A lot of people ask why we need freelance communities in Australia. It’s become an exceedingly popular way to network, find jobs through peers and also keep our heads on straight.
When people are questioning the validity of having a freelance community, it usually means they haven’t experienced it before.
Here’s a snapshot of why you should consider joining a freelance community if you want to succeed. And a shout out to a few Australian freelance communities below
There are a lot of things you need to do when you freelance. You have to be great at your specific craft. Plus, you have to have a head for business. That means finding out about the ATO or the law or the best practice in your industry. It also means finding out about the softer value stuff, like what to do in particular client situations or how to price.
You can reduce the mental load you have to navigate by asking your freelance communities. Why learn everything from scratch when you can draw on the experience of thousands of other people?
Connecting for work
One of the most common reasons freelancers become interested in any group or membership is the pursuit of work. But it’s not as direct as you may think.
By joining freelance communities, you’re meeting one of the biggest potential lead sources you have- other freelancers. That’s not through Fred the Freelancer bringing tasty slices of jobs direct to your screen on a daily basis. It’s about building relationships where people trust you to take on their overflow of work, hire you to fill the gaps for particular skills or to collaborate generally.
Freelancers give work to their peers. By having peers through an organised freelance group or network, you make that opportunity yours.
You can stop reinventing the wheel
Independence only gets you so far. If you are determined to make products that clients are going to use, having connections with your fellow freelancers are a part of that.
You can’t possibly have every experience with all the clients all the time. Part of what a freelance community gives you is a rich insight into the challenges faced by others. By seeing what other people ask in a Facebook Group or a forum, you can understand what clients do and what they need.
And if you’re really smart, you can transfer those learnings into creating products and services to support freelancers, too.
Developing a healthy relationship with money
Sadly, the financial relationship a lot of freelancers have swings on a fairly deep pendulum. There’s a certain amount of greed versus a lot of poverty thinking.
For example, people with no discernible skills that charge a lot of money based on weekend courses in expensive ballrooms.
The other side of the coin is the assumption that if you like what you do, like the client or feel happy with the work you do, you somehow aren’t allowed to charge what you are worth.
Money patterns are a conversation for another time. But the important thing to remember is that you can find out information on what to charge through your freelance community. Some prepare reports on what people charge. Others can help you with how to work out the pricing on a business level. Others simply give anecdotal advice and remind you of your worth.
We need to have money talks about rates on a regular basis to normalise charging decent money. We also need to have these conversations continuously because freelancers often shy away from collecting on debts and outstanding invoices for fear of displeasing the client.
Once you break through that cringe, you can operate a better business. Part of having freelance communities is learning it’s OK to charge what you’re worth, chase that late invoice and take further action if needs be.
Recognise service is not subservience
There’s a sort of attitude you’ll notice in freelancers that have been working for a while. We’ve learned to back ourselves. We have had to. There are a few battle scars that come with that transformation.
One of the biggest lessons we learn is that to be in service doesn’t mean you’re in subservience. You have to be able to look after yourself to be able to look after other people. That includes your family and your clients. It might seem attractive to be there for everyone all the time, but that’s your ego talking. Stepping into the role of victim or martyr leads to burn out.
To survive in freelancing long term, you’ve had to learn that lesson. Often the hard way!
But again, being a part of freelance communities can help you avoid learning some of the bigger, uglier parts of that road to confidence through shared learning rather than after a fall. You’ve always got a place to share the war stories.
Creating friendships and connections
Freelancing is a tough way to earn a crust. You’re constantly solving problems, dealing with stigma from clients, pushing deadlines, winning work, doing the work- and its fairly thankless work.
That is going to take a toll on even the most self-reliant lone wolf.
There is a reticence to join freelance communities because you might find people are too touchy-feely. There might be worries about whether it’s high school all over again. Or that it’s even more cutthroat. Maybe you didn’t enjoy socialising in a standard workplace and assume that the same will be true of any freelance communities you uncover.
First of all, this is a much tougher way to earn a living than a lot of the standard workplace jobs. Having support matters.
Secondly, the beautiful thing about freelancing is there are people who hate office politics, are introverted, a tiny bit misanthropic, self-reliant and all the rest. If you’ve ever felt that you didn’t want to sing happy birthday every two days while doing office yoga with people you wouldn’t choose, in a lot of ways freelance communities are going to be your cup of tea.
A lot of people choose freelancing because they got sick of the inefficiencies. Or they couldn’t stand the gossip, the meanness, and the Queen Bee antics. A surprising amount have left bullying, harassment, and other forms of toxic workplaces to create a healthier working relationship on their own terms.
If you’ve felt like a fish out of water before because you’ve loved the work but not some of the weirdness that comes with the workplace, you’re ideally suited to a freelance community.
Freelance advocacy becomes easier
One of the things that we learned in 2020 is there is indeed a network of freelance communities that make a greater whole. It’s made up of professional freelancers across arts, education, tourism and hospitality. All groups that lost their jobs. It’s also made up of freelance workers who were suddenly overworked like NDIS workers, psychologists, government writers, communication and contingency specialists, and more.
We came together to ask for what we needed- which was access to support. What we didn’t realise is that we were also putting ourselves on the map.
Our freelance community was able to mobilise with other groups to ask for access and rights. We could hear concerns and try and find a way through.
Alone, the same sorts of things wouldn’t have occurred.
The system is by no means enough coverage and there are issues. But by giving voice to the problems, we made it easier to mobilise. Having a readymade freelance community to reach out to make that possible.
Where can you go to find freelance communities that suit your needs?
Depending on what floats your boat, you can find community at the following places:
Design Kids (look for your city chapter in Brisbane, Newcastle and more) – designers networking place that does jobs and education in city-by-city chapter format.
Rachel’s List – a paid group that appends to the popular Rachel’s List board for freelance writers. Acts as a watercooler to get the stress out.
Australian Arts amidst COVID-19 – a responsive group solving the issues large and small that are facing artists and creatives of all kinds under COVID-19.
ArtsTasker – job board for unemployed creatives and artists. You can find everything from web design gigs to babysitting and face painting.
Clever Copywriting School with Kate Toon – part of the SEO empire that is Kate Toon’s work, this is group focused on making better copywriters through education.
Never Not Creative – challenge orientated group that focusses on issues in the creative industries.
Belinda Weaver’s Confident Copywriting – paid group for writers who want to kick their copy up a notch.
The Australian Disability Arts Community – very inclusive and switched-on group that tackles the day-to-day of arts inclusion without the drama found in other creative-focused disability groups.
Diversity in Australian Media – intelligent, invested and really inclusive, this group spans disability, sexuality and race on the way to improving the Australian media and arts scene.
Binder Full of Australian women writers – a female writer’s group that makes intersectionality a big part of the mix. Share books, wins, ask questions and more about the writer’s journey here.
Australian women, non-binary and trans podcasters – similar to the Binder’s group for writers only for podcasters. Super supportive group of people for newbies and seasoned pod makers alike.
Freelance Grant Writer’s Network – a group in start-up mode that is about honing your grant writing craft and getting better at pitching yourself in the process.
Self-publishing made easy – another group in start-up mode that is showing a lot of promise. If you have a book burning inside of you and you want to learn self-publishing, you should check it out.
There are many more versions of freelance communities out there, but these are some of my favourites. Even if I am too busy working on Freelance Jungle to hang as much as I should.
Where are your favourite places to find positive freelance communities? Tell us in the comments below!