Creating Community: Building Support Systems
by Taylor Slattery | December 16, 2021
When you set out on your own on the adventure that is freelancing, you leave a number of things behind. The project manager looking over your shoulder, the noisy AC vent by your desk, the awkward hellos with that supervisor you don’t like—these are all things of the past. But another thing you may have left behind without realizing it—is your support system.
In a traditional work environment, it’s easy to commiserate with coworkers about an overbearing manager or the mandatory weekly meetings that don’t amount to anything, but when you work from home, that same camaraderie just isn’t there. It’s one of those things that feels trivial—at times, even annoying—but having the opportunity to vent to someone who really gets it is something many take for granted. You don’t really understand the value of these small exchanges until they’re no longer there.
Whether you’re working for yourself, or just remotely, it can be difficult to maintain the same sort of connections you would in an office space. Sure, you’ve got friends and family you can talk to, but unless they work in a similar field, your complaints about clients asking for a more “dynamic” blue may be lost on them.
Support systems help us not only to endure hard times, but provide people to celebrate with when things go well. When you finally finish the big project or land your dream client, the victory is all the sweeter when it’s shared with a group of peers who fully understand the amount of work it’s taken to get there.
If you’re in a position where you’re working from home and starting to feel yourself slowly becoming more and more isolated—take matters into your own hands and build a support system for yourself. Find a group of like-minded peers who you can not only commiserate with, but who will encourage you and support your goals. You’re already working online, so there’s no better place to start.. Look for a Facebook group—excuse me—Meta group, discord channel, or subreddit that is dedicated to your field and dive in.
Before long you’ll find a group of people with similar interests and feelings who you can start to communicate with. Support systems aren’t just about providing emotional support, though—they provide a practical, career-oriented purpose as well. You never know where someone’s path will take them, and networking with peers in your field can lead to future job opportunities. Likewise, finding someone further along in their career to serve as a mentor can provide invaluable advice to help you navigate your own career.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a city or near a university, there may be opportunities for you to develop in-person relationships as well. Look for any events, club meetings, or other gatherings that are taking place in your area and get out there and meet some people. An added benefit of building local connections is accessibility. Some of the people you meet in the local photography society might like your work and remember your name the next time they’re shorthanded or need an extra person for a job, and your being local makes you an easy choice.
A good support system will not only help you to feel more at ease with the challenges of the job, but will encourage your creative growth as well. Seeing the amazing work being produced by your peers can light a fire under you and spur you on to accomplish more than you might on your own, but this kind of community isn’t going to make itself, it’s going to take some effort on your part—so get out there and start building.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.