Finding Your Wolf Pack

Freelance life: How to overcome freelance isolation

Back Web Only Nov 16, 2016 By Cherise Henry

Feeling all alone in your freelance world? We get it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Freelance isolation” is a real thing. Just ask any freelancer or solopreneur. It happens to real freelancers in real time, there’s no way around it. But with 55 million other freelancers across the U.S., including an ever-growing community of us right here in the greater Sacramento area, there are plenty of ways to overcome feelings of solitude in your everyday life of running a business, solo.

Connect With Other Freelancers

In person or online, it doesn’t matter; it’s all about camaraderie. Reach out and connect with like-minded folks who eat, sleep and breathe the freelance work lifestyle. We’re all in this together as freelancers and having one another to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with — as coworkers do in a traditional office setting — will help keep you sane, creative and on top of your game.

Just ask my good friend and freelance colleague Kristen Lowrey Larson, a travel adviser and social media consultant. “Connecting with other freelancers doesn’t have to be limited to your particular industry. My connections span from marketing to healthcare,” Lowrey Larson says. “Anyone working outside a traditional office setting can benefit from finding a supportive community of likeminded entrepreneurs.”

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Lowrey Larson and I met each other prior to our freelancing years while serving as board members of the Sacramento Public Relations Association. But not until we both launched into the freelance life simultaneously — for different reasons under different circumstances — that we reconnected on LinkedIn and met up for coffee at what has become one of our favorite coworking spots, Temple Coffee Roasters on S Street in Midtown Sacramento.

We swapped stories on how and why we became freelancers, and to this day we talk about our freelance clients, projects, dreams and fears. We’ve become good friends and colleagues, and we rely on one another as we continue our journey in the unknown trenches of the freelance life.

Co-work, Co-work, Co-work

Whether you join an actual co-working network or change up your mobile office location from time-to-time (think: home office, coffee shop, book store), meet up with other freelancers to work side-by-side — “co-work.” You all have work to do, projects to complete, invoices to send and calls to make, so it’s not a distraction. Co-working is simply about camaraderie and being in good company with people you can turn to in a jiffy to ask important questions, like: “What project management program do you recommend?” or “Do you know a website designer who is available work on a client project with me?” or, you know, “Which muffin and cold brew are the yummiest here?”

Join a Group or Association

Formalize those freelance connections and co-working sessions with an organized community like Freelancers Union Spark (coming soon to Sacramento!). Start conversations, swap ideas and insights, network to collaborate on projects and find new gigs, and more.

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Trish Moratto, principal at Impressions Strategic Consulting and Comstock’s contributor, agrees that it’s important to surround yourself with other professionals who can relate to your day-to-day experience. “Even if they have a slightly different specialty, you can connect on universal tasks such as new business development, client relationship management, pricing structure, technology or even something as simple as childcare options,” she says. “Find your tribe and leverage their knowledge.”

Joining a local in-person group has its benefits, but don’t rule out online memberships like Mediabistro’s AvantGuild or really any professional association within your industry — they can be just as advantageous to your freelance success. Because remember, with freelancing comes freedom and flexibility on where you work and who you work with.

Engage Online

Commit yourself to being connected and engaged online through various platforms like inspiring  podcasts (like Creating Your Own Path hosted by Comstock’s contributor Jennifer Snyder), networking forums (like Freelancers Union’s Hives) or even industry-based Facebook Groups. I personally believe there is always something to learn from others, and who better to learn about all things freelancing than from fellow freelancers who are in the trenches with you? Don’t think of them as competitors, but as colleagues — you never know where your next inspiration for a new income stream will come from, or what connection will land you your next big gig, or who will become a lifelong friend. Keep those doors wide open through online communication and authentic connection.

Create Something

Whether you tap into your creativity (beyond your freelance work) by taking a new class to gain further education, or by attending a workshop to improve upon a certain skillset, or by volunteering to run a committee for a local nonprofit event that is close to your heart, get out there and get those creative juices flowing to stay in touch with the outside world.

At some point in your freelance career, isolation will surely hit; and it may hit hard and unexpectedly. (Trust me, it happens to the best of us.) But it doesn’t have to last long with many ways to avoid, and overcome, it. With a growing freelance community in an entrepreneurial city like Sacramento, there are plenty of opportunities to find your own wolf pack to survive — and thrive — in this freelance life.

Follow Cherise’s journey every month as she navigates the freelance life.

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The perception of life as a freelancer is changing. The U.S. is moving into a new economy where freelancing is a viable option for workers in many industries and occupations. And the numbers don’t lie: A 2015 study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Upwork found that nearly 54 million American workers — or one-third — freelance, with 60 percent of freelancers having started doing so by choice.

Jul 18, 2016 Cherise Henry