Every day, at coffee shops across Toronto, humans plug themselves into laptops. As writers, consultants, entrepreneurs and other freelancers we have the freedom to work anywhere, but we face less certainty and more isolation. Isolation and financial uncertainty can lead to emotional distress, substance abuse, low productivity and sadness. How many tweets and likes can compensate for this? What role can peer support play?
Online support and recognition through social media are important for freelancers because “likes” and “retweets” give feedback about success, respect, and popularity. How many readers or customers do I have? Are they the right people? These self-doubts can lead to (un) reasonable thought distortions and self-criticism. Not everything you write would be applauded in an office so why should you worry so much as a freelancer?
How many “likes” and #retweets are enough?
Shared experiences and frustrations create freelancers with expert coping skills. While business contacts and friends can help with networking and strategy, peer supporters may help with issues too sensitive to raise with competitors or potential employers, because of fear of judgement and stigma. The peer support relationship helps with problems like stress, isolation and self-worth.
Confidentiality, time and location make it hard to accesspeer support, but this is also why it is even more important. Organized peer support in person or virtually can help create supportive relationships with boundaries. These boundaries allow sharing without judgement and without an expectation of solutions. After a day of rejections and short of retweets, a writer might ask “Why did I ever get into this? I hate my life. This is hopeless”. A bank manager or teacher who has always want to be a writer will not have the same understanding and empathy as a fellow freelancer.
Like other forms of peer support, freelancers share lessons and skills that make them experts in dealing with certain types of stress. Do you have supportive peer relationships that help you with your freelance stresses? Do you ever talk to coffee shop warriors? There is actually a LinkedIn group for freelance marketing consultants. Please let me know in the comments if you know about other groups.
BTW I find that talking to people in cafes can surprise my neighbours, but, sometimes it leads to human connections.