Working from home can feel isolating at times. You’re not in an office touching base with your colleagues on a regular basis. You’re alone, or perhaps sharing the company of your kids or your pets, neither of which make for stimulating adult conversations.
The isolation can go even deeper when you’re working online. Your friends and family might not associate what you’re working on as a “real” job. They might assume you just play online all day and won’t understand your struggles.
That’s why building a community of like-minded individuals or supporters is essential. They get the challenges of working from home. They understand difficult clients and the constant struggle to secure new or recurring work. They understand the loneliness.
When you go into an office for a job, you have a built-in network. As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for finding and establishing relationships to form your own network. It will take a little work, but it’s definitely possible and incredibly valuable. Here are four strategies for meeting others and growing your community.
Are you on Slack yet? If you aren’t, you should be! This cloud-based communication tool is perfect for team discussions. Freelancers around the world are creating communities revolving around design, entrepreneurship, and practically every interest you can imagine.
Inside of Slack, you can participate in the general discussion of teams you’ve been added to. You can also create a private channel to have small group chats. Direct messages are also a possibility. No matter which channel you’re using, you have the ability to drag and drop files to share. It’s an excellent tool for collaboration once you’ve established a community.
Not sure which teams to join? Here are a few of the more popular Slack teams for designers and entrepreneurs. They all have different guidelines and application protocols, so be sure to check them out before you request to join.
There are plenty of Facebook groups that support freelancers. If you’re looking for a new group to join, you can use Facebook’s search bar and type in “Web Design” or “Freelance Designers.” Then click over to the “Groups” tab. You’ll see plenty of results pop up, so now you’ll have to do a bit of research.
Some groups are only for students of a particular course, or readers of a certain blog. Others are open for anyone to join. When you click on a group that sounds intriguing, check and see if you can find their rules for joining.
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If the group is public, you’ll also be able to see several threads. To make sure the group is helpful and not just more clutter on your news feed, scroll through the recent posts. If you see a lot of self-promoting spam-like posts, it’s probably not a group you want to waste your time with. Conversely, if there’s a lot of discussion threads, that’s a good sign.
When you join a Facebook group, be sure to abide by the rules the admin created. They all have their own policies and things that are considered acceptable in one group may not be in another.
To get the most benefit from joining a Facebook group, try to connect with a couple of other members. You can’t keep track of all the action when there are thousands or tens of thousands of members; it’ll just be overwhelming. Instead, look for comments that catch your eye. You may find someone who offers complimentary services, or is in a slightly different field. Maybe you discover someone in your same town.
Start interacting with these individuals. Reply to their comments, like their business Facebook page, and be friendly. After all, your goal is to build a community.
Mastermind groups are growing in popularity. They are groups of like-minded individuals who challenge each other to do their best, to meet their individual goals, and to excel. You can find both online mastermind groups and groups that hold meetings where you actually get some face to face time.
With so many mastermind groups out there, how do you know which one is the best for you? Here are some points to consider when picking a group:
Is the group paid or free?
In paid groups, the members are vested and that might be a sign that there’ll be more dedicated people involved. Of course, it doesn’t always work like that, though!
How often does the group meet up?
Are there regularly scheduled face to face meetings? Are there scheduled group phone calls? Is everything done online through a private Slack channel or Facebook group?
There’s no right or wrong way to do a mastermind group, so pick one that works with your availability and location.
Can you see testimonials?
Are other members willing to share what they’ve gotten out of their membership? It’s nice to see what others think before jumping in, especially if you’ll be paying.
If you can’t find a group that sounds like a great fit for you, consider starting your own. Reach out to other like minded individuals and see if they’d like to work together to form a community. That way you can help plan the schedule and goals for the group.
Local networking events
As close as you can become to people online, there’s definitely something missing in virtual settings: face to face communication. Attending a local networking event can help get you connected to people in a non-digital way.
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The population of your local community will likely influence how many networking events take place. If you’re in a rural area, you may have to drive a bit to make meaningful connections. If you don’t know where to start, consider reaching out to your local Chamber of Commerce. They often hold events to connect members.
You can also check out sites like Meetup. By using their search settings, you can look for nearby events that interest you. You may find events specifically for designers or conferences all about WordPress. Head to an event or two, and see if you can make connections with a few other people.
“You get out of your network what you put in, so spend time building a community you care about. ” The work will be worth it! This group of supporters can encourage you when you’re feeling lonely, give you people to bounce ideas off of, and can understand your struggles more than those working in more traditional jobs can.
How have you built yourself a community? Did you use one of these four strategies, or did you do something different? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and encourage others who may be feeling alone right now.