Freelance writer Chelsea Haden tells us about the value she’s found in her personal and professional support networks…
After years of being surrounded with supportive friends, family and tutors my friend finished her degree and decided to go in to self-employment. She worked in a bar to help her fund University so she was determined not to become (in her words) a wage slave even with her degree.
After graduation she set up her business in PR and went full force with it. In the first few months she began to thrive! She was booked back to back with networking events, attending many business lunches with new clients and she was enjoying her new found freedom. Then over the year she began to experience some client issues, and had a few financial difficulties. Naturally she was feeling rather low and disappointed so she looked for support and advice off her family and friends. Sadly she didn’t find any off either, and they complained so much about her wasting her degree and frittering her pension away that she forced herself back into employment where she is now in a job she detests.
When I heard of my friend’s situation, I instantly identified with her. I had just announced to my friends that I was going it alone and most of them asked me was it because I was unemployable. In the first year of being self-employed, I had to work late and most of my weekends so it meant my social life was non-existent. This lead to disgruntled friends and they soon began to complain and began to encourage me to get a ‘proper job’. Thankfully my mum is self-employed so she knew exactly what it was like and offered me her full support, I was lucky in that respect unlike my friend.
However not only was I craving personal support but also professional support too. When you’re in main stream employment – your managers, co-workers and unions are there to offer advice and perspectives. Being a writer, I found that other writers were difficult to reach and ones that I’d met from networking events seemed cagey about sharing advice and instantly viewed me a competition. I always remember that there is enough business for everyone and in terms of customers, my style and approach may suit one person but not another. Therefore I don’t see people as competition, I only compete with myself.
Although my trade means I’m generally in isolation, I was experiencing situations that I didn’t know how to deal with, and I had no one to ask. So, I decided that if I couldn’t find a support group I’d make my own. I had joined online forums, but I found that they didn’t have much of a community and many seemed to be talking to themselves. Using social media, I set up a blogging and writing group on Facebook. I wanted to create an environment where everyone could offer that little something: whether it was advice, inspiration, or even a friendly hello. Whilst there are many blogging communities out there it seemed that they were designed for a specific sector so say a technology forum or a business forum. I wanted to create a platform where everyone could connect and interact under one roof. It currently has 51 members and they’re such a positive and helpful bunch, some write for business and others for fun. I’m thrilled to have such a diverse group and I now know that when I’m suffering with writers block or need a second opinion; I can easily get rid of it with the help of my group.
Remember it’s vital to surround yourself with those that are going in the same direction as you, or generally want the best for you in life. We independent workers may only rely on ourselves, but it’s still comforting to have support both personal and professional in order for us to thrive.
To find our more about Chelsea visit her blog: www.clouisehaden.wordpress.com
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles