How Building a Community Can Help Your Freelancing Business

Do you have a community?

In this case, I’m not talking about where you live when I mention community. Rather, I’m talking about community in the sense of a closely knit group of people who form around a common interest.

If you’re a member of a community (online or otherwise), the benefits for your freelancing business could be enormous. In this post, I’ll explain why.

Why Being Part of a Community Helps

Being part of a community enables you to get to know others and allows them to get to know you. Knowing others builds trust. And, trust is the basis of most successful business relationships.

Look at it this way. If you had to hire someone who would you rather work with:

  1. Someone who you’ve talked with many times, who you’re already comfortable with, and who you trust
  2. Someone you just met and who you’re not really sure about

If you’re totally honest, you probably picked #1. That’s because most people choose to work with people who they trust and get along with.

How to Find Your Community

Finding the right community for your freelancing business can be a daunting task–especially if you are new to freelancing. But, there are a few simple tactics you can use to find a community that can benefit you both professionally and personally. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there something that most of my clients have in common?
  • Am I drawn to certain websites or social media tools?
  • Are there certain individuals that I’m in contact with on a regular basis?
  • Are there any meetings that I regularly attend?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you may already be part of a community and not realize it. Your next task is relatively simple. Make sure that any profile information that your community keeps on its members reflects your business information and then start participating. Be vocal. Be friendly. Be memorable.

However, if you don’t have a community yet, don’t despair. It’s not too late. You may have to test a few potential communities out before you find the right one for you.

Should Other Freelancers Be in Your Community?

A lot of bloggers will advise you not to hang out with others in your profession or even with other freelancers. If you’re a freelance writer, don’t hang out with other freelance writers they say. Or, if you’re a freelance designer, don’t hang out with other freelance designers.

While I understand their rationale that freelancers don’t typically hire other freelancers I don’t particularly agree. Although I interact with a wide variety of people, freelancers probably make up the bulk of the community that I network with–and yet, I have no problem finding work.

The stereotype that freelancers don’t hire freelancers isn’t particularly true. Freelancers are often in a position to help other freelancers find work and some even move on to found agencies. In my experience, I’ve gotten leads that turned into work from:

  • Freelancers who were too busy to take on a particular project
  • Freelancers who were starting an agency
  • Freelancers who needed to bring a team member on board for collaboration

Likewise, I’ve passed leads on to other freelancers when I was too busy to take on a project and several times I’ve brought another freelancer in to a project to work alongside me. I’ve even used a virtual assistant on several occasions.

5 Great Tools to Help You Build an Online Community

I want to stress that your community can be any group with a common interest where members interact with each other regularly. It doesn’t have to be an online community. It could be your local garden club, chamber of commerce, or some other local group.

We live in the Internet age, though, and there are some terrific community-building tools online that you should consider using (if you are not already):

  • Meetups. Meetup provides an online way for people with common interests to meet offline. All you need to do is type in your interest and where you are located and the tool will find a group located near you.
  • Master Mind Groups. Master Mind Groups are designed to specifically to tap into the collective knowledge of community. In such a group, two or more like-minded individuals are committed to help each other learn to grow and succeed.
  • Social Media tools. Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are great ways to find others with common interests who you can interact with regularly.
  • Your Blog. If you have a blog, pay attention to who is leaving comments there. Pay particular attention to the regular commenters–answer their comments, visit their sites–in short, get to know them.
  • Forums. Forums have been reborn recently as membership only sites centered around individuals or teams with a specific interest. Those who are interested must pay a nominal fee to join in. (Payment also weeds out less than serious members.)
  • Tweetups. Tweetups allow groups of people who got to know each other on Twitter to meet in person. There are several sites available to help you organize a Tweetup.

Your Turn

Has community helped your freelancing business? Where have you found your community?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by fdecomite