Freelancing offers the gift of flexibility. With this freedom, you can often choose who you work with, plan where you work by yourself, and get your work done. In these unusual times, we are reminded that having a sense of connection is a fundamental need. One thing that we all have in common is a desire to connect with others.
As the author Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book, Outliers:
"Those three things -- autonomy, complexity, and connection between effort and reward -- are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It's whether our work fulfills us."
In this article, we'll explore how to feel connected by getting involved in a freelancer community and its benefits.
What does it mean to be a freelancer?
If you asked ten freelancers to describe what it means to be a freelancer, I imagine you would get different answers. However, if you look for patterns in the responses like a scientist, then I believe you'll spot a common theme.
A freelancer is someone who solves problems.
"Do what people are willing to pay for. Money is a neutral indicator of value. By aiming to make money, you're aiming to be valuable," says professor Cal Newport from Georgetown University.
Here are three examples of how a freelancer can create value by solving problems and get paid for it.
Marketing: You help your client understand how email marketing can grow their business. You collaborate on a 5-day sales funnel, which turns more email subscribers into paying customers.
Programming: You help your client understand challenges in the buying process on their e-commerce site. You apply your expertise to make it easier for customers to buy and build trust with social proof. These strategic changes lift the conversion rate, which in turn increases sales.
Consulting: You help your client understand the fundamentals of search engine optimization. Together, you create a game plan to improve rankings on search engines, which brings in more customers and revenue.
This concept of problem-solving has no bounds and will work regardless of the freelance business that you choose. Next, we'll take a look at why you should get involved in a freelancer community.
Why join a freelance community?
As a freelancer, at times, it can feel like you are on a little island for years. Sometimes you need a gentle reminder that you are a social creature. Being part of a community allows you to be part of something much bigger than you could by yourself.
In 2014, Freelancers Union and Upwork (previously Elance-Odesk) collaborated on a study about freelancing in the United States. They learned that 53 million people were freelancing in America. The same survey was conducted again in 2019 and found that 57 million people freelanced. That represents 4 million more people in the freelancer industry in the United States than just a few years before.
With this influx of new freelancers, comes increased competition. Historically, growth and competition stimulate innovation, which means the future of freelancing is looking bright.
Angela Duckworth, a psychologist, and an author touches on how motivational needs can be different between beginners and experts: "At the start of an endeavor, we need encouragement and freedom to figure out what we enjoy. We need small wins. We need applause. Yes, we can handle a tincture of criticism and corrective feedback. Yes, we need practice. But not too much and not too soon," she said. "Rush a beginner, and you'll bludgeon their budding interest. It's very, very hard to get that back once you do."
Whether you're just getting started or have been freelancing for years, a freelancer community can help you improve your craft by connecting you with like-minded people. Specifically, belonging to a freelancer community can 1) help you stand out by learning from others and 2) increase your impact. This winning combination can ultimately help you grow your freelancing job.
Let's learn more about how you can take a step forward to join some freelancing communities.
How can you get involved with a freelancer community?
Remember that being connected matters. Think back to your university or college days. What do you remember the most? Is it your classes and stacks of textbooks or the fun, exciting, and sometimes weird nights with friends?
If you are feeling a rush of memories from nostalgia, then that is normal. Your friends from college were there during good times. And they were also there for you during the bad times. Truthfully, these were people that "really got you."
A freelancer community can offer you a similar experience. Yes, a community can be a great way to meet people that share common interests like you. However, it goes even more profound.
What if you could be part of a community that listens to what you have to share, empathizes by withholding judgment, and where you can learn to connect with members emotionally?
Authentic connections are the real value of a freelancing community because freelancing is about relationships. People do freelancing jobs with people that they like.
In the words of the author Mark Twain: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one."
You could search online to join communities that you find interesting on Slack, Reddit, Facebook, and other channels. To jump-start helping you become more connected as a freelancer, we're going to highlight some of those communities. Then we'll discuss another invaluable resource for freelancers.
- Freelancer's Union. Founded in 1995, Freelancer's Union advocates on behalf of freelancers and independent workers.
- The Freelance Institute. A freelance community through Slack.
- r/freelance. A freelancing community hosted on Reddit.
- Remote & Travel Jobs & Life. A Facebook group for freelancers, digital nomads, and remote work enthusiasts.
Join some communities focused on specific areas of freelancing:
Are you providing enough resources and helping clients solve problems in another niche? Here are some search queries that you can adapt and run on your favorite search engine to discover new communities:
- Slack communities for X
- Subreddit for X
- Facebook groups for X
Swap out X for your niche or industry when searching online. Plus, this approach will work for other channels as well. Here are specific recommendations to discover some freelance communities that are the right fit for you.
First, make it easy to get involved today by choosing a channel (e.g., Slack, Reddit, Facebook, etc.) that you are already familiar with. Next, use a two-part approach to 1) explore a couple of general freelancing communities and 2) browse a couple of communities tailored towards your niche.
At a high level, a general freelancing community can help you with your mindset and well-being. A community-specific to your freelance industry (e.g., marketing, programming, consulting, etc.) can help you improve your specialized skills for your niche. There may be some overlap between various communities, and you'll continue to see benefits even as the future of freelancing changes.
In his insightful book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt cites various studies as proof that experiences bring us more happiness because activities are things that we do with other people. Activities such as events connect us to others.
Themed conferences are another great way to connect with fellow freelancers and potential clients. And in times of COVID-19, most of the events have gone virtual, which means that you can access them literally from anywhere in the world.
Running Remote Online is an excellent example of a community where remote work leaders, independent consultants, and freelancers share their experience, make new connections, and grow together.
This is a free online edition of the wildly successful Running Remote live conference, held annually for three years. It delivers insightful case studies from top remote work experts who have scaled their businesses without a physical office space.
Register for our next event for free until October 18. After that, the event pass can be purchased at $49.
Some of our amazing speakers include:
Kuppulaxmi Krishnamoorthy, Zoho’s Evangelist,
Davit Baghdasaryan, Co-Founder and CEO of Krisp,
Morgan Legge, CEO of Convert,
Milena Berry, Co-Founder and CEO of PowerToFly
We began this article by exploring what it means to be a freelancer. Then we talked about the "why" behind joining a freelance community. Next, we made it easy to get started by walking you through how you can get involved with a freelance community.
In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert says, "Impact is rewarding. Mattering makes us happy. The act of steering one's boat down the river of time is a source of pleasure, regardless of one's port of call." Freelancing grants the gift of flexibility, so you can figuratively "steer your boat" where you want to go. Eventually, you'll need to dock at a destination to replenish supplies. Whether you are a budding freelancer or a thriving freelance expert, remember that being connected to others is essential -- it's part of human nature to share in experiences.
Two ways to connect with fellow freelancers like you are through online communities and events. Remember, freelancing is about relationships. People do freelancing jobs with people that they like and can help them solve specific problems. Yes, it will take some effort and time, and it will be worth it. In doing so, you'll increase your impact, which can help you grow your freelance business.
Sign up now for Running Remote Online for free to invest in yourself and your freelance business.