Finding your freelancing tribe: be uncompromising (and don’t be too nice!)

I’ve been on holiday recently, and when I returned I was faced with the predictable barrage of catch-up work.

I’m not complaining – I’m very grateful that people pay me to write for them.  In fact the barrage was easy to bear, because it came from people I actually like.  People who were considerate of my time, who knew I’d been away and who didn’t want me to rush. 

My resulting advice to freelancers is this: never lose sight of what freelancing is all about.  All that wonderful independence doesn’t mean anything if you spend your time trying to please ungrateful or offhand people you don’t like.  Let’s face it; if you’re doing that, you might as well go back to full-time employment!

It’s the same with networking groups.  While they’re mostly great, I’m wary of the ones that compel you to work with or recommend their members, shunning everybody else in the process.  For me it’s a gamble I’m not sure I want to take. I’d probably get a bit more business, but I might also have to recommend people who don’t do a good job. 

(I’m also wary of the groups that meet at 6am, but that’s because I’m only capable of grunting incoherently at that time of the morning, let alone deliver a smiley business-winning pitch).

Finding your tribe as a freelancer can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out.  You’ll have to go to all the networking meetings, and in doing so you’ll have to make polite conversation with people who:

a) babble on about themselves without asking you anything,

b) act a bit creepy,

c) ask you for free work, or

d) talk over you as someone more interesting zooms into view

But keep at it, because the effort will pay off eventually.  Be uncompromising about the kind of people you want to meet, and you’ll always find at least one person you really want to work or drink coffee with. 

Two years after I launched my freelancing career, I’m lucky enough to have made some really good friends through networking.  As I’m generally an anti-social introvert who shuns gatherings of most descriptions (something you might have already guessed!), I consider that to be quite amazing.

The other thing to remember is that if you’re only working with people you like, they’ll always get your best work.  My clients might have told me not to rush, but because they’re so lovely I actually wanted to. 

Working this way means you won’t be sitting at your desk huffing and puffing about the injustice of it all; another terrifying trap you can fall into as a freelancer if you’re not careful.

The world of work can be a hard and lonely place for freelancers (cue violins!), but once you’ve found your tribe it gets much easier.   If you’re just starting out and are feeling a bit overwhelmed, hang in there.  The upsides of freelancing your way are so worth it.

Need anything written this summer?  I’m back from holiday and I’m here to help…just get in touch.

(Oh, and if you’re looking for a new beach read this summer, I’ve heard this book is pretty good!)