Talk with any freelancer, and you will quickly discover how isolating and lonely the career path can be. In fact, only enter into a conversation with a freelancer if you have a few hours to spare. This may be the only conversation he or she has had that day other than a chat with the clerk at Starbucks that morning.
While some freelancers are happy to have only a German Shepherd and a robot vacuum as officemates, others miss the water-cooler conversations. They miss the drinks after work, and they miss having a person they can turn to in the office to offer career guidance. Many freelancers miss having a mentor.
Perhaps you already know someone who has worked in your freelancing niche and has a stable career. Maybe this person has been open to offering career advice, or at least acts as a sounding board when you have a problematic client. If so, you are lucky.
The reality is that many freelancers begin their careers after late-night Google searches. They stumble upon their first gig, which turns into a few more jobs. But through the ups and downs, through the feast and the famines, most freelancers have no one with which to discuss career strategies.
Friends and family members shake their heads and ask if you are still unemployed. Your mother is sure you are getting scammed. Your neighbor asks if you are paying taxes on your earnings, and your friend asks if you can help her lazy brother-in-law “make money online.”
You need a mentor.
How do you find one? It’s tough, but here are some ideas.
First, look through your network. Look for other freelancers in your industry and niche. You may be surprised to discover someone working in a similar field as you. It’s not likely, but it’s worth a try.
While you are still on LinkedIn, search for groups specific to your freelancing niche. Be as specific as possible. For example, freelance writing groups are often filled with fiction writers who complain about writer’s block, and how they prefer the company of the characters they write about instead of interacting with real people. If you don’t want your news feed cluttered with this kind of content, choose the groups you join carefully.
Search for Freelancing Support Websites
Since you are reading this on freelancingbuzz.com, you can see there are plenty of freelancing websites available to support those millions of tea-drinking, PJ-wearing freelancers out there in the world. These aren’t the websites that you will use to get jobs, but they are websites filled with freelancing resources. Read the blogs on those sites and start conversations with those who are posting.
Some of these freelancing websites also offer great advice on taxes, budgeting, and health insurance.
Read and Post from Your Freelance Job Platform
Whether you use Upwork or Freelancer to find your paid freelancing jobs, check out the website’s community page. You can ask specific questions of your freelancing community, and most of the time, those who answer offer sound advice.
Send Messages to Successful Freelancers
Some freelancing job sites allow you to see the amount of money the individual has made through the website (if he or she chooses to share this information.) Other freelancing job sites have label “top-rated” workers in each industry. Send private messages to those who are successful within your industry. Ask specific questions of these freelancers.
Many people are proud of the success they have found through freelancing and want to offer advice to others. Remember, those freelancers are working from home in their PJs too, and they like to interact with the outside world at times.
You may consider searching for freelancing conferences in your area. There are freelancing writing conferences scattered throughout the country, so chances are there are similar conferences in other industries as well.
For an additional fee, some of these conferences offer one-on-one consultations with professionals in the industry. Perhaps you could also network with other attendees who can share in your frustrations and your successes.
While most freelancers would like to have an in-person mentor to meet with periodically to offer advice and encouragement, perhaps there are plenty with “traditional” employees with on-sight jobs who are seeking this out as well. Some industries are particularly good at providing support for newbies, but beginners in other fields are also thrown to the wolves.
If you have been able to make a steady income as a freelancer, take a moment to pay yourself on your back. Maybe you don’t know anyone else in the field. Perhaps your friends, family, and neighbors don’t understand how you earn your living. Regardless . . . you are doing it! Congrats to you!
This article was originally posted at Freelancing Buzz!