A little while back, I decided to quit my full-time job to focus on freelance writing and my Ph.D. One of the things that I quickly discovered was how lonely both of those things could be, especially freelancing.
At a standard 9–5, even a writing one, you have people to bounce ideas from and get advice, as well as KPI’s to achieve from external goal setters. Heck, you’re around other people. Considering the previous year’s events, as a freelancer, building up a supportive and positive network of other freelancers is more important than ever.
Take a second to think about it, if you struggled to get through last year (professionally speaking), would having more people back you up and feel less lost, help? My guess is yes. That’s the case for me at least, and I’d wager I’m not alone in that.
So what exactly can a network of other freelancers in your field help you with? And why is it so important?
You get to see problems from different perspectives
As I mentioned before, when you’re working from an office, and you hit a little snag in your project, you can ask a work buddy for advice. When you’re starting out as a freelancer, you don’t often have that luxury.
If, however, you do have even one other freelancer friend to talk about your problem with, you can benefit from an outsider perspective knowledgeable in your field or at least empathetic to your situation.
For example, I was having an issue with a client, and I wasn’t sure how to approach them. I was able to turn to other freelancer friends who had been in the same or similar position to me and were, therefore, more than qualified to offer advice.
Listening to them, and realising what the real issues were in my situation immensely improved the way I moved forwards with clients.
You get the benefits of a Mastermind Group
Even if your network is less formal, not necessarily a fully-fledged mastermind group, you still benefit from being in one. In fact, Andrew Carnegie credited his entire fortune to the mastermind concept.
Longtime partner, Napoleon Hill, describes it as:
“Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”
Beyond being able to get advice, a good network can help you collect ideas, hold you accountable, improve your business skills as well as your personal skills.
You can get these benefits through networking on sites like Twitter or LinkedIn. However, when I joined a more formal group called Peak Freelance, I found a huge boost in all of those areas and the momentum to keep achieving, which moves me onto my last important point.
Networking with other freelancers isn’t a competition, it’s a collaboration
You might have read my headline and thought “well, that’s dumb, wouldn’t other freelancers in your niche be competition for you?”. Sometimes that might be the case, but what I’ve found is mostly the opposite.
For a start, you’ll have a hard time finding other freelancers who have the same experience levels as you in the same niche(s). As a result, you can benefit from the insight of those with more experience than you, and lend a hand to those with less.
These kinds of reciprocal relationships in your network form strong bonds, especially giving help and advice to others without the expectation of ‘you owe me one’. As a bonus, when you’re nice to people without ulterior motives, you’ll often find you’re the first person they think of when passing on client leads and opportunities anyway.
The other positive side effect of collaboration happens when a difficult or malicious client starts trying to hire in your field, but word of their behaviour gets out in the network. The client gets blocked through various warning messages, and everyone is better off for it.
So how do you network with other freelancers?
The easiest, free way to network with other freelancers is simply following them on social media (Twitter is best for this). As well as company profiles and ‘industry experts’, add freelancers in your niche to your follow list.
When you’ve identified and followed some, make an effort to engage with their posts, share their work/service, and provide feedback (especially if you get a lot of value from them).
After some time doing this, your network will naturally get stronger, and you can also start approaching people directly through their DM’s, they might even initiate the conversation themselves.
The next best way to network is to join (or start) a specific mastermind-type group, which can be a little more difficult and not always free. In one way, you’ll have to find a group and then also figure out how to join it.
If the group has a high level of expertise or other tangible benefits from being in it, like Peak Freelance, you’ll need to pay a membership fee. Other times, you won’t, but you’ll need to be invited or have access to the invite (such as Slack groups). You can even have a go at creating your own premium-access community and invite other freelancers you may already know.
However, once you’re in, you’re in. As long as you’re polite and respectful to others, it can stay that way. It’s also worth saying that if you can, you should pursue both of these methods for networking with other freelancers, not just one or the other.
So that’s it! I hope I’ve convinced you of the importance of networking as a freelancer, with other freelancers. That being said, the benefits and strategies I’ve covered also apply to non-money-making activities too. Think of reading circles, art critique groups, writing masterminds, and even sports teams/fans.
As humans, we’re a pretty social bunch, and as we form bonds through professional or personal relationships, we can always rely on getting a little help from our friends.
Disclaimer: the links to Peak Freelance are affiliate links, which means that if you click through and decide to become a member, I may get a bonus or cash equivalent commission at no extra cost to you.