Freelancing enables creatives and entrepreneurs alike to do more of what they love. The flexible work schedule, freedom to work from anywhere and being your own boss add to the perks of working as a freelancer.
Freelancing can also turn solitary and it’s hard to draw inspiration if all you have is a bunch of walls to go over your ideas with. Working with people helps fill the void this independent style of work leaves behind.
A new perspective to a problem or an idea, inspiration, and support can all be derived through networking. Which is probably why it goes without saying, in the freelance community, that networking is the main component that helps a freelance business to flourish.
It’s important to understand that fostering a community is far more fruitful than building a network. A community would comprise of individuals who work in the same field or have a common cause. It’s a fairly tight-knit group of people from all ranks – novices, entrepreneurs, freelancers, experts, thus making it an ideal place for building long term relationships, opportunities, and derive inspiration.
So, how exactly do you build an online community and keep it thriving?
Well, here are a couple ways to get you started.
1. Start a Blog
Blogging has been around for a while and for good reason. Hosting a blog on a website like Medium helps you find peers that work in the same line as you do.
While there are other websites where you could host your blog, Medium is known for its community of thinkers who comment on articles and interact with other bloggers within the platform. Thus, helps in building a community that inspires and keeps all its members up to date with trends and current developments.
2. Join a subreddit
Reddit is a community with valuable resources where people can start threads on any issue. Members can exchange information, seek help and advice, have fun, look for work or people to collaborate with and much more.
Reddit is a unique website as its moderators are users themselves. It is an ideal place for freelancers and entrepreneurs as there are partnership offers, jobs
Let’s not forget how you can improve your knowledge on any field be it business, academic or creative, through Reddit.
Check out these subreddits to start off. These are some really helpful communities that have been around for a long time.
3. Slack Channel
Slack is a tool used by teams to collaborate and get work done. Slack is also used by groups to communicate online. There are slack channels for every profession out there. Google ‘Slack channel’ with your profession and you are bound to find what you are looking for.
If you plan on starting your own community on Slack, first you need to figure out the purpose of the community. The best communities arise from an intention in mind. Is it to create a community around a specialization? Or to connect local creators and professionals? Or maybe it’s to rope up a set of people you would want to work with.
Answering this question helps you come up with a criterion that people must adhere inorder to build your community. Also remember to share the community’s purpose with it’s members. That way you are more likely to find people who identify with the purpose you’ve set forth.
This is something that is universal to building any kind of community.
Once you’ve created a channel, go ahead and customize it to make your members feel more welcome. Also, disable the option to create new channels so that new members will not be confused by the number of channels your community has.
Adding an #intro channel will enable members to introduce themselves and also add value to the community. Always keep going back to old members and conversing with them about the community itself, so they know they are valued. Sit down for an hour or two every week to talk about the developments in the community at large. This will keep your community thriving.
Retaining current members and encouraging them to contribute frequently is integral to keeping your community intact. Community management requires emotional labor and it is definitely fruitful in the end, as this community will grow to be your support system and inspiration. It is a happy ground full of mentors, guides and collaborators.
4. Professional Facebook Group
Facebook has loads of groups in many exclusive fields. There are Facebook groups dedicated to design, entrepreneurship, coding, business and much more. People share information and experiences in these groups. A quick browse will help you find open jobs and projects in your area that you could work on and thus build an online and offline community at the same time.
5. Teach Online
Websites like Skillshare and Udemy enable people who have a good amount of knowledge in their field to get on board to train novices and experienced professionals, a thing or two about their trade. This will not only give you another source of income but will also help you build a community of your own.
You will meet like-minded people, who are either looking to brush up their skills or add more to their skillset. Sharing your knowledge with a community helps create lasting business relationships and supporters.
6. Social Media
Social media might not be your go-to option for building a community due to all the competition. But sharing your workflow and process stories on Instagram will ensure you a following in no time.
People on social media are always looking to learn and grow. When they come across a profile that has process photos, quick tips and stories about your professional experiences, they will want to become a part of your community.
Same goes to YouTube, Patreon and GitHub. Collaborations are always at a peak on these sites, as members are always looking to do something new. They also actively provide feedback and support your cause if they are drawn to it. A lot of Kickstarter campaigns have been backed by these communities.
Building a freelance community helps you find the right people to partner with while still maintaining your independent lifestyle. Your ambitions might be a lot bigger than what you can manage on your own. A community will help you realize your ambitions, enable you to do more of what you love without having to work under a corporate giant.
Going over your roadmap and bucketing all the things that you could outsource and make partnerships, to get done will help you solely focus on the things that you love to do. As freelancing does not come with a PR or HR, you’ll have to do everything by yourself. But collaborating and outsourcing will help expand your boundaries while also taking the stress that comes with running a freelance business off your back.
Invest in being part of a diverse community that includes your family, friends, colleagues, customers, and businesses. It will give back with guidance, inspiration, opportunity