The Value of a Freelance Community

I remember visiting a house a few years ago for an end-of-the-year 5th grade graduation party for my oldest daughter. It was beautiful; tastefully decorated and filled with old paintings from an Inn in Maine the child’s grandparents used to own.

“Wow, I wonder what this mother does?” I thought to myself, mostly wondering how she could work and put on a middle-of-the day party for a house full of moms.

Later, I found out she was a consultant and owned her own business. It sounded so awesome. So brave. So perfect. And so like nothing I could do.

Not long after that, I found myself leaving my job of 10 years. My most immediate plans were to enjoy a summer free of working. I still look back on that summer as a pivotal time when I allowed my body to rest and my mind to wander with “what ifs.”

 

Could I really do this?

 

As the kids headed back to school, I found myself straddling a line: One day I was looking for a new job, the next, I wanted to do freelance work and, dare I think, start my own business. Ultimately, the decision became obvious.

With steady work from my past employer, a friend hired me to freelance good-paying gigs. I bought some equipment and started shooting and editing videos for non-profits that were thrilled to find quality and affordability. Could I really do this?

My answer came in the way of joining Freelance Austin. I met others who, just like me, were struggling with what this might look like. More importantly, there were others telling me what it looked like for them. I heard the same pieces of advice over and over:

  • Charge your value
  • Set boundaries
  • Have a network

Sometimes, these are ALL really hard. Sometimes I charge too little because I want the work. Sometimes I get too much work and end up working an entire weekend. Then, I find myself too tired to attend a networking event.

But I think it’s this last one we sometimes need to remember the most.

 

Knowledge in my back pocket

 

For me, Freelance Austin has provided a look into a world I’m just learning. I’ve attended meetings and workshops on topics I knew nothing about. Sure, some of those skills I’m still waiting to implement, but I know when the need arises, I’ll already have that knowledge in my back pocket.

I also know I could go to the next meeting and ask a dire question and come home with several solid ideas on how to proceed.

But there’s more. Having a freelance community gives me the emotional support to keep doing this. The understanding looks and knowing head shakes when I’m feeling overwhelmed or under-utilized. The willingness to talk about something as boring, but crucial, like taxes. It’s a room full of people that my friends, family, and children couldn’t possibly replace.

 

Feeding my business in key ways

 

I think it’s helpful to know exactly how something is feeding you. Freelance Austin feeds my business in these key ways:

  • On-going education
  • Knowledge base for ideas/problems
  • Community with like-minded people

I encourage you to spend a few minutes this week thinking about how a freelance community does or could feed you. Furthermore, how are YOU feeding this community? While I doubt the answers will surprise you, I bet they will remind you that self-care comes in many shapes and forms.

Jeanie Garrett
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