How to build a freelance network (from the beach)
Freelancers are a generous bunch. Always happy to share advice, offer support and provide light relief in the way of amusing in-joke memes.
I’ve joined a handful of freelance networks online and they’ve been really helpful to me re-entering the world of self employment. ‘Could such a thing work in real life?’ I wondered. Remember that? It’s what happens when you turn off your laptop. Apparently.
After searching around for local freelance groups and finding a big fat nothing, I thought I’d start one of my own. What was the worst that could happen? I’d end up sat alone in a pub every month nursing a pale ale and talking to myself. The usual, then.
I took the plunge and contacted a few people on LinkedIn. I waited… and waited… and waited. ‘Do people still check LinkedIn?’ I wondered. ‘Have they seen the message and blocked me, thinking I’m a nutter looking to create a cult from vulnerable sole traders?’
Then, a breakthrough. At a beach clean on a Sunday (yes, this is how I spend my Sundays now) I met C, who said she worked for herself helping graduates find work placements abroad. Obviously, I lept at this opportunity with, “BRILLIANTI’MSTARTINGALOCALFREELANCENETWORKANDLOOKINGFORPEOPLETOJOINWOULDYOULIKETOJOINPLEASESAYYES.” Amazingly, she was keen. I had my first recruit!
Just a few days later, J, a writer on all things food and the environment, responded to my LinkedIn message. Hooray! We met for a peppermint tea in a local cafe and made plans to put together a small but perfectly formed gang.
As soon as I got home, I created a Facebook group and made some flyers to put up on notice boards around the town (I love that Aberystwyth has community notice boards in every shop and cafe - even Starbucks has one). A few weeks later, we’re now eight members strong, including the people who run the local shared working space.
Our first meetup is in the diary for next week!
Watch out freelancers of Aberystwyth. Things are about to get social.
Do you belong to a local professional network? Have you started a group of your own? I’d love to hear how you network with other freelancers in your area.