Tu Ha An - Dreamlike & Multicultural Illustration

How to build a strong support network as a creative freelancer?

Being a creative freelancer can sometimes feel like walking a solitary path. I’ve addressed this topic in one of my blog articles before.

When you choose this path, you quickly realize there’s a gap between your daily life and that of those around you. Your friends and family may have the best intentions, but they don’t always understand your work and the unique challenges you face.

And this loneliness, over time, can become burdensome. So, how do you go about feeling less alone in this freelance adventure?

And no, I strongly advise against replacing your friends and family!

The key lies in building a complementary support network. It’s about finding people who share your professional journey and can help you progress.

Here are the three pillars I find essential for a strong network of creative freelancers:

1.   Surround yourself with those who have already achieved what you aspire to accomplish

These are successful freelancers or creators who have traveled the path you’re currently on. Their successes can serve as tangible examples of what is possible for us.

These individuals have a wealth of experience to share. They will serve as mentors for us, like Obi-Wan Kenobi for Luke Skywalker (in Star Wars) or Dumbledore for Harry Potter (in Harry Potter).

Their advice can save us valuable time and motivate us when challenges seem insurmountable.

However, as you probably already suspect, these individuals can be highly sought after, and it can be challenging to approach them, especially if they are significant figures in your field. It will be even more challenging to convince them to be part of our circle.

How can we access these people?

Hiring a personal coach is ideal if you can afford it. Many successful freelancers offer coaching services to pass on their knowledge.

If coaching isn’t in your budget, the training courses provided by these experts offers an interesting alternative. In the article Self-taught illustrator: how to find the perfect resources to learn to draw?, you’ll find my method for finding suitable courses, applicable to various fields outside drawing.

When I decided to venture into illustration, I took the Illustration : l’Atelier course by Ëlodie. Even without a personal connection to the instructor, I could ask her all the questions that came to mind and benefit from answers drawn from her own experiences.

Another option is to work within the team of someone you admire. It is an excellent opportunity to learn from the inside. I can attest to this, being part of the team of my favorite author, Chi Nguyen from The Present Writer.

However, if you prefer to remain independent, you can still offer your freelance services to creators you admire to work alongside them for the duration of a project.

The problem if your professional circle only contains experienced mentors

The only drawback: the struggles you face today may seem like distant memories to your experienced mentors. Your difficulties may seem insignificant compared to theirs.

Sure, they can encourage you by assuring you that you’re simply passing through a stage in your progression. But it’s still discouraging to see the long road ahead to reach their level. It can even generate a feeling of guilt for not meeting their expectations.

That’s why it’s crucial to have the second pillar:

2.   Surround yourself with those who are at the same stage as you

One truth I wasn’t prepared for before diving into entrepreneurship is how quickly highs and lows can occur. In the span of a week, or even a day, we can go from the peak of enthusiasm to the depths of frustration.

The speed of events complicates communication with our loved ones.

Therefore, it’s important to build our professional circle by including peers who are experiencing similar challenges. They will be better able to understand our struggles and provide genuine emotional support.

Sharing similar experiences can strengthen the sense of community. With the effect of social conformity, we will tend to adopt the behavior of those around us. So, if our peers are making progress, we’ll also feel the urge to progress, even when motivation is low.

How can we find these peers to include in our network?

It’s much simpler than finding mentors.

If you’ve attended entrepreneurship or creative workshops or training in your field, you can build a peer group with other students or participants.

You can also join regional entrepreneur communities. When I was still living in Dijon (France), I greatly appreciated meetings with the BGE club and those of my former cooperative CAE Bourgogne.

If you’re unable to attend in-person meetings, you can also find online communities. Organizations, or Facebook, or Discord groups related to your expertise can be excellent resources. When I was very active on YouTube, I found valuable support within the association Les Internettes, which encourages women and non-binary individuals to create online videos.

Recently, I joined a very sophisticated entrepreneurs’ club. I hope to have the opportunity to share my experience in the coming months.

3.   Surround yourself with those who understand the system

Whether mentors or peers, they are the ones who share our reality. Sometimes, our focus is so much on our daily tasks that we lose sight of the big picture. People with an overview of entrepreneurship or creative life can then become invaluable resources.

Their strategic advice on managing a creative business (such as financial planning, marketing, time management, and resource management) can make all the difference.

How can we include these people in our network?

Because I am currently living and working in France, my knowledge is limited to experiences related to the support system for entrepreneurs in this country. If you have experience with finding “those who understand the system” in other countries, please share in the comments section so that I and other creative freelancers can refer to it.

In France, they may be the easiest to find among the three pillars of our circle. These are professionals working in private or public organizations who have supported hundreds, if not thousands, of project initiators.

Yet, we creative freelancers often hesitate to seek their help.

Their apparent seriousness sometimes makes us feel like their services are more suitable for more technical or traditional sectors (such as human resources consulting, bakery, or investment…). Add to that the fear of not being taken seriously because of our creative profession.

But believe me, their meetings have been among the most reassuring and enriching experiences of my creative journey.

If you live in France like me, don’t hesitate to knock on the door of the BGE, the CCI, or even request a meeting with an entrepreneurship expert at France Travail (formerly known as Pôle Emploi) in your region. You might be pleasantly surprised by the advice and support they can offer.

What exactly can they offer us?

Creation support services can provide personalized guidance, with advice based on our needs.

They can offer a safe space to express our concerns.

These services and the people associated with them can offer networking opportunities. They can facilitate meetings with peers, potential partners, investors, or clients.

They can also provide access to additional resources such as workshops, tools, coworking spaces…

Bonus: Don’t underestimate those who have failed

Survivorship bias leads us to value only visible successes, ignoring invisible failures.

During World War II, this led to reinforcing only the affected areas of returning planes, whereas their return indicated that these areas were not fatal. Strengthening the untouched areas was therefore crucial because planes hit in these areas never returned.

I was fortunate to have someone in my circle who experienced entrepreneurial failure. He alerted me to the mistakes he made with his team. This simply allowed me to avoid reproducing these fatal errors.

As hopeful freelancers, we tend to seek advice from those who have succeeded, avoiding those who have failed. Yet, these warnings can be a valuable resource for strengthening our long-term journey.

Reminder: a strong network makes the creative freelancer shine

The picture opening this article represents a part of my professional network. It includes a mentor and my peers.

It all started with my desire to approach someone who was where I wanted to be. After working alongside them for a mission, I eventually joined their team, naturally forming a group of peers with these remarkable individuals.

This photo was captured during one of our working sessions in Da Lat, Vietnam, immortalized in a serene video:

I am grateful to have crossed paths with inspiring individuals during my adventure to share these reflections with you today. Their presence lightens the burden on my friends and family, allowing me to better balance my professional and personal life.

Building a strong professional network as a creative freelancer is essential for our success and well-being. I hope this article provides you with avenues to find pillars that guide and support you in your professional life.

And you, what is your experience in building a network as a creative freelancer? I would be delighted to read your experiences in the comments!

Keep creating!

Tu Ha An

*Please consult the information on Copyright & Intellectual Property before copying or mentioning the content and images of tuhaan.com

Post A Comment