• Advice

Why support systems are essential to freelance life

I live in a mid-size city that is known more for its sports prowess than it is known for its creative communities. I admit that I am slightly envious of some of my peers who live in larger areas with more diverse populations. In fact, I sometimes wonder if my writing would be enhanced if I could tap into the creative energy of other self-defined and professional writers in person.

After contemplating this for the last few months, I decided to launch a community writing group; unlike the ones I am currently a member of, it’s not virtual. By partnering with a local not-for-profit, the NAACP, it is my hope that we can cast a wide enough net that the group will truly reflect the racial and socioeconomic make-up of the community.

It is also my hope that the writing group will provide aspiring and established writers with a safe space to share their work and get feedback. But, more importantly, I hope that we will create a community that can serve as a support system for those writers who need it.

I’d like to say that my motivation is purely altruistic, but it isn’t. I realize that creative types who work alone often need to be reminded that we are not alone even if it feels like it as times. Unlike conventional jobs that require “co-workers” to socialize, some freelancers have limited contact with people besides their clients. If there is one thing that I miss about working at an anchor institution, it is talking and interfacing with other people on a daily basis.

Paradoxically, the things that used to annoy me the most are the things that I miss the most about being a member of a work community. Bouncing ideas off of one another, listening to stories about people’s families and children, and talking politics while sipping on a warm cup of tea doesn’t happen in my home office where I sit in front of computer screens most of the day.

This, I have found, can lead to a sense of isolation and, in some instances, frustration which is why it is so important that we are intentional and deliberate about having support systems. Unfortunately, those systems may have to go beyond our friends and family members, especially if they don’t understand the complexities of freelancing. To this day, I still have some people who ask me, “When do you plan to go back to a real job? Or “Why would you walk away from such a stable career?”—as if a midlife crisis has propelled me into the world of freelancing. Trust me, it hasn’t.

But, to be honest, being disconnected can be a downside to freelancing, but it doesn’t have to be. I am sure many of us want to commune with like-minded people with whom we have shared experiences; it validates that we are not venturing down a road untraveled.

More importantly, there is nothing quite like being a part of a community where people “get you” and you don’t have to explain the nuances of your field or justify why self-employment is a better alternative to the working for someone else.

Of course, I am not suggesting that you have to go create your own groups. In fact, I have noticed several Meetup opportunities for writers so this may be a viable option for you. Realistically, the joy that I experience doing the things that I am passionate about serves as a form of fuel that recharges me when I am on E (empty), so I can only imagine how connecting with other writers will add to that creative energy. Stay tuned…

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.