Self-employment can be a lonely path. To truly make it as a freelancer in any field, you need to venture out your front door (with or without your doggo!) and network to meet professionals with complementary skills, advance your knowledge and expand your own community. Sometimes you don't even need to leave your home – you can tap into your network online while enjoying the comfort of your favorite sweatpants.
Your industry – whether that's design, development, filmmaking or writing – is always evolving, and to offer your clients the best service possible, you need to stay on top of all the trends. Having a strong network isn't just helpful when it comes to exchanging ideas; when your clients need a service you can't provide yourself (for example, if you're a writer but your client also has a need for graphic design), it's a huge advantage to be able to point them in the right direction.
Here are five reasons why it's important for freelancers to build a network:
1. Multiply your skills
When you freelance, you most likely have a specific area and/or niche that you focus on. You might be a freelance copywriter who specializes in crafting SEO-friendly landing pages for an international e-commerce company. Or you could be a designer who creates brochures and flyers for boarding schools and universities. Even if your area of expertise isn't as specific as these examples, chances are your strengths lie in one area and you provide a specific service to clients. When you network with other freelancers, you have the opportunity to expand your skill set by learning about what they do and applying it to what you do. Maybe you can pick up some InDesign tips and tricks from a designer and use those skills the next time you work on printed marketing material for a client. You could also chat with a user experience (UX) specialist and use their advice the next time you develop a website.
2. Stay on the ball
It's our job as professional freelancers to stay up to date on what's happening in our field. What's trending in the world of web design can have an impact on your copywriting; the latest research in click-worthy calls to action could affect the design of a homepage. Chatting with other freelancers in your network can help you stay in-the-know about what's happening in other creative kingdoms, and you can use this knowledge to make sure your work and services keep your clients on point. And that will keep them coming back!
3. Collaborate on bigger projects
So, let's say you've done the things mentioned in #1 and #2, but you need more than tips and advice... you need your freelance buddy's expertise! Suppose a client has a website project in the works. Not only do they need text for their website, but they also need the website to be developed on Wordpress. Thanks to your ever-growing network/community, you are in touch with a rockstar developer. Add value to your own services and your reputation my looping in your rockstar designer friend and take on this project together. Your client will appreciate that they saved time by avoiding a search for a developer, and the fact that you have such a solid network that you can increase your involvement in a project will enhance your reputation. Plus, you get to work with a friend!
Pro tip: Make sure that you can completely trust and rely on the partner your recommend. Of course, you have to start your partnership somewhere, but you definitely don't want to recommend someone who misses deadlines, submits shoddy work or leaves you and your client hanging.
4. Quid pro quo
The example from #3 is a two-way street. When you invite someone to collaborate with you on a project for a client, they'll want to return the favor somewhere down the road. If the teamwork between you was efficient, productive and fun, maybe you'll tag-team another project for another client – one that your buddy brings to the table. Or maybe they'll recommend you to a client who could use exactly your services. Collaborating with someone from your network opens up the door to business and is an invitation to more teamwork, more clients, more projects and more money.
5. Personal cheerleading squad
Here's a #truthbomb: being a freelancer of any sort is exciting, but it's also challenging, hard and really scary. And unless someone is or has been a freelancer/solopreneur, they just won't get it. That's why it's so important to surround yourself with people who can support you and cheer you on when the going gets tough. This safety net is great for idea-sparking discussions that get your creative juices flowing, but these personal relationships go beyond that – the freelancers that you link arms with will know the struggle, and also the reward. They'll know how to lift you up in ways that others won't. Be choosy about who you invite into your inner circle. Listen to and learn from the ones that make it in and always work to expand your circle by connecting your contacts and inviting friends of friends.
A solid community is worth its weight in gold. Building your empire, freelancing your pants off, taking over freelancer.com – you can only go so far as a lone wolf. Get support, level-up your projects, stay on top of the latest trends and become better at what you do with help from the people that you connect with.
Did I miss anything? Why do you think it's important for freelancers to have a community they can count on?