As freelancers, it’s easy to fall into a scarcity mindset, especially in off seasons. Sometimes projects fall through, or you can’t seem to land a steady stream of clients. In these seasons, other local writers and marketers may seem like your competition. After all, there’s a limited client base to pull from, right?
Luckily, since freelancers work remotely, we can find clients almost anywhere in the world. Some niches are still location-specific, such as real estate. If you don’t know the area, it will probably be difficult to sell it, but for the most part, the world is our oyster.
In addition, freelance marketers usually specialize in a niche area of marketing, like graphic design or content marketing, and even within those areas of marketing, there are smaller industry niches. My focus, for example, is in real estate, construction, and hospitality. Most likely you have a different ideal client base than the other freelancers in your area. Even if there is some overlap, there are more clients in your niche than you could ever take on alone.
Other freelancers are not our competition. In fact, they are the closest thing that we have to coworkers. We should be looking for ways to learn from and help each other to ensure that our local freelance communities thrive. Here’s a few reasons why you should be networking with fellow freelance writers and marketers:
One of the greatest benefits of networking with other freelancers, especially as a new writer, is learning from the mistakes and successes of others in your field. When I started bartending at a local restaurant group, I made it a point to connect with their marketing manager, Angi. Angi started her marketing career as a freelancer and has kindly met with me on a number of occasions to help me navigate changes in my business.
I took a very relaxed approach to freelancing at first. It was just a way to bring in some extra income, but it wasn’t supposed to be a career or long-term business. Once I decided to form my LLC and work toward freelancing full-time, I knew I needed to make a change.
Initially, my projects were sporadic enough that I didn’t bother with quarterly taxes. I also primarily worked with either business owners that I knew or companies that already had systems in place for working with freelancers, so I never had to put together a contract or deal with non-payment issues.
As I started receiving referrals and actively marketing my services, I realized that I needed to be more organized and rely on written agreements. In one of our early meetings, Angi walked me through her contract template, allowing me to create a template of my own without hiring a lawyer or paying to access a generic template online that may not be relevant to copywriting.
If you are a newer freelancer, find someone more experienced to connect with, so that when questions come up, you have a resource. If you are an experienced freelancer, consider paying it forward and finding a newer freelancer to mentor.
Discovering New Tools and Processes
There are hundreds of tools and programs available to freelancers. Some are designed specifically for people like us. Others are designed for more corporate spaces, but still offer great benefits to freelancers and sole proprietors. Talking openly with other freelancers about what we use and how it’s working for us is a great way to spread the word about our favorite programs and discover some new favorites.
I run a pretty simple operation, relying on Google suite for my word processor, content calendar, spreadsheets, etc. DocuSign lets me easily send and receive contracts, and Canva is perfect for the occasional design project, making it easy to create professional brochures and fliers with no graphic design knowledge. I also have a list of software to look into as my business needs change, such as finance software, like HoneyBook, and workflow software, like Monday or Trello.
I wouldn’t even know that most of these programs existed without my network of fellow freelancers. My freelance mentor Angi suggested several of them, and the rest I came across in Facebook groups and writer blogs where I interact with a broader freelance community. Many freelancers also post about their writing processes, which can be a great way to explore new techniques and strategies that you may not have considered before.
Encouragement and Accountability
Freelancing can be a wonderful way to work. You get to pick and choose your projects, set your rates, and choose when and where you want to work. But some days, weeks, and months it doesn’t feel so wonderful. Losing a client, having a low income month or months, or forgetting to give yourself a day off every now and then are a few causes of burnout and discouragement in freelancers.
If you are going through a dry season, it’s helpful to have someone to remind you that it’s just a season. Projects come and go. Some months will be difficult, but others will be abundant. Your freelancing network can offer this encouragement better than anyone else because they’ve been there.
Maybe you’re not feeling discouraged, but just need an accountability partner to help you meet a deadline or keep your project load at a manageable level. Meeting up with a writing buddy is a great way to stay on task and curb that urge to procrastinate. Or schedule a weekly call or Zoom meeting to discuss goals and workload. You can always check in via text or email to keep each other on track throughout the week.
projects that either align better with your expertise or that they simply don’t have time for. Networking also opens doors for collaboration. As a copywriter, I love connecting with web and graphic designers, since usually my clients need a website to go with the copy that I create.
While this is a great example of writers supporting each other, we shouldn’t be networking simply for referrals. If we approach other freelancers with the self-centered mindset of “What can they give me?”, it will be nearly impossible to build relationships, and we will miss out on other opportunities to help and support one another.
If we focus on the mentoring, encouragement, and accountability pieces, we will build a stronger, healthier, and wealthier freelance community. Project referrals should be a positive side effect rather than the end goal of networking.
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