“Smart creatives value community over competition.”
The world of freelancing can be a lonely old place, that’s one of the many lessons I’ve learnt in the first year of going self-employed. Making the transition from a busy office full of colleagues with the opportunity for a quick natter in between tasks to spending a solid eight hours stuck between the same four walls with only your thoughts to keep you company can be extremely tough.
This is just one of the many factors that didn’t really cross my mind before taking the leap and leaving my 9-5. Whenever I heard people complain about the loneliness of working for yourself I just didn’t really understand, I only saw the positives. The freedom, the flexibility, the comfort of working from your own home in your pyjamas if you so wish! It was only when I got to experience it first hand that I truly felt the isolation that can come from being a full-time freelancer.
As much as I want to learn to be happy and content in my own company (I’m currently in the process of reading What a Time to be Alone by Chidera Eggerue) full-time freelancing and working from home five days a week can sometimes be exhausting and so by having a supportive community around you that you can lean on when things get too much is extremely valuable.
There are several things I’ve done over the past year which have created opportunities to build my own community, attending local industry events is just one them. There’s nothing more comforting than getting to hear first hand from those who have also struggled with the transition and sharing tips and tricks for ways to navigate the more difficult times. Smaller independent creative meetups have also been a huge blessing for me and have put me in touch with the loveliest group of female business owners who all support and encourage one another on an almost daily basis.
Joining several Facebook groups aimed at female business owners and bloggers has also been a huge lifeline for me. These groups provide the access to daily chats which closely replicate those ‘water cooler’ conversations and have really helped to bridge the gap between myself and hundreds of other people in the exact same situation. Some of the Facebook groups I find most valuable are; The Blogging Breakthrough Community, Fearless Hustle Collective, Blog & Beyond and The Collective. I’d love to hear your favourites too!
Simply setting aside a morning to head out to work in coffee shop can be a great way to switch up your environment and help you feel less alone. Sometimes simply being around other people can feel comforting and I often find that I’m even more productive when I give myself the deadline of getting a task finished before leaving. You also never know who you might meet in a coffee shop, one of my current clients is someone I met in a Cafe Nero and got chatting to about our businesses!
On a visit to London last week to meet with a client I learnt of the various female networks, communities and co-working spaces she was apart of and how they have played an integral role in the growth of her own company. Cities outside of the capital often aren’t blessed with the same amount of opportunities so we as freelancers tend to have to work much harder to either find or create them for ourselves.
I have a real passion for bringing together female business owners which is why I’ve started organising weekly meet-ups for local freelancers, bloggers and creatives in Nottingham. They’re becoming the highlight of my week as they provide the opportunity to chat with individuals in the same working situation, bounce ideas around and more than anything, just have a laugh and a moan! I highly advise setting up something similar in your own city if you can’t find an existing networking group that appeals to you. Often there might be an abundance of corporate breakfast networking meetings but when you’re looking to build a group like-minded creatives who work in digital marketing or photography or illustration it’s just not the right environment for you.
Making such a huge change to your working life is never going to be easy but if you’re thinking of following your dreams into the world of self-employment then my one overarching piece of advice would be to make sure you have that supportive community around you in place before you to take the leap. That way they can help to pick you up on the bad days and cheer you on on the good days.
Never be afraid to reach out and ask a local freelancer you’ve spotted on Instagram to meet up for a coffee or join you for a working date, I guarantee they won’t bite and an amazing working relationship could just emerge from it!
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