Forging out on your own as a freelancer is an exciting and sometimes scary adventure. Most of the freelancers I know say that their close friends, family and even partner don’t really “get it”. You know, the whole freelancer thing goes against what the vast majority of people think is “normal”- working 1 job for 1 employer.
For that reason it can often feel quite lonely to be a freelancer.
People often say you’re the average of the 5 people people you spend the most time with. So if you spend all your time with people who don’t get it, guess what- you’ll always feel like the odd one out.
I believe it’s really important to surround yourself with like-minded people so that you can share your ups and downs and get support and encouragement that aligns with your values. Otherwise you run the risk of complaining about a tough client and getting advice like “Wouldn’t it be easier if you just got a regular job?”.
Here are some ways to find your tribe, or someone to talk to, at least:
- Good old Facebook groups – like the Freelance to Freedom Project Community
- Meetup groups (in real life)
- Starting your own mastermind
- Hiring a coach or mentor
Facebook Groups are awesome. You can be sure you’ll find your tribe because every niche is catered for on Facebook. A great example is the Freelance to Freedom Project Community. If you’re a freelancer of any kind you’ll love that group, but there are dedicated groups (tons of them) for every niche from coaching to web design and development, graphics, social media, copywriting… The list is endless.
Find yourself some groups to hang out in and get involved. In the search bar of Facebook try typing “groups joined by people who like…” and see what comes up.
The more involved you get the more you will get out of it- you’ll be learning and growing and you’ll be helping others. You can vent about nightmare clients and share tips on payment processors with the lowest fees, or whatever you need.
Beware, as with the rest of the internet, some Facebook Groups seem to attract the odd troll now and again. Don’t take it personally. If you don’t like the vibe in any group, just leave. Don’t get sucked into heated arguments!
Meetup groups (in real life) can be scary at first, but can be a great way to network with people and even find clients. There are usually groups of small business owners that get together in every town, so check your local area or meetup.com but don’t limit yourself to business groups – joining a hobby group could be just as useful for finding people on the same path as you and potential clients. There are even some global organizations that have local chapters, such as Live Your Legend Local.
Starting your own mastermind group
This is something I recommend everyone should do. It can be online or in real life, and it can be in a particular niche or a diverse group.
Here are some things that, I believe, make a good mastermind:
- A small group of 4-6 like-minded people.
- A commitment by those people to attend the meetings.
- Regular meetings, often enough, but not too often. Every 2 weeks is about right.
- Some kind of structure to the sessions.
To illustrate, here’s what the mastermind that I’m in looks like:
- There are 5 of us: myself and another coach, a copywriter, an SEO specialist and a writer.
- We meet (online in a Google Hangout) every 2 weeks.
- We’ve made a commitment to each other to attend every meeting if possible, and to let the group know in advance if we can’t attend.
- One member of the group acts as an unofficial chairperson – organizing the meeting, setting the agenda and pace of the meeting, recording the audio (in case anyone misses the meeting).
- A mixture of meeting types:
- Most meetings start with each member bringing the group up to speed on their achievements since the last meeting (15 minutes in total), then 1 member takes the “hot seat” where they can deep dive into what’s going on in their business and ask the rest of the group for any help or advice (30 – 40 minutes), and finally we go around the group again and talk about our top priorities for the coming couple of weeks.
- Every now and again one member of the group will take the middle section of the meeting and, instead of the hot seat, will deliver a training on something that will benefit the rest of the group – so the SEO guy will talk about simple tweaks we can all make, or the copywriter will give us some tips on improving our own copy writing skills.
- A safe, supportive environment to celebrate our wins and get support when times are hard.
If you’re in a good Facebook group, or are attending local in-person meetups, you might find a few people to join your mastermind.
Hiring a coach or mentor
I’ll admit that, as a coach, you might think I would be a bit biased on this point, but let me get two things clear:
- Nobody needs a coach.
- Almost everybody would benefit from having a coach.
Whether you decide to take on a coach or a mentor depends on whether you’re looking for guidance to find your own answers (a coach), or someone to show you what they did, and how you could do it too (a mentor).
Hiring a coach means investing in yourself. When you are exposed to free information, you can become overwhelmed, and at the same time, you can become distracted by the next piece of information that comes along, and the next, and the next.
A good coach will keep you on track and will tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to be told to make you happy.
A good coach will spend time with you before you hire them, to make sure it’s a good fit for you to work with each other, and that “discovery call” or consultation will be at least 45 minutes long.
A good coach will not pressure you into signing with them, or try to scare you with “what you’ll be missing out on by not signing up”.
A good coach will adapt their coaching to your needs, and will not have a one-size-fits-all “system”.
If you’re considering hiring a coach, ask for a referral from people you trust, and sign up for discovery calls or consultations with at least 2 or 3 coaches to find one that you are comfortable working with.
So to sum up…
Freelancing or self employment can be potentially lonely at times. The most important thing you can do is build yourself a supportive network, whether online or in real life, whether a Facebook Group, a mastermind or a coach or mentor. You’ll not only learn and grow, yourself, but you’ll be supporting other freelancers in those groups, too.