Building Your Freelance Community

The Importance of Community

This month, in the Fancy Comma newsletter, Kelly Tabbutt writes about the importance of community. Keep reading for her thoughts on the topic.

Building a community is vital. It provides access to potential clients as well as the opportunity to share and learn from experiences, knowledge, and advice. Having a strong and wide network is key to finding clients and honing your craft. This community can also provide moral support and a venue for discussing issues and finding resolutions. Keep reading to learn more about ways to develop community as a freelancer.

Twitter

Twitter is a great place to network with other freelancers (not to mention potential clients and editors of different publications). The site allows users to post short posts of up to 280 characters. This brevity makes posts approachable to a wide audience. Using hashtags, you can chat with specific communities, such as #FreelanceChat or #SciCommChat. Because you can tweet with anyone, you have the potential to build a wide community.

Twitter is an ideal venue for spreading your name and messages to a broad audience. It’s also a tool for staying aware of the goings-on in communities of interest – such as freelance writers. It is also a great way to communicate your skills, work, and interests to a wide audience where you can cast a wide net for making connections.

Facebook

According to Statista, Facebook is the most-used social media platform. Facebook is structured around communities of followers – “friends.” Facebook users can post short or long messages to their feed or in response to other followers. However, many pages and posts are available only to those who are members of groups or friends with the person who posted the content.

Even though Facebook is designed to organize users into communities, and this can restrict the audience you reach and view, these communities can be great launch pads for connecting with other users and communities. You will not be able to cast as wide of a net with Facebook, but the community-oriented structure (and, unlike Twitter, no character count limit) allows for more meaningful and personalized connections.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn can also be a great place to build your professional network, though it isn’t as inherently “social” as sites such as Facebook and Twitter. You can post your reflections on freelancing to help others and build a following that way. Make sure to participate in LinkedIn regularly, commenting and reacting to posts, as this feeds into the site’s algorithms so that your posts get seen more often.

Local Writer’s Unions

Local writers unions are also a great way to network. Unions are traditionally centered on issues of workers’ rights and finding employment opportunities. Unions are membership based and require dues from members and some may require participation in union activities. One writer’s union is The National Writer’s Union.

Connecting with other freelancers – and potentially clients – by joining a local writer’s union is a more traditional approach to networking. In the virtual age, many writer’s unions have webpages, and most likely a social media presence. You can find the National Writer’s Union on Twitter at @paythewriter. However, because these are local, the web of connections you will make will likely be narrower – but the connection will be tighter.

Local Writer’s Clubs

Local writer’s clubs are another option for more traditional and localized networking. Similar to unions, writer’s clubs can be found by searching the web or by word of mouth. Writer’s clubs are designed to bring together individuals in the same field of work with similar interests so that they can share their experiences, knowledge, advice, and, hopefully, their network. Depending on where you live, there may be a writer’s group near you. For aspiring science writers, Washington, DC, has the DC Science Writers Association, and New York City has the Science Writers of New York. Even if you’re not based in a populous place like NYC or DC that is known for having a large writers’ community, there is likely a writer’s club near you - check this list of writer’s clubs.

As with writer’s unions, writer’s clubs today will most likely have web pages and a social media presence as well as face-to-face local events and meetings. As with local unions, local clubs will offer a smaller network than the globalized nature of social media, but the network you build will be tighter and you will have greater opportunities to have in-person contact.

Colleagues

Lastly, and most immediate to you, are your colleagues – fellow freelancers. Of course, given the independent nature of freelancing, in order to connect with other freelancers, you must first find them: via social media or local organizations. Once you have found other freelancers, you can begin to branch out and build your community.

Building and maintaining connections with colleagues can require as little as maintaining a social media page such as a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. These connections can, and often do naturally, lead to meeting others within their network. Either way, colleagues are among the best sources for building your freelance community. 

Ties that bind

Professional communities provide us with support, a sense of belonging, connections – to the community and the “friends of friends” beyond the community – knowledge, advice, and work opportunities. It may seem daunting to reach out and attempt to make connections to build your network, but it truly can be as simple as posting a simple message, and replying to others, or showing up to local events and interacting with others.

Links from around the web:

  1. Sheeva recently blogged about the brain’s filter. She also reviewed a book from her MIT classmate, Elizabeth Ricker, on what’s called “neurohacking.”

  2. Nidhi of The Shared Microscope talks about science writing and content marketing.

  3. Mark Bayer recently spoke to Douglas and Lisa-Marie Hatcher about structuring storytelling on his podcast, When Science Speaks.

  4. Here’s a cool illustration from the National Institutes of Health about the brain’s wiring.

  5. In case you missed it, here’s Fancy Comma’s Kelly Tabbutt’s article about ways to manage stress in a pandemic.

That’s a wrap for this month’s newsletter - thanks for reading!