The life of a freelancer can be lonely and rather isolated. We often work from home offices and spend long hours working on our laptops.
Although most of us prefer that kind of lifestyle and working environment, we also need company and support from time to time.
Joining an organisation tailor-made for freelancers it therefore a good idea. It brings you in contact with like-minded individuals who understand your circumstances, your business battles and joys, and share their own experiences.
This is why I joined the Southern African Freelancers’ Association a few years ago, and have never looked back.
Joining an organisation of freelancers was in fact the one step that helped me grow my freelance business into a successful enterprise. As a newbie sole proprietor working from home I was faced with questions about how to deal with the isolation after many years in a busy newspaper environment, which rates to charge, finding and retaining clients, approaching work I had never done before but wanted to take on. My new freelance friends proved to be friendly creatures, freely sharing their expertise in various fields, enthusiastic about their freelance careers, always encouraging.
As a full time journalist writing about entrepreneurship and small business I already knew that the self-employed are usually keen to share their experiences and business tips, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the open-mindedness of other, more experienced freelancers.
To quote fellow freelancer Shaz Davis: “Safrea is a valuable resource – be it needing help with information, a source or contact when on deadline, or a competent someone to take on some work, advice on work related issues or simply someone to commiserate with you.”
I found the following important advantages:
As freelancers working from home we need to discuss and share experiences, advice from more experienced freelancers, mentoring opportunities, a forum to celebrate or a shoulder to cry on. We sometimes need encouragement and support, and at other times we are in a position to give our encouragement and support to others.
As part of a virtual group of like-minded people who understand the challenges of being self-employed, finding clients, keeping those clients, advise on rates, contracts, taxation, how to handle non-paying customers, the legal aspects, dealing with an overload of work, getting through the quiet times, how to market and grow your business, I found the support invaluable in learning to understand the freelance environment and was encouraged to push on and establish myself in the field.
Attending regular meeting where I could rub shoulders and network led to personal relationships with other freelancers that have more than once resulted in overflow work being sent in my direction. I have also outsourced work to others I got to know and learned to trust in terms of their experience and work ethic.
Interaction with other freelancer organisations
I was introduced to other groups of freelancers who are, like Safrea, part of the Alliance of Language and Media Practitioners (LAMP), exposing me to professionals in other and overlapping fields like indexing, editing and translating. These include the South African Science Journalists’ Association (Sasja), the Professional Editors’ Group (PEG), the South African Translators Institute (Sati) and the Association of Southern African Indexers and Bibliographers (ASAIB).
After a few months being “out there” all by myself was no longer fun. Trying to figure out rates, who to tackle new assignments that I wanted to take on but did not know too much about was difficult. Dealing with clients who wanted to pay me less than I knew I was worth became an effort.
So here goes to all freelancers who have assisted and advised me on my way forward: Thank you ever so much, you kept me going with your excellent example and selfless sharing. I have made it a point to be of similar value to newbie freelancers.
Want to know what other Safreans have to say?
If you want to know more, click on this link to see some of the testimonials from members.
Helen Ueckermann is national chair of the Southern African Freelancers’ Association