The freelancer’s guide to getting the most out of online community platforms
The power of community
Psychologically, being part of a community is a vital part of the human experience. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need to belong is one of the critical motivation factors for most human behaviour.
Traditionally, the working life of freelancers has been one that involved working alone, in isolation. However, in recent years, this has changed dramatically as freelance communities have grown in popularity, particularly those online. These communities cater for independent consultants and freelancers by enabling them to connect with and support each other, as well as providing additional features, including work opportunities, collaborating with like-minded peers, access to resources, webinars and live events.
No man (or woman) is an island
Historically, freelancers have not had company resources or work-based networks to leverage, so access to a community of peers, professionals, specialists, and mentors is a luxury they have not been afforded. But, as the numbers of people turning towards independent consulting and freelancing as a career have grown, so too have the resources, support, and communities for this sector.
Freelance communities offer members a platform to discuss and share ideas and experiences, where they can network, collaborate, and have access to a wealth of resources, tips, templates and more.
Be a Community player
An online community of like-minded professionals is an essential part of survival for career freelancers – it can be the difference between existing in a vacuum or being part of something much bigger than oneself. But getting involved can be overwhelming and daunting.
So, how does one get started and get the most out of being member of an online freelancing community?
- Find the right platform: Let’s start at the very beginning… Carry out extensive research. It is important to investigate what communities are out there and what they offer. Find a place that feels comfortable and the right fit for the work and the region in which you operate. An ideal community platform should have a large database of relevant members, should cater to a particular niche, give you access to the latest upskilling resources, work/project opportunities, the ability to find collaborators.
- Respect the guidelines: Once you have joined your freelance community, familiarise yourself with that group’s specific rules and guidelines. Every community has different standards to which they hold their members.
- Explore: Take some time to listen to conversations and read past threads to get a feel for the community. This will help you grasp the tone and expected etiquette, as well as the rules of engagement within the community. Make sure you also look into the various features that the community might offer rather than just browsing through your homepage feeds.
- Build a dynamic profile: Make a good impression. Once you know the lay of the land, introduce yourself. Let people know who you are, what you do, and where you do it from.
- Participate, participate, participate: Join other conversations before starting your own. Build up your connections by engaging with members in existing threads. You don’t need to offer your two cents to EVERY post but do make it a point to share where you have experience or insights. Add value to the conversation.
- Break the ice: Start a conversation about a topic of interest or area of expertise or ask a question to get a discussion started. But remember that you are wanting to engage other Community members, so talk to them – not at them.
- Kept it casual: When posting, make sure you are clear and concise, and easy to understand. Be natural and conversational.
- Stay on topic: Don’t veer off in the middle of a thread or suddenly post something that it not related to the conversation underway.
- Make the time and stay consistent: Dedicate an amount of time two or three times a week to actively participating in the Community. Consistency is key. Post regularly and engage wherever possible. It takes time and effort to build up a network, but it does pay off.
- Be a leader: Ask questions but also remember to answer questions, offer your expertise and experience.
- Get involved: Sign up for live events, participate in webinars, events, and workshops. In fact, the more you do within the Community, the faster you will grow within it.
A sense of belonging
Online communities are place for freelancers to come together and benefit from engaging with each other. Freelancers can connect with peers, collaborators, experts in their fields, mentors and focus groups.
Here are just some of the benefits of joining the Community:
- Ward off isolation and foster connection– The life of a seasoned freelancer can be a lonely one. Joining a community of like-minded professionals provides a platform to reach out and connect with fellow freelancers at any time.
- Bounce ideas around – One of the things about freelancing that no one talks about is the feeling that one exists in a vacuum. By joining a community, not only does one have a sounding board, but support from those who understand the trials and tribulations of freelancing.
- Networking – Freelancers work alone. But they don’t have to exist in a bubble. Joining an online community not only expands one’s network among those in a similar field, but also geographically too. The avenues opened up by growing an online freelance network are wide and varied, including:
- Connect with peers
- Seek advice or solace
- Access to mentors
- Collaboration opportunities
- Access to more work
- The ability to take on more work by expanding on one’s offering through a larger network of freelancers with additional skills
- Level up – Freelance communities, such as the Outsized Community, provides invaluable resources to upskill and upgrade one’s existing repertoire. There is also access to real-life experience, from the perspective of a fellow freelancer, which in many cases can prove invaluable.
- You are not alone – From focus groups to mentoring programs, webinars, live chats, presentations, industry insights, Community platforms (like ours!) provides an exclusive and safe space for freelancers to connect, advise, ask, support and share.
At Outsized, we believe that the benefits of being part of a community of freelancers are numerous, not only to individual freelancers but to the industry as a whole. The more support and the stronger the sense of belonging, the better. As such, we have recently launched our own Community for freelancers, offering members:
- Personalised, curated and instant project opportunity notifications
- Exclusive access to live webinars by industry experts
- Client fire-side chats to learn what leading firms look for from independent talent and upcoming opportunities
- ‘Find a collaborator’ feature to help you find the right freelance partners for every type of project
- Q&As and peer-to-peer learning in the form of freelancer masterclasses and mentorships (find a mentor or become one yourself!)
To sign up to our Community platform, for free, click here: https://community.outsized.com/home