You don't have to look too far these days to find someone who idolizes the lone wolf approach to life. With a culture that's so focused on empowering the individual to pursue his or her dreams, there comes some misunderstanding about the place of community. We don't want to admit to needing anyone else, because we want to be self-made people. But is there such a thing? (Side note: if I find the time I'd love to write an article called "The Myth of the Self-Made Person"). The necessity of community has applications far beyond business, but for now I'm going to try and speak only to community/partnership as it relates to freelancing.
The rise of freelancing
There's no doubt that freelancing is on the rise. An article published in the National Post last month stated, "There are 53 million freelancers in the U.S. today and 50 per cent of the U.S. workforce will be freelance by 2020. While comparable stats aren’t readily available in Canada, John Ruffolo, Chief Executive Officer of OMERS Ventures, predicts the percentage could be even higher here" (August 12, 2016). Obviously, this is becoming an increasingly popular way to work. Having personally experienced the many benefits of freelancing, I can see why. Yet, with all they hype about freelance work these days, one of the negative assumptions entering the conversation is that freelancing is necessarily a solitary pursuit; a lonely foray into a forest of self-directed, self-serving projects that are entirely in the hands of one individual. Well, self-directed sounds good... but lonely? That's not for everyone. The truth is that this idea is a misconception.
An individual effort but a common goal
At it's core, freelancing is about learning to form partnerships, create alliances, and establishing thriving business relationships where all sides win. Yes, sometimes you do the work alone, but a lot of the time your work is the piece of a much larger puzzle. Good work- whether its graphic design or writing or marketing - requires lots of communication with clients and partners. It's about a steady, open dialogue. How many people in traditional jobs would honestly say that their employer encourages that? How many employers are mandated to encourage it?
Part of a bigger picture
The thing is that you can make freelancing lonely, but in doing so you'll also limit your success. Sometimes partnerships are the only way that you will gain access to marquee clients, learn new skills, or meet the right people. If you are working with like-minded people who are also establishing themselves, everyone will be motivated to contribute and support each other's growth. A freelancer is part of the freelancing community, a community that should and often does encourage people to reach out and form partnerships.
Where does this communal aspect of freelancing come from? It should come from a person's love for their craft. Because we enjoy what we're doing, we should want to see it thrive and help others be a part of it. We should think big and find people who want to pursue possibilities with us. That's not lonely, it's visionary.