The number of self-employed and freelance workers is growing every day. But working alone isn't always easy. How do you maintain the relationships and collaboration that comes with a physical workplace?
Here are five tips to keep you working and connected.
1. Network, Network, Network
This might sounds obvious, but when you work alone, networking is one of the most important things you can do. The trick is finding the motivation and time to do it.
Make networking a priority by putting it on your calendar. Attend events in your area and talk to people you don't know. Remember, if you only “network" in the same circles, you aren't actually expanding your list of contacts.
Join a local chapter of a professional organization, and become an active participant in the group. Having an impact in this way can motivate you to attend events, help recruit members and get out the door for activities.
Try this: Each time you attend an event or networking function, make a goal to meet at least two new people. Exchange contact information and follow up after the event.
2. Engage on Social Media
One of the beauties of social media is that it can make this big world seem just a bit smaller. There are entire communities of freelancers sharing advice, tips and thoughts about how to better work alone, how to manage yourself and your time and just vent about the trials of being your own boss. Find a Facebook group or hashtag that fits your concerns and actively join the conversation. (Don't just lurk around; operate as an expert in your field.)
Try this: Seek out other social media users who freelance in your same area, whether it be design, writing or making jewelry. Follow and engage in topics that can help you and your small business.
3. Consider Coworking
As cozy as your kitchen table or home office is, wouldn't it be nice to have a more professional setup with a conference room, meeting spaces and other people working nearby? Enter the concept of coworking, where the infrastructure is provided for a complete workspace.
Coworking is a great way to put yourself back in an office environment while maintaining your autonomy. Most of these spaces offer flexible rental agreements, 24-hour access and give you a place to meet clients that isn't your home address. (You also won't get stuck with household distractions such as laundry.)
Try this: Join a coworking facility in your area and strike up a conversation with other coworkers. Share ideas and help develop each other.
4. Use Video Chat for Meetings
Don't do everything by email. Make phone calls or schedule short video chats with clients to get that face-to-face interaction. This simple technique can help you feel more connected, better understand jobs and requests (you'll be able to read body language and expressions) and create deeper client relationships.
The other bonus is that regular video usage will help you dress the part for work. One of the pros of being your own boss is always the idea of working in sweatpants, but there's something to be said for getting dressed for work. It puts you in the right mindset for the day ahead.
Try this: During work hours make yourself available for video chat, using software such as Skype or Google Hangouts. Let clients know you are available for impromptu chats, but you can also schedule video meetings in advance.
5. Establish Partnerships
Just because you are your own boss, doesn't mean you don't need plenty of help. Develop relationships and partnerships with other self-employed professionals to collaborate on projects. From working side-by-side to using each other for client referrals, these partnerships can take on a small business network feel of their own.
The partnerships can be mutually beneficial. You can refer clients to other freelancers (and they can send referrals your way). You can also subcontract parts of projects out to others that might be better suited for the work.
Try this: Create a contact sheet for your “partnership network." Use this sheet as a reference when you need help with a project or are too busy to take new work but want to provide a referral to a client.