One of the best moves I’ve made in many years as a freelance (22 to be exact almost to the month) is to join an association, In my case it was the Professional Speaking Association, of which I am a Fellow. It could probably be anything for you, but that’s the one I went for.
There are numerous reasons for doing so, solidarity, minimum rates in the case of the NUJ of which I’m also a member and have been since 1989, but the big one is the people.
As you’ll see from the picture, which I include to annoy people who are somewhere cold, I’m working in Cape Town for the week at this conference, moderating a panel tomorrow morning. I’m doing it as editor of Professional Outsourcing Magazine.
Stranger in an unknown town
So I thought, I know nobody, I don’t know the area at all. I went onto the PSA’s Facebook site and asked if any members out here happened to fancy a coffee while I was in their area.
I was surprised when one of them suggested dinner, even more surprised when this turned out to be an invitation to his home. Surprise wasn’t an adequate word when I realised he’d invited some other PSA members around as well. So I had some insights into the area from local people, a great convivial evening and have made new friends.
It isn’t always like this of course (although I now can’t speak highly enough of the South African PSA, as you can imagine). But one of the traps of being a self-employed person is that you can end up thinking that’s it, you really are by yourself the whole time and there’s nobody else.
There almost always is. If you’re starting to work for yourself or like me you’ve been self-employed for decades, consider joining an association of some sort. I’ve had business support, help in negotiating deals, guides on rates, it’s all good – but the people are the best thing. I also get great help from the UK meetings and conventions and from my “mastermind” group, six of us who meet more or less monthly and hold each other accountable for our business objectives and what we’ve done about them. Come to think of it, they generally feed me too.
Never, ever feel that you have to be working alone just because you’re title says “sole trader”.