When you’re self-employed, there are a variety of big potential benefits from joining or building social groups related to your work and personal interests. From a business perspective, you can find clients, collaborators, support, and advice. Spending time with family, friends, or other people can also help you avoid feeling isolated and lonely, encourage exercise and give you an opportunity to switch off from work.
How you choose to interact with people is entirely down to your personality and preferences. You can enjoy the benefits whether you prefer to mainly socialise online, or with a small group of people, rather than feeling you have to be at every single event in your area and chat with every attendee. But it’s important to make sure you commit some time to socialising, otherwise work can take over, leading to an increased risk of burnout and stress-related issues.
If there’s not a suitable community in your industry or local area, then that could be a great opportunity for you to build something which can bring a lot of personal satisfaction alongside potentially raising your profile and professional standing.
To help you find ideas, inspiration, and advice, we’ve loosely grouped our networking and community guides into the three areas of business, personal benefits and starting your own community, but there’s plenty of crossover between each area.
Community and networking for business
Many of the challenges facing the self-employed can be mitigated or removed by having a strong professional network to rely on. Good relationships with clients, suppliers and people in your industry will often lead to work opportunities including new projects, building awareness through public speaking, or discovering potential collaborators.
When you encounter a work-related problem, there is a lot of great information and support available (including the IPSE Advice section, or the tax and legal helplines for IPSE members). But it can be massively reassuring to hear from other freelancers and self-employed professionals who have successfully navigated similar situations. Or just to know you’re not the only person worried about a particular issue.
Whether you’re finding it difficult to get started networking, need help to find the right opportunities, or want to avoid any mishaps communicating online, you can find it here.
Personal community and networking benefits
It’s not just your work that can benefit from interacting more with other people. Some of the common challenges facing the self-employed include loneliness and isolation, especially if you’re working predominantly from home. But it also allows you to actively choose groups and communities you want to engage with, rather than hoping random work colleagues might share your interests.
Every area throughout the UK will have groups around pretty much any hobby you can imagine, and most will be listed online. Also, there are usually a wider range of sports clubs in your neighbourhood than you might assume.
It can be scary to turn up to a new community for the first time, but no more than starting a new job or meeting new colleagues. And learning new skills unrelated to your occupation can be a huge boost for your mental wellbeing. It can also prompt new ideas and creativity which can feed into your work.
Starting your own community
There are a lot of reasons to consider starting your own community, whether to serve a purpose which isn’t currently being fulfilled, or simply to create your own space to pursue work or personal interests. Side projects may also benefit from becoming shared with likeminded people rather than being a solo endeavour.
You might want to set up a social enterprise, such as a charity, non-profit or community interest company, and bring people together to work for a shared benefit.
It might be easier than you think to get started building your own community, and it could grow far beyond your initial aims with the support of other people. Especially when the internet means you can attract help from around the world with a simple email or social media message.
Looking for more?
We have dedicated advice pages to help your physical and mental wellbeing whilst working from home but also on areas such as winning work or navigating the tax system. And to help and support you through all the challenges that can come with becoming self-employed, from chasing late payments to being able to work through power cuts and other emergencies.View all advice pages
Physical wellbeing advice
Running a business, or freelancing and contracting for clients, can be busy, stressful and all-consuming, but Ignoring your health and wellbeing can have serious implications for you, and your business.
Mental wellbeing advice
We've put together a set of resources and guides to support positive mental wellbeing for the self-employed, combing our business knowledge with tips and advice from mental health and wellbeing experts.