Freelance life can be isolating at times, especially if you tend to work from home like I do. The solution: to stay as connected as possible.
Connectivity is critical when you’re trying to maintain steady work. No longer can you only rely on word-of-mouth and your tried-and-true clients or production companies who have always called you for work. Budgets are shrinking. No one is spending money like they used to. So it’s up to us as freelancers to build new relationships.
That’s where social media comes into play, helping us foster a sense of community where we can network, share knowledge and create conversations.
Sure, everyone and his brother are on Facebook but let’s face it, the majority of reasons why people are on there are to coo over their kids or brag about the wonderful meals they’re eating or the new cars they’re driving. In other words, Facebook is more for personal use.
If you want to create a sense of community with people in your field, Twitter and LinkedIn are the way to go, hands down. On LinkedIn, you can even join groups specific to your line of work. But I’m sure many of you know that already.
As for Twitter, I am amazed how many freelancers I encounter who are still unsure about how to take advantage of the popular social media tool. I suppose the problem might be that many feel it’s a tool for celebrities to boast about their latest projects or to incite feuds (such as the recent one between Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel; the two have kissed and made up since then). Or perhaps people feel stifled since there’s a 140 character limit. Whatever the reason, people need to start using Twitter more.
I use it to link to articles I’ve written or to promote an event I’m covering. I also live tweet during conferences or television programs – any instance where my commentary might grab the attention of someone influential. In some cases, you may even get a re-tweet! Just don’t forget those hash tags so you can be a part of trending conversations.
While on the subject of Twitter, I have to give a shout out to The IC Crowd in London: Rachel Miller, Jenni Wheller and Dana Leeson are three lovely ladies who work in internal communication. They started The IC Crowd as a way to connect others who work in the field; much of the conversations they create occur on Twitter (and will soon continue on Google+). Since launching The IC Crowd a little over a year ago, Miller, Wheller and Leeson have worked to move the online conversations offline, hosting a Xmas drinks networking function as well as an unconference.
On this side of the pond, the Freelancers Union (headquartered in Brooklyn), often helps freelancers connect via networking events and other helpful resources.
So if you have connectivity and a sense of community with your peers, there’s a good chance collaboration will follow – the final C that you need to be aware of. With increased online exposure and regular networking, you’ll be able to stay up-to-date on who’s working on what and whether or not there might be an opportunity for you to contribute to a new project.
And of course, dropping some emails to your existing network of contacts never hurts either!