Community. Yeah. It's one of those words that's so overused in the freelance world that it can float right through your ears without registering much between them at all.
Like when you hear a word so often it begins to lose its meaning.
You know it's a positive thing. You know it means different things to different people. But if you were put on the spot, could you articulate why it really matters?
I remember how being at university was exactly like this.
You're surrounded by countless like-minded people all sharing an experience on campus. Until you're not. All of a sudden you're out in the real world, and that kind of support and camaraderie becomes tough to find.
Even for those lucky enough to have a tight friend group, or a great professional network, the moment you decide to become a freelancer, you're on a path that most people in your life just won't understand.
"How do you know this is going to work?" they'll ask.
"Why don't you just get a real job?" they'll wonder.
"What if you don't make enough money?" they'll plead.
To be fair, this always comes from love. Your friends and family want to see you happy, and the roller coaster of freelancing is too scary for most people.
Let's be real. It's probably scary for you too.
But if you've made this leap, it's because the allure of doing what you love, working for yourself, and writing your own story was just too strong to ignore any longer.
And that's when the value of community absolutely skyrockets.
Being around other people who are going through the same struggles, and who are feeling just as isolated as you are, is going to be your secret weapon.
Here are just a few reasons why:
1. Keep it Serendipitous, Stupid
My wildly clever play on K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid) is about the importance of serendipity - that magical force of chance that pokes its head out when you bother to put the time in. I can't tell you the number of times this kind of lightning struck at Project Spaces.
A member's friend visits who's working on something that just happens to be the exact thing this other member needs to close a sale with some other person who they both know for totally separate reasons and who happens to know that first member's sister, or something.
You get the idea. Serendipity: You can't plan for it (but you sort of can).
2. A Few Steps Ahead
A common issue among freelancers is the dreaded "imposter syndrome" or, in other words, the idea that you're a nobody and why would anyone give you money to do anything ever? It's very easy to say that one should simply ignore this feeling and push forward with confidence.
Having started freelancing myself recently, I can tell you this is much easier said than done. What makes it worse is that a lot of the help you'll find online comes from seasoned experts who are so many leagues ahead of you that their well-meaning advice can leave you feeling hopeless.
As a wise freelancer told me, "Always bite off more than you can chew. And chew on it anyway."
Terrific advice. But you know what makes taking that advice easy? Being around people who are ahead of you, not by leagues, but by just a few steps.
These people can give you advice that is relatable and actionable.
3. As Crazy as You Are
Finally, I'll come back to those loving grenades that your friends and family will lob at you like, "How do you know this will work?" "Why don't you just get a real job?" etcetera and so on. I'll close with a story...
A few years back, we had a member who had been using our workspace on evenings and weekends while still working his 9-5 job. He was building his freelance business, but hadn't quite taken the leap. One day he busts through the door carrying a computer monitor.
"I just quit my job!" he proclaimed. A standing ovation erupts in the space.
It brought a tear to my eye. Not only because I love to see people go all in on what they love, which I do.
Because, in that moment, I realized we had built a community of people who don't ask when you're going to get a real job. Instead they clap and celebrate your next chapter. And that's a special thing.
No doubt his road was still a risky one. But he knew there were people who had his back, and that he could learn from the along the way. People who can help you celebrate the wins, and bounce back from the losses.
And that's the magic, folks.
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