Freelancing apart, togetherMarch 19th, 2019 Freelancing 'into the night' by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash
Freelancing can be quite lonely at times. Looking for a project and having trouble finding one immediately will make you think: Is there something wrong with the market? Is my knowledge mismatching with the asked experiences? Is my rate too high? When you have to decide which insurances you need to have, questions popup: Do I really need a professional liability insurance when I'm working in a scrum team? Should I worry about defaulters?
Of course there's a reason you started freelancing, but in the end you're not alone in this world. More people are freelancing, and they might have similar questions. So let's find ways to help each other.
Freelancers on-site at the customer
When you're working on-site at your customer, the chance is very high you're not the only freelancer being hired. If you're lucky even your scrum team has one or more freelancers. However that doesn't even matter, just to talk to them at the coffee corner and have lunch together. You'll learn from each other. Everyone does their business different and that's totally okay, but maybe they inspire you in doing something aside your main business.
One of the things I noticed in the past years, that freelancers tend to remember you, when everybody moved on to new projects. Even last week I was approached by a former freelance college who said there would be an opening at his customer in a couple of weeks.
Form an informal group
Once I started freelancing, I already knew a some freelancers. One of them, Michel van Duijse, is a former team mate at a former customer, more than 10 years ago. We discussed about the things we would miss as a freelancer if we would stop working for a consulting company. One of them being, the monthly/bi-monthly pizza-sessions where college's would share their new gained knowledge. Eventually it would result in, Freece a group of freelancers he started together with other freelancers he worked with on projects. When I started freelancing he asked me to join Freece as well. Freece is an informal group of 9 freelancers that meet bi-monthly. We eat something together, and one of us gives a technical presentation, to share knowledge. Besides that we also have a closed slack hub where we share projects that we can't fulfill ourselves and help each other out with business related issues. I think a group like this works best with a group of around 8-10 freelancers. Even though it's quite informal, everyone should try add an equal amount of value to the group.
Some thought that might help you form an informal group as well:
- Only allow freelancers in your group that at least of one of the group members have worked with on a project
- Take a fixed day that suits everybody
- Agree upon who will give a presentation and who will arrange the location (diner and presentation room)
- Legal arrangement aren't necessary
- After the night, share the invoices of diner and location (arranged by the person who arranged the location)
Network at meetups
Every now and then, I join a free meetup. During a meetup there are most of the time one or two technical sessions presented, but before and after the sessions there's time to network with each other. I know, as a techie it's not that easy to network. If you find this hard you should just try to talk to one person you don't know yet. This kind of evenings help getting your knowledge up-to-date and makes your network larger.
Some organizations like dotNed and .NET Zuid organize Microsoft .NET related events at sponsored locations. Some other companies organize their own tech events, like 4dotnet and iSense do in The Netherlands.
So, freelancing apart, together
Yes I know some of the readers will tell me, networking with other freelancers won't help you. Instead networking with potential clients or with recruiters does make sense. I'm not telling you to only network with other freelancers, I'm telling you to also network with freelancers.
A lot of time I'm contacted by recruiters who ask for my availability, which I'm not most of the time. However 4 out of 5 situations I can recommend a freelancer that will possibly meet the recruiters requirements. This happens the other way around as well, other freelancers know a position will be available in a couple of weeks and they tell me.
So continue freelancing apart, together.