, by doing a quick Google search.
For example, if I google “Freelancing community in Seattle Meetups” here’s what comes up on Page 1 of my Google search:
What is a Meetup?
One of the most common forms of freelance communities is called Meetup. Meetup is a global website that allows you to find like minded communities for almost everything.
As Meetup states themselves, “getting together with real people in real life makes powerful things happen. Side hustles become careers, ideas become movements, and chance encounters become lifelong connections. Meetup brings people together to create thriving communities.” OK. Sounds a little corny right, but it’s true.
So if you are now feeling warm and fuzzy, check out what Meetup has on offer in your city.
You’ve found a freelance community group online. Now what?
Meetup follows a general philosophy where you can reach out to the group leader of any specific group. You will normally see a name on the screen. I have added an example below:
So do it. Email that contact and introduce yourself. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right. Here is a sample email that you might consider sending to the group leader:
I recently came across your social media freelancer Meetup in a google search. I am really keen to connect some fellow freelancers but this isn’t something that I’ve been involved in before. Would you be able to help me to navigate the next steps to get involved?
Don’t forget to add your email signature here to give the Meetup organiser a sense for your key areas of expertise as well.
Starting out in the freelancing world may feel a little overwhelming. So Meetup organisers will normally go out of their way to help you learn the ropes if you are new to the concept. And more specifically, they will understand that you may feel nervous when meeting new people.
Attend a Meetup and see how it feels – assess your “fit”
Meeting new people can be nerve racking. Add the fact that you will likely spend some time talking with strangers about what your skills are, and your anxiety is likely to move into over-drive.
Push yourself outside your comfort zone. What is the worst thing that can happen? You might walk away and realise that you have chosen the wrong freelancing community for you – but on the flip side, you might start forming professional connections that become trusted friendships and trusted confidants over time.
Most freelancers find that joining communities via Meetups:
- Allows them to share ideas
- Provides a supportive environment to talk through difficult client scenarios or assignments
- Makes you feel more connected and energised in the work that you do
- Creates an environment to share business development tips
- Sometimes produces work from those they meet (although this is not the main aim)
So, what have you got to lose? An hour or two of your time is really the only cost of dipping your toe in the water by attending a freelancer Meetup. If the first forum you attend is not quite right, try another group or two within your city to find a better fit.
Online freelancer forums
If you know that meeting up with a group of freelancers in person will cause major anxiety for you, then an online forum might be a better option for you. Online forums serve the same purpose as a Meetup. But instead of meeting face to face, you meet online.
Again some forums may work better for you than others. Some require you to apply for a membership. Other digital forums require no cost or upfront personal information from you to join.
My experience is that forums requiring membership often offer better discussions and idea sharing. It sounds silly, but taking the steps to actually join the group, means members are a little more serious about their desire to connect with other freelancing professionals.
Online forums such as Lancebase offers a “dynamic forum, high-powered discussions, platform ratings, marketplace news, independent workforce chat.”
If you are looking to grow your professional network, consider joining some relevant LinkedIn groups. Again, you may need to do a little research to find the most helpful groups for you.
You can join more than one group on LinkedIn. So join a few and experiment. You will soon work out the groups that are just right for you. The only word of caution I would offer here is to limit the groups you join. You will find it hard to contribute and learn from too many groups at once.
Remember that you join LinkedIn groups to support others and gain advice, so make sure you don’t use these group forums for blatant self promotion.
Many industry associations offer a forum on their website for their members to network, in person and virtually. In the freelancing space, most industry associations are created to educate, support and represent freelancers.
Some industry associations offer workshops, training and guidance on how to set up and navigate the freelancing marketplace.
Discussion groups and digital forums as well as physical meet ups, allow you to tap into other freelancer knowledge. Whether you are trying to find the best co working space to work, need support from other freelancers for advice, ideas and inspiration or just love the idea of belonging to a community, explore Industry Associations as a way to grow your network.
Accreditation and Educational Institutions
Joining an alumni group after you have completed training and tertiary education opens the door to some incredible networks. Accreditation groups and educational institutions such as universities, nurture enormous and diverse alumni communities.
Being a valued member of that community means you are offered a range of benefits including access to facilities right through to connecting with fellow Alumni members both in person and on line.
Email or call the accreditation body or education institution you are affiliated with to better understand the digital forums they offer or community memberships that are available to you. There is no doubt that the network of alumni contacts will benefit you in your work journey in the future.
Industry knowledge, practical support and innovative ideas are no longer difficult to access. Digital technology has opened a plethora of “virtual” doors (physically and virtually) to information, support and guidance from reputable and relevant connections that will make your freelancing journey easier and more enjoyable.
Whilst it can take a little time for you to find freelancers in person, on digital forums and online groups that resonate best, the benefits are most certainly worth it. Get connected, learn from others, give back and feel supported as a professional in your field.
Digital disruption is creating an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration with like-minded freelancers around the globe. Grab this opportunity with both hands. Collaborate and thrive.
Further Reading and Resources
The top 10 industries for freelancers
Finding and joining a LinkedIn group on LinkedIn
Harvard University – An example of the benefits of joining an Alumni