About two years ago, I quit my 9-to-5 job and pursued freelancing full time. I was excited about the freedom and limitless possibilities until I realized one thing was missing—community. Freelancing was lonely without co-workers and office camaraderie. But I discovered it didn’t have to stay that way.
With a bit of effort, I was able to recreate a sense of belonging. Plus, building my freelance community has been crucial to my success as a freelancer. My community reminds me that I’m not alone in dealing with the challenges I’ve faced (bad clients, a dried-up pipeline, rate questions). It also gives me ideas and advice to run my business better, connects me with new opportunities, and helps me build personal connections with other freelancers.
Here are seven tips for networking and building community that have worked for me.
1. Put yourself out there.
People need to know who you are and what you offer. You’re not top of mind for anyone but yourself, so you must remind people what you do as often as possible.
I developed an elevator pitch that concisely communicates what I do, who I do it for, how I do it, and what sets me apart. I keep my elevator pitch in a note on my phone for quick reference when I introduce myself in a new Slack channel, re-introduce myself to my followers on social media, send cold pitches to new clients, and answer the question, “What do you do?” at networking events.
Alexa Phillips is a freelance writer and creative marketing consultant with 8+ years of experience helping fast-growing businesses showcase their brands and tell their stories through content-driven marketing.
2. Find and follow other freelancers.
Building a community requires making connections, so I started to follow other freelancers in my niche (writers and marketers). I followed freelancers with 300 followers and freelancers with 30,000 followers to start building my network. I also followed freelancers outside of my niche.
The benefit of doing this is you start building a network you can refer work to, especially if it’s for a service you don’t provide. For example, my network includes writers, web designers, and sound engineers. So now, whenever a client approaches me looking for a freelancer who offers a particular service, I have a whole network of people I can pull from.
3. Engage on social media.
More than having a social media profile and following other freelancers, you must engage with them. Some ways include:
- Participate in Twitter Chats and Spaces: Participating in Twitter Chats and Spaces can help you find more freelancers to add to your network and get advice on running your business. One chat I participate in weekly is #FreelanceChat hosted by Michelle Garrett, where freelancers come together to discuss different topics related to freelancing, such as finances, legal matters, dealing with clients, etc.
- Engage with other people’s content: If you want people to follow you, you must like, comment, and share their content. Leave thoughtful replies and provide value to the overall conversation.
- Join groups and follow hashtags: Join freelance groups on LinkedIn and Facebook to connect with other freelancers in your niche or geographic location. Also, specific hashtags such as #FreelanceTwitter help you find other freelancers to follow and engage with.
4. Join Slack or Discord communities.
Slack and Discord have also become popular for freelancers to find communities of like-minded people to join. To find the right channels, consider where your ideal client spends time. Target different industries you want to work in (food and beverage, e-commerce, technology, etc.), types of work (content, video production, UX/UI, etc.), or your geographic region to find the right groups to join.
If you need help figuring out where to start, check out Slofile or Unita’s list of Slack communities.
5. Sign up for freelance membership communities.
There are several paid membership communities for freelancers that you can sign up for. These organizations offer resources to help freelancers grow their businesses, master their craft, find opportunities, and connect with others. In addition, most have their community function, whether on Slack, Discord, or native on their website, for other freelancers to connect and mingle.
Examples of freelance membership communities are Superpath, Peak Freelance, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and Pollen.
6. Take the conversation offline.
While connecting online is great, so is connecting with fellow freelancers offline. Whether it’s in-person meetup groups, networking events, coffee dates, lunch, or a Zoom call, make an effort to connect one-on-one with other freelancers. Take the initiative, DM your social media connections, and schedule a 30-minute chat. It’s a great way to put a face (or voice) to a name and can go a long way to building a stronger and more personal connection.
7. Join a co-working space.
If you crave more in-person connections, consider joining a co-working space. Co-working spaces are great options to meet and mingle with local business owners and other professionals in your area.
You can meet other freelancers, potential clients, and cool and interesting entrepreneurs. Plus, it helps you get out of the house, so you create that feeling of separation between work life and home life.
Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having work friends. All it takes is a bit of effort building community online and offline to make your days as a freelancer a little less lonely.
Become one of us! Join the freelance community at Contently by creating your portfolio today.