Updated: Why a freelancer community?

This blog was written in 2011 to celebrate the freelancer community, the Freelance Jungle. It’s still going strong, so I have done a little update.

It isn’t always easy running a freelancer community. A lot of people misunderstand the intent of the group. They often try and sell me things I don’t need. Or they become rude and abusive if they can’t get their own way.

However, there are a massive amount of benefits involved too. Some of them are personal. Some of it is about giving back to the community. It’s also nice to win the odd state award in recognition for your services to mental health. Yes, some of it is about making money or getting work. And a lot of it is because a freelancer community in Australia is a necessity.

Here is the nuts and bolts of why I believe in having a freelancer community and why I started the Australian Freelance Jungle.

An illustration done for freelancer community the Freelance Jungle that features the words foster community and create connection under several happy dancing monkeys

Hello- is anybody out there?

I started doing a full time freelance gig in 2009 whilst still employed because I wanted to see if it worked. I had some mates who had varying degrees of success across a few disciplines and wanted to see if I could stop telling everyone I was an astronaut because I loathed my job and start actually enjoying being a marketer again.

It worked.

It took a lot of pre-existing connections and I found that beyond my own friends who freelanced, things were a little lonely if you didn’t have hundreds or even thousands of dollars to spend of seminars, workshops and training. So, a big part of this is really looking at the isolation other freelancers face and looking at cool ways to share a little more warmth and a lot more community. A dedicated freelancer community that focused on what we needed, instead of what someone thought we needed to buy.

Skilled Sweatshops

It seems to me that freelancers are a hungry little bunch that has to spend a lot of time either scarpering from job to job or selling themselves short sometimes to survive. It can be hard competing with cheap off-shore labour (and when I mean cheap, I mean sometimes it’s like 50 articles at $2 each sorts of bids on the auction sites).

It can be equally difficult to freelance at agency level where you are expected to pull the kinds of hours you would at a senior management level position for 30% of what they bill you out for on the client side without the usual full time perks and less autonomy.

I am not saying all agencies run this way but I have come across more that are than aren’t in recent times, especially in digital. It seems to me as though true creativity and truly awesome work doesn’t come from 12 hour days and weekend work unless that thing you are pouring your heart into is your own.

I’d like to help people skill up to negotiate that territory better by bringing together shared learning.

There is a market for smart freelancers

It’s kind of funny because there are some freelancers who refuse to do jobs of less than a certain dollar amount and there are others who will take any job they can, even if it looks like hell in a hand basket.

We do this because we’ve been burnt before or know what mucking around is involved but need the work- and those are fine decisions to make, but things can still go wrong even with cap limits and opportunities do come from the most unlikely places.

I think there are startups, businesses, and a whole new kettle of fun fish just waiting for hungry freelancers who are currently either making do with short order labour, working themselves silly or just going without in some areas because they don’t know where the freelancers are.

In fact, I know they exist because they are my clients, friends of my clients and hanging about in great numbers right now through Australia’s reinvention of new business. Maybe I can’t shake the old days of working in the dating industry, but I think we could do with a little match making on a business level to help both these parties out. This is also what I aim to do.

Share the learning

I think every freelancer out there has their own set of tips they can share- so why not set up a way these tips can be shared so everyone can get on with their journey more efficiently?

Pooling knowledge doesn’t put you at a disadvantage through giving away “trade secrets”, it helps you grow and learn more as you go along from other people’s experiences, mistakes and good fortune.

It makes sense to bring things together as opposed to hide your experiences away and repeat the same steps someone else might be able to help you skip over. That’s why I want to create something where that experience, that story telling, turns into practical help for other freelancers.

Self Promotion Rocks

It is the hardest thing to get your head around if you are a sensitive, creative and down to earth person but having confidence and doing some self promotion really helps, as does connecting on places to promote yourself amongst your peers.

Yet a lot of freelancers suck at this- it just feels…wrong!

Ego isn’t a dirty word- the reality is if you cannot instill confidence in a client about yourself or your work, you’re going to have a lot harder time getting work. There are a lot of angry people out there who think confidence means arrogance or that admitting you know the answer (or don’t know the answer) is bad.

Don’t listen to them.

If you can honestly promote yourself in a positive way and back that up with your skills, you will gain respect and more work. One of the things I aim to do with this project is get people better equipped to promote themselves and also stop them from listening to people who don’t have your vested interests at heart. I learnt the very hard way so I figure if that’s done in a big group, it may take the edge of it a little!


The bottom line:

We’re all doing this for a reason. It appeals to us because other forms of work don’t. So why shouldn’t we build a freelancer community? We already know on some level we’re like minded. And we face the same challenges, can help each other with work, and share knowledge.

So why not band together and make something awesome? Come along to the Freelance Jungle and let’s start building freelancer community together!  

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