6 top tips to find your freelance community
While there are definite advantages to working for yourself – freedom and flexibility for starters – there are disadvantages, too. Working alone means it’s easy to feel lonely and isolated and that, in turn, can leave you feeling no one understands the challenges you’re facing day-to-day.
But, as I say in Survival Skills for Freelancers, going solo doesn’t mean going it alone – and finding a community of like-minded individuals to work, collaborate and share with is a real gamechanger.
Here are my top tips to help you find your freelance community.
- Consider coworking
If staring at the same four walls each day gives you Groundhog Day vibes, consider renting a coworking space two or three times a week. While you don’t need to be a freelancer to use a coworking space – shared work zones attract flexible workers of all kinds – many freelancers find shared working gives them the lifeline they need to overcome the isolation that can come with the job title.
Some coworking spaces operate on a pay-as-you-go basis where you can drop in and use the facilities when you need to. Others charge a fixed weekly or monthly fee. Shop around to see what’s best for you.
- Get social online
Social media offers countless networks of enthusiastic, inspiring creatives just like you – and you don’t even need to move from your desk to join them! Freelance communities on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Slack are packed with information, advice, support, opportunities for collaboration… and likeminded people.
Start with thriving Facebook groups such as Freelance Heroes or Being Freelance, or look out for industry-specific communities such as Logo Geek (for graphic designers) or Freelance PRs.
- Give more than you take
As with most things in life, you get out of online freelance communities what you put in – so dig in, introduce yourself, browse members’ posts and engage with discussions. Resist the temptation to self-promote. Instead, engage with others, be encouraging, helpful and informed, and give more than you take. Once you’ve established yourself as an active member and become known as friendly, reliable and someone who knows their stuff, you’re more likely to attract likeminded people, which may even pay off in referrals and business.
- Do your research
Want to expand your network or social circle but don’t know where to start? Following hashtags on Twitter and Instagram can help you spot people with similar interests and goals. Give them a follow and reach out with a comment or DM. Many real-life friendships develop from online connections. (This happens over time, not overnight, so be prepared to invest time and effort.)
- Go local
Joining a local business network is a great way to meet likeminded individuals and has the added benefit of encouraging you to leave your desk occasionally! In person networking doesn’t need to be intimidating – remember, everyone was new once. Be yourself, show a genuine interest in others, and focus on making new connections rather than sales. It might take a while to find a group that feels like home, so be prepared to try a range of networking groups – from formal breakfast gatherings to casual chats over coffee – until you find the right freelance community.
- Build your support network
Making money isn’t everything. Sure, we all need to pay the bills, but you deserve some me-time, too! Keeping work and home life separate is super important when you’re freelance. Set firm boundaries – especially around your working hours – and refuse to let your home life come second.
A good support network of non-business friends is essential to your mental wellbeing, so never feel guilty about switching off the laptop, joining a yoga class, or meeting a friend for coffee. Switching off doesn’t just help you to recharge – it boosts focus, creativity and productivity. Your brain will thank you for it, and so will your bank balance.
How to use Twitter chats to grow your network and benefit your business
Twitter chats are a free and effective way to grow your business network by connecting with others in your field of expertise or your geographical area. I recommend them in Survival Skills for Freelancers as a great way to connect with fellow business owners and freelancers – and because I couldn’t find a central list to refer people to, I decided to create my own.
The list below is a work in progress. If you know of, take part in – or even host – a Twitter chat, and you’d like me to add it to the list, drop me a DM. Equally, if you spot any mistakes, please let me know!
First, a quick overview:
What are Twitter chats?
Twitter chats are organised online conversations that take place at the same time and on the same day each week.
How do Twitter chats work?
Participants – often freelancers and small business owners – use a designated hashtag (such as #FreelanceChat or #ContentClubUK) to introduce themselves, find new people to connect with, and often answer questions posed by the host.
Twitter chats most commonly last for an hour – sometimes less. Most Twitter chats are hosted by the organiser, though some regularly invite guest hosts to pose the questions and guide the discussion.
What is the benefit of Twitter chats?
Freelance life can be isolating. When you’re working from home day in, day out, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re the only person who understands the things you’re going through.
