Why Building a Freelancing Community Is So Crucial

By Jackie Lam, Contributor, on March 6, 2018

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I just hit my two-year anniversary as a full-time freelancer, and one thing that’s become increasingly apparent to me is just how crucial it is to cultivate a freelancing community. When I worked a nine-to-five, I used to think of myself as “Miss Independent.” I used to retreat to my hovel of an apartment after work, barely making an effort to maintain relationships. “I’m self-sufficient,” I thought to myself. “Plus, I’m around people all day.” To me, there was no need to put myself out there and seek out new friendships.

But now that I freelance, my tune has changed dramatically. I’ve discovered how being part of a community of freelancers — whether it’s through an online network or a group freelancers who live in the same city — is essential not only to your bottom line, but also to maintaining your sanity (things do get a little crazy, after all).

Here are some of the many ways freelancers can help each other out:

Job Referrals

Not a day goes by where I don’t stumble upon a writing opportunity in a Facebook group for freelancers, or connect a fellow personal finance writer to an editor who’s looking for solid contributors. In fact, I’d say that the bulk of the clients I currently have came by word-of-mouth referral or a networking mixer. I’ve landed some of my other clients through LinkedIn or by attending professional conferences. Bonus: These types of warm introductions are way better than a cold call.

Developing Your Business

The beauty of freelancing is that you get to create a blueprint for how to run your own business. On the flip side, it can be tough to figure out exactly what’s needed legally and financially when you’re on your own. In my freelancing community, we share our independent contractor docs, quibble over exactly how much per paycheck to set aside for taxes, chat about when it’s time to hire a virtual assistant and swap personal reviews on different accounting software.

We also talk about our “productivity flows,” and how to best structure our days so we can get the most done. Since we’re trying to figure things out as we go, leaning on one another for advice and resources helps us build our businesses and determine what’s best for us.

Negotiating Rates

There are few things that evoke feelings of deep dread more than negotiating rates. If I’m stuck in the “courting” phase, I’ll reach out to a freelancer I know who writes for the publication in question. I ask them about the client’s rates and their overall experience working for the company.

As there’s no Glassdoor equivalent to most freelancing gigs, it’s tough to figure out what the going freelancer rates are for a company. I’m hoping that’ll change soon, and that there will eventually be a site that posts this information for companies that hire independent workers. (A freelancer can dream, right?) But, in the meantime, we will need to rely on one another to figure out what to charge, and what the monetary value is for certain types of work.

Creating Pop-Up Teams for Projects

The feast or famine struggle is real. And when there’s a sudden upswing in work, freelancers can create teams to get projects done faster. At times, I’ve reached out to my network for help in photo research or graphic design. And I’ve also been considering the idea of developing a “creative collab” of sorts, where freelancers can not only tap into their network to have the manpower and talent to finish big projects, but also help each other out when someone’s super busy and could use an extra hand (or two).

Healthcare Recommendations

Sure, nothing is certain but death and taxes. But when you’re self-employed, you can add buying your own healthcare to the mix. When you’re trying to do it all on your own, it can be tough to try to figure out whether to join a healthcare ministry, opt to purchase a policy on the healthcare exchange or learn the benefits of an HSA.

And with recent, drastic changes to the Affordable Care Act, figuring out healthcare as a freelancer is an even more confusing (and worrisome) matter. Getting advice and talking things out with others who are in the trenches can help you find some clarity.

Moral Support

One thing I do miss about having a day job is engaging in water cooler talk with coworkers, or commiserating in our shared work-related woes. Nowadays, I’ll reach out to freelance pals online to rant, vent or share some personal wins. Just the other day, I shared some news about a new client I’m super excited to work for. Oftentimes, my fellow freelancers and I will also message each other if we’re having a bad case of the Monday blues, struggling through a mid-week slog or dragging from freelance burnout.

And then we’ll have those “Is it just me?” or “Am I crazy for thinking this?” moments. I’ve had my fair share of dark moments and bouts of self-doubt. Having someone who shares in the struggle helps you maintain your sanity and boost your spirits.

It’s a great feeling to have freelance pals you can lean on and confide in. My support network now spans different time zones and professions, which, if you ask me, is really cool. Having a freelancing community helps me survive and thrive as an independent worker. I don’t know why I didn’t strive to find my community sooner!

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