According to LinkedIn, I’ve been a freelancer since March of 2010 when I took my first client. As it stands right now, that’s about 6 years of being my own boss.
Before that, I had a brief stint in-house at a wonderful digital agency in St. Louis followed by another brief stint at an entirely remote agency. Both were massive learning experiences. Outside of those, I’ve been working entirely as an independent making mistakes and learning from them along the way.
Being responsible for the entire life of any project is hard work, it’s even harder trying to do it in a vacuum. That’s exactly how I freelanced for a few years.
What follows next happened to me at a co-working space in St. Louis, MO, USA. One day, I had a meeting to talk shop with two other freelancers. At that time, struggling as an independent was a badge of honor I’d been wearing for quite some time. Often, this stubbornly meant; “I’m a freelancer, I can handle it, hear me and my stomach roar”.
In TechArtista’s insanely unique space, the three of us shared client victories and struggles. We fantasized about dream projects and then how to make them a reality.
It was an exciting conversation, let me tell you. Best of all, we weren’t in a cafe surrounded by people with headphones on, other people busily working surrounded around us. The energy was infectious. When the conversation ended, I floated down TechArtista’s M.C. Escheresque staircase and back into the real world.
Finding Your Community
Up until that point, I had only briefly considered working from a co-working space and I quickly turned it down. I didn’t want the commitment of more monthly rent and the embarrassment of not making rent during a slow month seemed a real possibility. It also seemed like all I would get is the use of a desk, chair, and the Internet. I have all those at home and if I need to get out of the house I can go to a cafe.
Something, though, something was missing and I just couldn’t put my finger on what.
The next day I walked back to TechArtista, one of the co-founders greeted me at the door, and became a member shortly thereafter.
Almost instantly I was meeting other freelancers and entrepreneurs who, just like me, were doing things on their terms. We understood each other, spoke the same language and shared similar struggles. Best of all, they asked me for help. I felt valued, I felt like I had something to offer. I felt a part of the group, which is strange because normally I don’t want to be part of any group that’ll have me as a member.
Best of all, this group was a collective of fiercely independent people wanting to help each other do awesome things.
Anyone who’s stubborn enough to freelance for any period of time is stubborn enough. Their’s no need to make it harder on yourself by doing it without a community to nurture and support you.
The TechArtista community supported me so much that when I decided to become a digital nomad they encouraged it. Hell, they even threw me a going away party. Many TechArtistians continue to support me still. Even from far-flung corners of the globe, we still collaborate on projects together.
Is that because we’re TechArtistians or because we’re friends? Does it matter anymore?