In reality, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are in the same boat, and who struggle with the same issues.
Twitter chats present an opportunity to build your network by connecting with other people who get it. They’re a great way to find new likeminded, inspiring people to follow, to share advice and resources, and to get answers to your burning questions.
How do I find Twitter chats to take part in?
Start with the list below. Find a couple of chats that fit your niche – whether that’s your area of expertise or your geographical location – and take part in a couple. You’ll quickly find the groups that are friendly and welcoming. Set a weekly reminder to take part, and get involved!
Pro tip: approach Twitter chats with a generous mindset. Think about giving and sharing advice and expertise, rather than focusing on what you can get from it. Interact with other people’s posts, retweet, like and comment before expecting others to do the same.
An important disclaimer: Twitter chats take place around the world. I’ve been caught out many times by time differences, and so the published times in this list are all based on UK time – whether the chat originates outside the UK or not. It’s not ideal, but neither is trying to work out time differences when you’re very much not someone who’s good with figures!
Niche Twitter hours
|#AgencyChat||Thursday||7pm to 8pm||@agorapulse|
|#allinbizhr||Monday||12pm to 1pm||@ALLinBIZnet|
|#allinbizhr||Friday||12pm to 1pm||@ALLinBIZnet|
|#ContentClubUK||Tuesday||11pm to 11.30||@Fi_digitaldrum|
|#creativebizhour||Monday||7.30 to 9pm||@lizzie_chantree|
|#ecomchat||Monday||1pm to 2pm||@danbarker @JamesGurd|
|#EmailHour||Thursday||8pm to 9pm||@robandkennedy|
|#EthicalHour||Monday||8pm to 9pm||@EthicalHour|
|#eventprofs||Monday||8pm to 9pm||@themiceblogHQ|
|#eventprofs||Friday||8pm to 9pm||@themiceblogHQ|
|#eventprofstalk||Monday||9pm to 10pm|
|#FreelanceChat||Thursday||5pm to 6pm||@PRisUs|
|#FreelanceHeroes||Wednesday||8pm to 9pm||@FHChat|
|#handmadehour||Wednesday||7.30 to 9pm||@handmadehour|
|#handmadehour||Sunday||8pm to 9pm||@handmadehour|
|#IndieHour||Tuesday||8pm to 9pm||@retailmentoring|
|#ManUKHour||Tuesday||8pm to 9pm||@ManUKHour|
|#PetworkingHour||Tuesday||6pm to 7pm||@petworkinghour|
|#remotechat||Wednesday||6pm to 7pm||@workingrem|
|#SmartNetworking||Monday||7pm to 8pm||@smart_bn|
|#SEMrushchat||Wednesday||4pm to 5pm||@semrush|
|#SMESupportHour||Wednesday||8pm to 9pm||@mbsmih|
|#TwitterSmarter||Thursday||6pm to 7pm||@MadalynSklar|
Geographical Twitter hours
|#BrightonHour||Monday||8.30pm to 9.30pm|
|#BrumHour||Sunday||8pm to 9pm||@BrumHour @DavidWMassey|
|#CotswoldHour||Thursday||9pm to 10pm||@ShireMarketing|
|#MalvernHillsHour||Wednesday||8pm to 9pm|
|#EveshamHour||Thursday||8pm to 9pm|
|#HampshireHour||Tuesday||8pm to 9pm||@HampshireHour|
|#HerefordHour||Monday||1pm to 2pm|
|#Midlandshour||Wednesday||8pm to 9pm|
|#NetworkNorthEast||Tuesday||2pm to 3pm||@Durham_Business @easymarketingne @CannyInsights|
|#Oxbusinesshour||Wednesday||1pm to 2pm||@CypherHQ|
|#SurreyHour||Tuesday||7.30 to 8.30pm||@surreyhour|
|#uptonhour||Tuesday||8pm to 9pm||@uptonhour|
|#WiltshireHour||Monday||8pm to 9pm||@WiltsHour|
|#WorcestershireHour||Wednesday||12 to 1pm||@WorcsHour @StuartAllenFCMI|
|#WorcestershireHour||Monday||8pm to 9pm||@WorcsHour @StuartAllenFCMI|