Chicago has been named a current business hotspot, with diverse communities in a wide range of fields (ranging from tech startups to digital marketing) making a positive impact. As a result, the Chicago-area freelancer community has grown in response, with a sense of both professional play and crafting a story.
Chicago freelancers, by nature, are improvisers and collaborators despite the solitary nature of their work. Reaching out to colleagues, sharing resources, and building relationships are all part of the Chicago freelancer experience. With Chicago’s growing tech scene, building a strong network that enhances the freelancer/solopreneur experience is critical for professional success.
Unlike other freelance communities, the Chicago scene manages to balance a strong drive towards accomplishment with a sense of fun and collaboration. That balance is what allows the Chicago scene to grow and thrive, with new opportunities and connections happening with rapid pace.
For Chicago-area freelancers, there are numerous opportunities to network, connect, and find work through groups like the Work from Home Coworking Meetup and the Chicago Freelancers Meetup. Co-working spaces are cropping up around the city, with several located in downtown Chicago, including the omnipresent 1871. You will also find great co-working spaces in various Chicago neighborhoods, including Wicker Park (Free Range Office) and Pilsen (Blue1647), as well as spaces dedicated to social impact organizations (Panzanzee), literacy nonprofits (Open Books’ Literacenter) and other creative professions (LifeCreative in the West Loop).
Chicago freelancers also have a variety of resources for professional networking and development. Organizations like the Independent Writers of Chicago, Social Media Club, and Chicago Artists’ Resource provide opportunities for freelancers to connect. For nonprofit/social enterprise freelancers, monthly events are put on by 501 Tech Club, CXC Happy Hour, and B the Change (which supports mission-driven businesses. For professional development, many Chicago freelancers opt for sessions held by General Assembly, The Starter League, or even sessions hosted via Dabble.
A spirit of improvisation permeates the Chicago freelancer scene, and Spark Chicago’s networking events are shaping a lively, vibrant community.
Spark Chicago holds its events on the first Wednesday of the month at the Grind, a co-working space located in the heart of downtown Chicago. The group’s volunteer leaders put on a diverse range of speakers and presentations focused on various aspects of freelance work: topics have included contract issues, e-mail marketing, and managing demanding clients.
At their last event, Chicago’s organizing team decided to… well, improvise and create a well-attended, highly engaging experience for Chicago freelancers.
Our presenter was Tony Rielage of TheaterMomentum, an improv theater on Chicago’s north side dedicated to improvised drama. With a crowd of approximately 30 people, Tony worked through a variety of improv games that would provide lessons for working with others, but more importantly, create a stronger bond between attendees.
As the evening ended, Tony discussed the nature of improv techniques and how they can enhance a Chicago freelancer’s skill set. At the heart of improv lies two key ideas that naturally coalesce – the first is a sense of play, that improv performers work together to tell a story. Of all the lessons that Spark Chicago attendees learned, that is probably the greatest insight about the freelancer community. For Chicago freelances and their clients, work is driven by a sense of enjoyment that builds and drives a greater collaborative relationship.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising – after all, many organizations like TheaterMomentum are driving a lively, active improv scene in Chicago. That sense of play and storytelling has woven itself into the fabric of Chicago-area freelance work…and we would like for you to join us.
Please connect with to us by RSVPing to a future event via Eventbrite – you’ll find a lively, thriving freelance community just waiting for you in Chicago!