Freelancers Need Community

I’m going to be honest with you. I sat down to write this post and initially had a totally different topic in mind.
 
I planned to write about current trends in copywriting for email marketing (which is still an important subject, and I might cover it down the road), but I felt like there was a different story I needed to tell this week.
 
The beginning of a new year always has that “fresh” feeling—you know, re-starts, resolutions, blah, blah, blah.
 
Why yes, I do know it’s mostly a marketing tool created by businesses that want us to BUY MORE THINGS. I get it. But still. You understand what I’m getting at here. If nothing else, January is a fresh slate calendar-wise. So work with me, okay?
 
The thing I wanted to talk about is this: The importance of community for writers, freelancers, and really, anyone who works from home.
 
Why Community Matters
 
I’m thinking about this topic right now because I’m well into year three of working from home, it’s winter in the Midwest, and, again, I’m feeling a teensy bit lonely (which I’ve written about before.) And I’m still working on fixing that.
 
But aside from this, I’m finally realizing just how important it is to stay in touch with fellow writers, industry groups that align with your target niche, and other people who work from home.
 
Why? One reason: Relationships are the #1 resource that can help grow your business into a successful, long-term endeavor while also keeping you from turning into a complete hermit with no social skills. So, really, win-win.
 
You might be thinking, “Kaleigh. Girlfriend. You’ve told us this before. Every business book says that relationships are important. I’ve heard this literally one million times.”
 
I read ya. I really do. But what people probably aren’t talking about is what this means (and looks) like in practice.
 
What Do You Mean By “Community?”
 
I’m not talking about the show, although it was offbeat and hilarious.
 
When it comes to building relationships in communities, I’m talking about:

  • Slack channels, which are being used as sources of referrals
  • Facebook Groups, which people also use to find sources for articles and recommendations for job openings
  • Twitter conversations (which can uber-powerful)
  • Reddit (namely niche-related sub-reddits)

And I don’t just mean joining these groups and then lurking in the shadows. I mean reaching out to fellow group members to introduce yourself, having real conversations, and actively being part of the give and take that’s happening in these virtual spaces.

If you're not sure where to begin looking for these communities, start the most logical way: Ask around.

Reach out to people and see if they can recommend some networks to check out, or even better, if you can get an invite to private groups they're part of.

Then there's the in-person meetups you can attend. Don't discredit those. Try a few different ones, and see if you find some with people you mesh well with there. These are good news because they help you practice your social skills.

Good Things Will Come
 
Being an active part of these communities does a few important things for your business:

  1. It helps you build a referral network. When more people know who you are and what you do, they can introduce you to their connections that need the services you offer.
  2. It can help build your authority as a source. Writers often turn to these outlets when they’re looking for quotes or subject matter insight, so being present in these spaces can help you get your name and expertise in front of new audiences.
  3. It helps you build relationships with people you wouldn’t normally meet face-to-face. These communities make the world so much smaller and give you the chance to get to know people all over the globe. The people you meet can serve as your co-workers and peers when you’re working alone and don’t have anyone nearby to bounce ideas off of or to troubleshoot with.

This is just the beginning of the benefits that come from being part of an active community. I can tell you this with certainty because it’s been a major part of how I’ve grown my own freelance writing business, how I’ve kept busy during slow periods, and how I’ve also found fellow writers to pass along opportunities to as well.
 
So here’s what I want to say to you if you’re starting 2017 in need of a little direction: Find some communities you care about and that are valuable to you—and then become an asset in them. Even if you’re an introvert. Even if it feels like work at first.
 
As tempting as it can be to stay within your own little bubble or the safety of your home office, real business growth (And relationships! And friendships!) happen when you start being an active part of external groups. So give it a try.

This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.

P.S. I was recently on The Copywriter Café podcast discussing this same topic (and how it’s helped me grow my revenue by 50% year over year.) If you have 30 minutes, it’s worth a listen!