When I first started out as a freelancer, I didn’t think much (if anything) about networking. I didn’t have a network and I didn’t network at all. It didn’t feel like I had time between trying to find clients, establish myself as a freelancer, and get a decent work-life balance. But over time, I realised that having a freelance network is really important—and since then I’ve developed a great freelance network. So today, we’ll look at the importance of networking for freelancers and how to network.
Why freelancers should network
Although the nature of freelancing means that you work alone, having a network can be extremely helpful. It offers the following benefits:
- Get tips and advice on how to improve as a freelancer
- Find out about useful tools, apps, or software that make your freelance life easier
- Hear about training or events that help you develop or improve your skills
- Get support when you’re struggling with projects or freelancing
- Have a sounding board for new ideas
- Get involved in co-working opportunities or skills-sharing
- Avoid becoming isolated, which is a big risk for freelancers
- Outsource work that you can’t do or don’t have time for
- Make freelance friends and feel like you have a team
- And many more…
So, once you’ve seen the benefits that networking offers, the question is: how do you find a freelance network?
Find an existing group
The easiest way is to look for an existing network in your local area. You can find groups like this on Meetup.com, Facebook, or LinkedIn. In particular, Meetup.com is full of groups, so you just need to find one that’s relevant—be it freelancing, co-working, creatives, or something else. Simply sign up and head to the next get-together.
Create your own group
If you can’t find any existing groups, the next option is to create your own. Of course, this requires more effort, but it’s worth it to develop a great, supportive freelance network. Not only that, but it’s very rewarding seeing the group grow, friendships form, and other freelancers getting support. Again, the easiest way to create a group is through the Meetup.com site. It’s free until the group reaches 50 members.
A networking success story
Back in December 2017, I was searching for a freelance network in my hometown Birmingham. Struggling to find any, I decided to create the Birmingham Freelancers group on Meetup.com. For the first six months, barely anyone turned up and I considered throwing in the towel. Then, 12 people turned up for the next meetup.
The group continued to grow until we needed a proper venue, rather than coffee shops. Now, the group has almost 275 members. A bunch of us meet once a month at 1000 Trades to catch up, and at least a few new people turn up to every meetup. We have a WhatsApp group where we keep in touch regularly, and members of the group have formed friendships. The network has not just proved to be a support to me, but to many freelancers in Birmingham.
Yes, it can be scary putting yourself out there, but it’s really worth it.