As I sought to advance my freelance career, I found support in the most unlikely places: Facebook groups
When I started out as a writer and photographer, I didn’t know what steps I needed to take to advance my freelance career. And since I was working alone, I didn’t have a mentor to turn to or seek advice from. Fortunately, I found support and mentorship in the most unlikely places.
Enter Facebook groups. A friend referred me to a freelance community she was a member of, and from there I looked for other related networks. I ended up joining several of these groups because some jobs and leads were only posted in one group, and not being logged in meant you could miss the right opportunity. These communities were a great resource for freelancers to find work, hire other freelancers, help each other develop social media followings, or give and receive advice.
Often the groups that I found most welcoming and useful were for people who identified with women and were racialized.
Within these groups, members felt comfortable speaking out about issues they faced – such as microaggressions from their male peers – or seeking help from mentors in their field without the pressure of the male gaze. While not all of the issues raised were limited to the experience of those who are not cisgender men, the value of being in a safe space was immeasurable.
Editor Jessica Grajczyk kicked off the Toronto chapter of Girl Gang with the blessing of the original Vancouver chapter when she moved to Toronto in 2013. “The group is aimed at cis and trans women, as well as non-binary women, from fluid gender and identified by women. people, ”she said. “It’s specifically for these people because they face challenges in their professional lives that cis men don’t, especially in some industries where leadership is still largely male dominated.
Many members are happy to offer advice in their field without worrying about newcomers competing with them for clients. There are several daily chats where freelancers openly discuss rates, issues with rude clients and how to handle them, or just chat with other people who may understand the same issues.
“I’ve always found that women-only groups facilitate authentic presentation and vulnerability,” said Lana Karapetyan, founder of Women Who Freelance (WWF), a network of creative freelancers who identify women. Although started in Toronto, it has since spread to sections in other major Canadian cities.
“Self-employed women face unique challenges – the most important of which is achieving equal pay for equal work,” she said. “I wanted to create a safe space where members would feel comfortable discussing openly topics like financial insecurity, mental health, rate negotiations and more. I firmly believe that when you are surrounded by people who have had similar experiences to you and share similar struggles, it can become a real source of empowerment. “
Most group administrators moderate the community on a volunteer basis, often while working at their full-time jobs and at freelance gigs. Ms Karapetyan started WWF in 2019 when she started working as a freelance marketing strategist. Without access to mentoring, she decided to start her own community to connect with other female freelancers in town.
“Freelance work can be incredibly isolating,” Ms. Karapetyan. “Being able to engage in meaningful conversations with people who really understand it can do wonders in reversing some of those lonely emotions that you experience when you’re independent. I can’t stress the importance of having a network to tap into for advice to help you navigate the freelance world. “
If you want to grow your career, try finding a Facebook group or similar networking group in your area. The best online communities have admins who oversee pending posts and moderate weekly discussions so posts stay on topic and weed out disrespectful members if necessary.
Administrators and active communities reinforce each other in many ways, such as answering group questions and offering feedback, sharing useful independent resources such as tax and accounting software, creating directories for recruiters to find knowledgeable freelancers or create spreadsheets where freelancers can openly share their current pay rates as a way for new freelancers to determine their starting rates or negotiate salaries.
Whether you are a website developer, chocolatier, illustrator, there is a niche for everyone – and you might be surprised at how much support your community can give you.
Karen K. Tran is a diverse writer, photographer and freelance writer in Guelph, Ontario. She graduated from the University of Guelph in 2018. She is the Leadership Lab columnist for May 2021.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where leaders and experts share their perspectives and advice on the world of work. Find all of the Leadership Lab stories on tgam.ca/leadershiplab and directions on how to contribute to the column here.
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