No boss, pyjamas all day, taking a break in front of the telly — these are just some of the things people associate with being your own boss and working from home. It sounds pretty rad, doesn’t it? I mean, hello? No grown-up trousers necessary? Bring on the sweatpants!
But working from home has its downsides as well, from the potential whiff of body odour to the whiff of madness that comes from spending too much time on your own.
Sure, you can shower regularly, go for walks, or meet up with friends to satisfy your social needs. But working as a solo show leaves out one vital aspect that isn’t remedied by nipping out for a coffee — and that’s a sense of community.
Luckily, there are a few ways for freelancers and solopreneurs to forge ties with relevant communities. Because, as digital nomads already know, there’s really no need to do it all alone.
Various Communities to Satisfy Various Needs
When you’re gainfully employed and work in an office, then that’s pretty much your work environment: The same people, the same clients, a certain homogeneity. As a solopreneur you don’t automatically have that. But, once you realise the necessity to be part of a community, you have the chance to build your own network of communities. And each of them will satisfy different needs.
I have been lucky enough to stumble into and meet people from quite a few communities since I started working as an independent consultant and copywriter. These people have become my sounding board. They keep me going when I hit my motivational rock bottom — and vice versa.
Coworking: Social Network and Pool of Expertise
I took to coworking like a duck to water. When I went full-time freelance last May I stumbled into sektor5, a coworking space here in Vienna. Now I’m renting a fixed desk and actively involve myself in the community there. I drag my sorry ass half-way across town on four to five days each week. Why? Because it’s worth it — and a great motivator to put on grown-up pants as well.
Being part of a coworking space has opened many doors for me and brought me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise: New clients, new collaborations with fellow members, the opportunity to get into public speaking, as well as moderating events.
However, and that is the most important bit, it has brought me support. The people here have my back; We have each other’s backs. These are the people who are most likely to get me out of one of those nasty motivational lows by cheering me up with an inane gif or a simple cup of tea.
The place is pretty diverse, and we help each other out with varied areas of expertise. I can get input on design matters or code issues, and can lend support when others need advice in communication or writing matters.
Coworking provides me with my most immediate offline community — with all the ups and downs of an office environment. Because, no matter how casual coworking is, it’s still an office, and an office has water-cooler talk, and I appreciate it all.
Go Online for Moral Support
When I want to talk to fellow copywriters and creatives, I can do this in a Facebook group for freelancers I stumbled into a few months ago. The group is a great motivator to just keep creating and working on my business instead of just doing my client work and letting marketing slide. For instance, before I joined this group it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to create an opt-in freebie for my mailing list.
The members in the community also support each other by signal-boosting messages, promoting each other’s content, answering questions and giving each other advice. I’ve met some fantastic people there. We might be spread out over the globe, but there’s always someone to help out.
And there’s definitely something to be said about being able to vent about a horrible client experience to people who truly get it. Someone in that group will have had a similar experience and can give advice.
Go Local For Advice
Many members of the Facebook group are based in the U.S., which makes some of the advice moot for me here in Europe where we have to account for VAT and other nasty things Americans don’t have to deal with.
Luckily, there’s a meetup group (and a Slack group to go with it) right here in Vienna, which regularly puts me in a room with people who live and work in similar conditions to mine. It’s the right place for all things local — advice on legal matters, tax advisor recommendations or questions like: “What do I even have to consider when billing a client in the U.S.?” It’s a great place to network with people from adjoining fields right here in my city — which also happens to be a great way of getting new clients.
I also use Twitter to casually stay in touch with a loose bunch of women solopreneurs from Austria, who all happen to work in the communications field. We do run into each other at events in the Viennese startup ecosystem as well, but Twitter is where we let the female empowerment roar. Sometimes it’s as simple as telling each other: “Good grief, woman, stop putting yourself down!” Having women like that in my network is invaluable to me.
Join a Healthy Mix of Global and Local Communities
Whether you’re a freelancer, remote worker, solopreneur, one-person-startup, etc. — If you’re nearing the edge of sanity induced by work-loneliness, here’s your guide to a better work life:
- Take a page from the digital nomad’s book and get out there. Even if you can’t afford getting a permanent desk at a coworking space, attend events there. Get a day ticket once in a while. Network and meet people. It’ll get you out of the house, into trousers, and opportunities and jobs might fall into your lap that way. Google the coworking spaces in your city or check them out on Coworker.
- Use Meetup to, as their tagline says, “find your people” locally.
- Interact with people on Twitter via hashtags that relate to your field of work. That’s how I initially came across the Facebook group for freelancers.
- Slack has become a great and vibrant place for all types of communities. You can probably find the right ones for you here, here or here.
The trick is to find the communities that are right for you. If a community is too focused on the U.S. to help you out with specific questions, find a more local group. If a community doesn’t feel right to you, leave it behind and find one that suits you better.
Keep an open mind! In the Vienna group the developers definitely outnumber any other types of freelancer in the group, and that might not be right for everyone. But, since I have a certain rapport with IT types, it works perfectly for me.
With all communities, what you get out of them is directly related to what you give to them. Involve yourself, help others out, don’t think about immediate payoffs. I strongly believe that good communities are all about paying it forward.
Let yourself enjoy the fun and banter — it’s not always all about work. You might be shooting the breeze all week on Slack. But, at the end of the day, you’ll know where to turn to for help when you need it most.
Give your communities some <3 and they’ll love you right back. Now I totally want to know which communities you’ve fallen in love with. Which community should we all be joining? Tell me on Twitter!
Andie Katschthaler is an independent communications consultant and copywriter, working with startups and fellow solopreneurs. She also does a bunch of other things, including trying to get her mental health advocacy project Taboola Rasa off the ground. She thinks a timeturner would definitely solve most of her problems. Meanwhile, she can be found on Twitter where she posts GIFs, and rants and rambles as @thegrumpygirl.