By Dana Neuts
The corporate world has the water cooler, schools have the teachers’ lounge and kids have the playground. Everyone has a place to hang out, brainstorm, share ideas or simply to complain. What about freelancers? Where do we go to get encouragement or to vent about our latest projects or clients? Some would argue that we don’t have a place. But not me. I never feel lonely as a freelancer. I have exactly as much companionship as I want or need on any given day.
If I’m writing or editing, I’m likely alone in my home office which suits me just fine. Of course, I’m not truly alone then. Jelly Bean, my favorite eight-pound source of inspiration, is always there if I need a friendly face or just a break, and her siblings, Sammy and Ginger, are always handy with a meow or a purr to cheer me on.
When I need to feel a part of something bigger, or need human contact, I work at Starbucks or downtown at my favorite bakery. And when I really need to feel connected, I visit with friends online. I also connect with my freelance friends at local networking events. It might be at an event sponsored by SPJ or Media Bistro, or a meet-up that friends threw together to keep in touch. Regardless, I am only as lonely as I want to be.
For me, this ability to stay connected is crucial to my success, but also to my sanity. While I don’t miss cubicle life, I do miss seeing friends every day and being able to blow off steam when I need to. I make sure I maintain that camaraderie for myself but also to support my freelance friends. These relationships offer an intangible source of comfort and advice, as well as potential project leads. Even more importantly though, we are here to encourage each other.
Just last week, I talked to Anna Pratt, a fellow freelancer and member of SPJ’s freelance committee, to catch up. I asked her what her dream project is and how it was coming along. We both discovered that, while we have ideas, projects or stories we might want to work on “some day,” we need someone else to check in with us, to see how it’s going and to push us when we get stuck. We also like having someone to talk to about issues like collecting late payments, finding more work or firing clients.
- Stay connected offline through networking
- Stay connected online – Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr, etc.
- Support and encourage each other
So even though we may work in a solitary environment at times, we are never truly alone. We have ways to connect with each other, virtually and face-to-face, and we should foster freelance relationships to support each other. It makes the freelance life so much more fun.
How do you support your freelance friends? I’d love to hear how you stay connected.
Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts of Virtually Yourz has been a freelance journalist for 10 years, specializing in business, feature and community writing. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, which won a 2nd place award in the 2012 NW Excellence in Journalism contest for “Best Online Community Engagement.” Dana is currently serving as the national SPJ Secretary/Treasurer and will run for President-Elect in August 2013. Follow her on Twitter @VirtuallyYourz and @SPJDana.