As a freelance boss in the digital age, it’s likely you’re on your own a lot. I know I spend hours behind the microphone in a soundproof booth and sip through numerous lattes on my lonesome while creating content and copy for clients around the world. It’s exciting to build your dream from scratch from your kitchen table while the kids are off at school…but it’s also, well, lonely. There’s only so often your current friends want to hear about the new thing you’re doing or how hard it is to build a business or how awesome it is when you land a new client. In this new, magical world of digital freelance empire-building, finding a community of people who understand you and your work, is essential to your sanity, productivity and overall enjoyment of life.
You need two types: Peers and Mentors
Peers are people who are in the same field as you AND in the same (more or less) place in their career. They’re teammates, buddies, down in the trenches building the lives of their dreams alongside you. Look for meet-up groups, networking opportunities, connect with people via social media.
Amongst your peers it’s crucial to have people of two sub-types: local and online.
Local people you can meet up with on a tough day and groan face to face over a super strong margarita. They can say “there there” and pat you on the back before encouraging you to get back on the horse and keep it up.
Online community is also amazing. The internet is changing business AND community in extremely tangible and meaningful ways. There are lots of wonderful online communities (I happen to lead one myself) full of encouragement, recommendations, advice-giving and delightful human beings.
When searching out any community (whether online like a Facebook group or an in-person meet up) I recommend finding groups of people that will encourage you to become your best self. Don’t settle for bad vibes and negativity. The world has plenty of that to go around. Plus, it won’t help you create the career of your dreams, negative community will ultimately hold you back and the whole point of seeking others out is to feel BETTER, more connected, a more creative version of yourself, not to sink to petty gossip and griping.
The other piece of the community puzzle is mentors. You need someone, anyone (who you respect and admire), who is about 5-10 years AHEAD of you in the career you want to build. Note that they don’t necessarily need to be 5-10 years older than you, just a few years ahead on the road you’re travelling. They’ve been pursuing voice-over professionally for a few years and you’re new to the ballgame, for example.
There are two types of mentors: literal and metaphorical.
A literal mentor is an actual physical person you ask to mentor you. Maybe they’re a friend of a friend you meet up with regularly for lunch or coffee. Maybe it’s a coach you reach out to for an audit of your business, regular audition coaching or a monthly check-in call.
Once you’re finished training and working professionally, that doesn’t eliminate the need for a mentor. You should always be seeking respected advice and guidance from people you know and trust.
A metaphorical mentor is someone in any time period or geographical location who you admire, devour everything they put out into the world and eagerly apply their advice to your life. You don’t have to actually know them in person in order to be moved by their work. Among my many metaphorical mentors is the creative goddess and guru Julia Cameron. (Run, don’t walk, to Amazon to order all of her books immediately please – you’re welcome in advance.)
So, take a deep breath and open up to the idea of community. Tell the universe you’re ready. Keep your eyes and ears open for potential peers and mentors — they’re on the way to help! Chances are, they’re looking for you too.
Caroline Cole is a voice-over actor, copywriter and coach based in Dallas, TX. Learn more at carolinecolestories.com or join in by following @carolinecolestories on Instagram and @ccolestories on Twitter.