Our world is pretty virtual this year so we may as well make the most of it for online networking and digital learning opportunities. I know it can seem like we have run those wells dry, but there really are some simple, fun and supportive ways to meet new friends online while shining your noggin and feeling as though you are part of something bigger.

Here’s where you can go to increase your digital learning and online networking opportunities without it feeling high pressure or fake  

Reinvigorating your relationship with groups and forums

Think about the places where you want to be. Get rid of the places that don’t suit you. Join ones that reflect your hobbies. Explore the world of Facebook groups and see what happens.

There are several notable groups that regularly capture the imagination including Chat 10 Looks 3, Binder full of Australian women podcasters, Binder full of Australian women writers, Freelance Grant Writers Network, Australian Community Managers Forum, Australian Disability Arts Community, Australian Arts amidst COVID19, and Diversity in Australian Media.

And don’t forget your local groups for online networking that could lead to real relationships in your local area. They can be surprisingly rich with information in the local business and creative scenes.

For example, Wollongong has Creatives on the Coast and Sustainable Illawarra, which can be quite fun groups to be a part of. And following local area groups like the Port Kembla based groups and initiatives like Our Community Project are good for that local connection feel. You can also tune into Wollongong updates via my project, We are the Gong, which encompasses the Get your Gong on virtual business networking project as well as the upcoming A to Z of Wollongong podcast.

Sydney has the Sydney Creative Network and many others. Feel free to drop the ones for your towns and cities in the comments below.

If you’re looking at online networking via communities to boost your offerings or grow your audience, check out the seminar I did with Tim Hanslow on community management. It’s great for setting up your own projects as well as making the most out of the groups available.

Checking out Crowdcast

Not only does the Freelance Jungle have a Crowdcast channel, but you can catch up with Creative Plus Business’ massive amount of educational seminars and also browse the many different seminars online. Unlike Zoom, you don’t have to show your face- you can simply use chat to interact. What I like about the Crowdcast version of online networking is that everyone can participate but you can happily be the student in the back of the class. You also don’t have to face the overwhelming feelings with so many faces or worry about people hijacking discussions.

You can be as covert as you like and still ask questions and make comments. Yet there is safety for the presenter because people need to register to participate- and can be easily removed if they prove to be problematic.

And the action replays are great for those times you can’t make the classes and/or want to catch up again on what was said.

If you’d love to present for the Freelance Jungle Crowdcast in September (or beyond), hit me up.

Studying a course

Explore new friendships and meet new people through uncovering courses and classrooms. You can study paid courses in podcasting and film at AFTRS, pick up skills as a medical writer via Health Writer Hub or check out a range of courses at Udemy.  

If you’re feeling creative, you can even check local council websites and find creative courses (such as this art course run by Shellharbour Council in the Illawarra). Look for the opportunities to upskill and also keep you entertained in the process.

Google My Business is also an important part of staying afloat. Yes, even if we can’t do things as locally as we would like. It’s a good idea to go through the processes with Google and update new content. Fortunately, Kate Toon popped in to do a great local SEO special for the Freelance Jungle that can help you. Plus, you can draw on resources like Hootsuite’s Google My Business breakdown and get your data geek on with Neil Patel on how it all comes together. And if course Google also offer their own digital training on all things Google.

Study the platform

A lot of the mainstay social media and software platforms allow you to join in programs to upskill. It stands to reason. It’s in their benefit for you to get better at their platforms.

For example, if you want to get better at Facebook Business, try learning Facebook’s Blueprint program. It’s 90 odd classes on various aspects of Facebook.  

Twitter has a bunch of guides and resources, including a dedicated Small Business Guide that includes challenges and exercises.

And LinkedIn Learning has it’s own educational platform with a variety of different courses on using LinkedIn. Keep in mind LinkedIn Learning is paid after the free month’s trial.

Online networking and digital learning for the win

There’s a lot we cannot control in this COVID-19 world. But one thing we can do is make the best of a curly situation. That includes using these times to meet people through online networking, upskill through digital learning, and maybe even reinvent ourselves a little in the process.

Feeling connected and keeping our brains engaged are amazing for stress reduction. They’re often the areas we don’t have time for when we’re in full tilt of normal freelance life. They are situations that are here to stay for a while, so we may as well use them to our advantage, right?

Where are you finding are the best places for your online networking and digital learning wins? Share them in the comments below!  

A banner reads "freelancing during the apocalypse" as part of a challenge to help Australian freelancers with freelancing stress from COVID-19

This tip was brought to you by the Freelance Jungle Patreon under the “Freelancing during the Apocalypse” 30-day challenge. Art by Jessica Harkins of Six Onions Design. Concept and content by Rebekah Lambert.

The Freelance Jungle has a Facebook community, virtual catch-ups for stress reduction and networking, and a commitment to education via podcasts, blogs, and online learning.



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