Back in the olden days of the 20th century, books on self-employment were mostly written by academics who hadn’t actually done it themselves, and all the advice involved building a mammoth corporate empire.
None of that appealed to me when I was starting out on the road to self-employment. Fast forward to 2017 and things have changed dramatically. The internet has made it much simpler to become self-employed, be it through the myriad resources available or through the vast array of freelance opportunities being advertised.
While gathering information is important, there’s something else that can have a profound impact on your journey to self-employment. Looking back on my own business, it’s easy to see that the times of greatest growth and delight came when I had a friend in the same situation.
Connecting with someone who is also in the process of growing their own clientele can be the best gift you can give yourself. This is the person you call on the day you get a new client, and they say, “Congratulations… Can I take you out for lunch to celebrate?”
This is also the person you call on the day you lose a client and they reply, “Do you want to talk about it?” And, of course, you return the favor.
If you’re new to freelancing or recently relocated, you need to be proactive about making connections.
Leah Walker has a dream job blogging about travel, fashion, and beauty in Paris. Making connections has been a huge part of her success. “I have a solid foundation and network of people in Europe, Paris, and the regions of France,” she explains. “The tourism board and the luxury market are small, so we all know each other and work together.”
Be alert as you go about your daily affairs. Look for groups and organizations set up for creative business owners in your niche to see if they’re a fit for you.
Lots of places overseas have expat groups or online forums, and you’re likely to find some fellow freelancers. If not, you can always take the lead and organize your own group.
Truly compatible groups go on for years and years taking advantage of that wonderful thing known as synergy—which is when, by working together, you create something greater than the sum of your individual efforts. And sometimes a kindred spirit—your freelancer friend—finds you when you’re participating in the community.
It’s not a mystery. “Connecting with people who share the same passions affirms that you’re not alone,” Sir Ken Robinson, the international advisor on arts and education, reminds us. “While many might not understand your passions, some do.”
In the age of the internet it’s easy to forget that although there are many ways of gathering information, nothing is as powerful as spending time in a room filled with others exploring the same subject.
If you’re eager to make things happen, spending a few hours in the company of a seasoned pro, and your fellow peers, can give you a head start. Sometimes we simply need to know that others are wrestling with the same challenges.
Sometimes all we need is one little missing piece of our own puzzle. Most of all, we need new tools and clarity to build the best possible enterprise for ourselves. Whether you’re in the idea-gathering phase or are already freelancing, making connections with other creative folks can be an incredible and lasting investment.
As author Caroline Myss eloquently reminds us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.”
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