The freelance lifestyle is an attractive one. But with all of the flexibility comes the reality that work might not always be as regular as we
If you think that other freelancers are your competition, you have the completely wrong attitude. After all, it can feel lonely to freelance and not have someone to vent to about clients, finding work on dead end freelance sites, and all the tax questions that go with a more complicated return than most employees ever have to think about.
There are so many benefits to befriending other freelancers, including those that operate within your own niche. With that in mind, here’s why it’s so important to connect with other freelancers. Who knows? They might be the key to you finding your next big client, and the perfect segue from bargain basement freelance sites pricing!
Fellow freelancers are the coworkers you don’t otherwise have.
There are a lot of perks to giving up corporate life, but one of the worst parts of the transition to freelancing is the fact that you lose out on office gossip and friendships. It can be hard to work at an office job, then start working by yourself at home.
There’s something therapeutic about baring your soul to someone who understands what it’s like to do your job, or work for your company. Because of this, you’d do well to find and connect with other freelancers once you’re done with the corporate grind. The more local, the better, as you can get together in person and work like employees at a traditional company, taking breaks to chat shop and run ideas for client projects by each other.
Find a coffee shop or coworking space that’s convenient for both of you. As an added bonus, if you meet in public, you can watch each other’s stuff when one of you has to go to the bathroom, instead of packing up your valuables. The struggle is real when you’re setting up your workspace outside of the house!
Friendly freelancers might send you referrals.
People would rather do business with people they know, than people they don’t. Freelance sites connect people who don’t know each other, but often at the expense of a fair wage, as competition is high. Outside of these freelance sites, a freelancer may win a client who has multiple needs, though they might not have the skills to execute them all on their own.
In an effort to satisfy the client, they might make a recommendation based on the people they know can be trusted to do a good job for the specific task at hand. Of course, to get yourself on another person’s recommendations list, they’ll have to know something about you and what you’re good at.
The first step? Meeting in person, and chatting! Or, second best, hopping on the phone or a Skype chat. The more they feel like they’re getting to know you, the more they’ll trust the referrals of their clients to you.
Relationship building is quick for some and a long-term process for others. Do what you can to be helpful to your fellow freelancers, and to stay top of mind when they need help with a project.
What to do when someone refers a client your way.
If you get lucky and a freelancer friend makes a referral to you, reinforce this behavior with gracious thanks, and perhaps even a gift. It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive, but when people know that you appreciate them, they’re more likely to continue these positive actions.
Fellow freelancers might need to subcontract some of their own work.
Some freelancers are happy to completely pass on a project to another person. In other cases, it might make more sense for them to subcontract a portion of the project, while remaining on it as the project manager/co-collaborator. It’s again safe to say that they’d much rather work with someone they know and trust than to rely on a stranger from freelance sites like Upwork.
To help visualize this concept, think of two different types of freelancers: a web developer and a copywriter. The web designer might “own” the project, and subcontract out content creation, so each person can focus on what they’re best at. There’s a lesson here – instead of trying to be good at everything, be amazing at one thing, and find someone else that you can count on, who can complement your efforts.
Besides playing to each person’s strengths, a freelancer might also opt to subcontract work because they’re behind schedule, or want a ghostwriter of sorts to help them increase their total output. If you’re growing your business and want to outsource projects that you’re not too crazy about, this can be a good way to create balance in your schedule, while still making some money off the project.
How to connect with other freelancers
Say you’re new in town, or new to freelancing. How do you find others like you?
You might be surprised by how easy it is to find your future coworkers (and it has nothing to do with searching through freelance sites).
- Join a local meetup group. Most major cities have a Freelancers Union chapter, where freelancers of all industries meet once a month to network and learn.
- Join a professional association. Besides general freelancer meetups, you should also look into joining a group that represents your industry, or that is primarily made up of your target client prospects. There are likely to be other freelancers there that understand what it’s like to freelance in this industry. Their insights may be valuable to you!
- Join a relevant Facebook group. Participating in discussions on relevant (industry or freelancer) Facebook groups is a great way to network with fellow freelancers online. For those who don’t live in a major city, or are rockin’ the digital nomad lifestyle, this is an excellent way to make connections. Some great Facebook groups with lots of active discussions (and freelancers!) include: Being Boss, Freelance to Freedom Project, and The Rising Tide Society.
Forget Freelance Sites: Connect with Other Freelancers to Find New Jobs
Fellow freelancers are your friends, not your competition. The right relationships will result in new friends who understand the freelance hustle, and who might be able to send some business your way someday. Of course, don’t go into a relationship thinking only about what you can get from it. It’s much better to give without expecting something–karma will pay you back in the long-run.