As you develop as a writer, you might also want to think about where you fit into your online community.
When I first started as an online freelance writer, one of the main benefits was the isolation. I didn’t need to see or talk to people. That separation in my day-to-day routine is still essential for me. While I enjoy social interaction, I also like to be left largely alone while I work. Being able to sit down at my computer and not have to worry too much about bosses or coworkers is one of the things that appeals to me about working online.
However, the fact that I like working on my own doesn’t mean that I don’t belong to a community. In fact, over the last 10 years online community has become increasingly important in the world of freelancing. As you build a career as an online freelance writer, it makes sense to identify with a community and make connections.
The Importance of Online Community
Even in the early days of the Internet, people reached across distances to connect with others. Humans — even those of us who crave alone time — are largely social creatures. Online community allows us to connect with people regardless of geography. One of my realities is that I live in a community where it’s difficult to find people with similar interests to mine. Going online allows me to connect with people who “get” me and understand what I do. This offers me the chance to develop meaningful relationships as well as feel more confident in myself and my abilities.
Not only can online community help you feel connected and a sense of belonging, but it also allows you to access more business opportunities. In the days before the Internet, freelancers had to send pitches using snail mail, or they had to call editors. In many cases, you couldn’t become a freelancer until after you had worked for a company for a few years. Spending time in a newsroom or working at a magazine provided you the chance to build a portfolio and make connections. Without this experience, it was difficult to make the leap to freelancing. Today, being a part of an online community can help you make those connections much faster and easier. It allows you to plug in and get to know people without the need to work in the “real” world first.
Your online community can also open your work up to a wider audience. A connection made through the community can lead to a post on a site with a different set of eyeballs — or even millions more eyeballs than you’re used to. It’s a chance to grow your online freelancing business beyond your current audience and land more gigs.
How to Identify Your Online Community
Joining an online community is a matter of figuring out where you fit, and then being willing to participate. I’ve found my main online community in the world of personal finance. The biggest reason I consider this my community is due to the fact that I mostly write about financial topics. As a result, I naturally gravitate toward others in the financial space. However, I’m also active in the community. I’ve attended the FinCon Expo every year since its inception. I’m heavily involved in the Plutus Awards, an event that recognizes the achievements of members of the financial blogging community. I try to answer questions others have and promote others’ work.
I also consider myself part of an online community of religious bent. I participate in a Facebook group and read other blogs. However, this isn’t my primary online community, and it’s not a community in which I have as large a role. I’m more passive in this other online community. It’s not a community where I invest in a way that is likely to result in more business, but I find it enriching nonetheless.
To some degree, I am a part of a wider community of bloggers and online freelance writers. However, I don’t interact as much with other members of this community. Sometimes I think that I could benefit by investing a little more time and effort beyond the online financial community. After all, it might open up other opportunities for writing. However, I don’t feel as though I have the energy for that level of commitment. It’s difficult for me to interact socially, and relationships take a lot out of me.
Part of identifying your community also includes figuring out where you are willing to put in the most time. Are you willing to participate in your community offline as well as online? With the financial community, I’m willing to make that transition out of the online world and into the offline world. I’m happy to attend meetups and conferences that involve other financial writers and bloggers. While I wouldn’t mind connecting in person with those in my religious online community, it’s not a priority for me. And I have yet to truly invest in meeting up with other writers BECAUSE they’re writers (although that’s something that should probably change).
Take a look at where you fit, and decide what community you want to invest in. You don’t have time to make a meaningful contribution to every community. However, if you want to boost your earnings, identifying a niche and investing in that online community can help. And, as you invest in the community, you’ll also make new friends and develop relationships that can last a lifetime.