How to find community when you work alone

Nov 18, 2015

Many freelancers work from home, on their own schedules. In some ways, this is tremendously freeing; nothing feels more delightfully transgressive than conducting a high-level business call in your pajamas.

But the flipside of this vaunted freedom is isolation. It’s easy for freelancers to feel stranded in their own little worlds – far away from the socialization of the water cooler.

So how do you build community when you work from home?

1. Use the power at your fingertips

Yes, at your fingertips right this second. Yes, the keyboard.

The Internet is a FANTASTIC resource for finding individuals and networks that share your interests and concerns.

There has never been a faster, more convenient way to find like-minded souls. You can find a person, group, or forum to give you advice and support on almost any topic under the sun.

Freelancers Union is a great place to start. This blog publish articles from freelancers across many industries (not just writers), all of whom have something to say and want to share their stories with the freelancing community.

On Hives, you can find freelancers answering questions in industry-specific groups, sharing event info in location-based groups, and generally supporting one another online.

And of course, you can always find SPARK events – great in-person meet-ups to get you off the couch and into conversation with a group of like-minded freelancers.

Join Freelancers Union (it's free!)

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2. Have specific goals

What are you looking for from a community or support system?

Keep in mind that your goals may warp and change over time; we no sooner fulfill one need than another pops up! But having some objectives for community-building can help structure your search.

For instance, if you’re a freelance parent working in a new city, maybe you decide that you’d like to find friendly meet-ups for your child AND make connections in your field.

Those are two different goals with some possible intersections. Start researching local kids’ classes and professional networking events. Check out the host organizations and spaces – any overlap?

Resolve to explore your city through pursuing these goals. You’ll feel more empowered, and far less mentally-and-physically lost.

3. Broaden your horizons

When you’re seeking out community, be open-minded!

Often, we limit ourselves by looking for duplicates of ourselves: writers seek out writers, designers find other designers, etc.

But while it can be satisfying to meet up with exact contemporaries, there’s a lot to be gained from cross-pollination between fields! A designer and a writer who become friends may share resources and collaborate with very little friction. You can find community in unlikely places.

And while you’re at it: don’t look for everything you need to be in one person, or one support network. You may have a great time swapping war stories with fellow graphic designers in one group, and meet a valuable professional connection in another group. That’s okay! Keep expanding your circle!

The good news is that the more groups you reach out to, the better your chances of finding “your” folks – the people you really want as part of your network.

If you haven’t found ‘em yet, keep looking; you will eventually find the community that welcomes you.

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.