Many of us belong to at least one freelance writing community. We enjoy the camaraderie and look forward to sharing tips and asking questions. I credit much of my success to social networks and freelance writing communities. Thanks to the generosity of other freelancers I received tips on leads, referrals and there were even times when clients directly approached me after reading my contributions on writing forums and blog posts.
10 Tips for Choosing a Freelance Writing Community
Not all freelance writing communities are alike, however. Today, I’d like to offer some tips for choosing a community that best fits your vision.
Before signing up, consider these questions.
1. Do you have to pay to join this freelance writing community?
Because a freelance writing community requires a fee to join, doesn’t make it spammy or scammy. Most paying communities exist in order to deter spammers and ensure all members of the community are serious about freelance writing. Freelance writers in most paying communities are putting out the money because they want to learn and succeed and consider the mentoring to be a worthwhile investment.
Before investing in a community, learn as much as possible about it beforehand.
- Do you know other successful freelancers who are members?
- Does the community have a good reputation?
- What do you get with your membership?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with free writing communities either. Not everyone wants to spend $100 per year to chat with other freelance writers. Plenty of free social networks and communities host discussions for serious writers. Make the choice that works best for you, and see which community’s mission, policies and members agree best with your vision.
2. How old are the Discussions?
If you’re going to participate in a community, be sure it’s worthy of your participation. If there are very few conversations happening and many discussions haven’t been commented on in months, you’ll probably want to find a livelier group. You’ll want to find a network with discussions that are updated daily with a variety of responses. One or two “ITAs” or noncommittal responses aren’t enough motivation to join a community. Look for lively discussions presenting all sides and points of view.
3. How does the community respond to questions and comments?
How does the community on a whole respond to the different conversations? Are they patient with their responses, even in disagreement? Do they tend to leave out newbies? Is it cliquish? A good freelance writing forum encourages conversation from all members, whether they agree or disagree. A good freelance writing community doesn’t have a “pile on” mentality towards those who don’t agree with the most popular members, nor does it allow members to be disrespectful or rude towards other members. By all means look for a spirited group, but they should be respectful in their rebuttal.
4. Are they covering a variety of topics?
The best writing communities cover topics of interest to all freelance writers, niches, genres and experience levels. There should be topics of interest to everyone and not a select few. Choosing a discussion forum that’s too “nichey” might mean you’re not going to learn about all aspects of the freelance writing business. Make sure to choose a community that serves all your needs. If you’re a beginner, you want to be sure there are more experienced writers to answer your questions. If you’re an experienced writer, you may want to share with others on your level in addition to mentoring newbies. The best forums run the gamut and talk about freelancing on the web, with corporate clients, book writing and so much more.
5. Is there a genuine interest in freelance writing success?
Do the owners and community members truly care about your freelance writing success? If the forum topics are mostly commiseration and community members are reluctant to share tips and ideas, they may not be what you’re looking for. The best communities are made up members who are genuinely happy to see each other succeed and don’t mind sharing their paths to success.
6. How will networking with this freelance writing community help you with your career?
In writing this post I’m assuming you’re scouting out a freelance writing community to help with your career, and also, so you can learn and share with other freelance writers. If this is the case, think about how each community can help you. Some writing communities take the subject matter seriously, while for others it’s a coffee shop atmosphere so they can break of the solitude of working from home. If there’s more coffee talk than career talk, you’ll have to decide if it’s the place for you.
7. Is there a clear comment policy?
Without a comment policy writing forums, blogs and other social networks can become virtual free-for-alls. No one likes censorship but if the members spend more time fighting with each other and launching personal attacks on those who don’t agree, it doesn’t make for productive atmosphere. Make sure a clear comment policy is in place. Usually the worse offenders claim it’s censorship not to allow all points of view but that’s not true at all. Most writing communities allow all sides of the story as long as they’re respectful and don’t attack other members.
8. Do they post job leads?
If you’re joining a community to land more gigs and learn more about the business, consider whether or not the members or administrators post leads to freelance writing jobs each day, or on a regular basis. If you’re not looking for work, you’ll want to look for a community that isn’t necessarily focused on gigs but rather sharing other tips for success. For most writers, whether or not a freelance writing community posts leads isn’t a deal breaker, but whether or not they’re included might be a way for you to narrow down writing communities.
9. Does the freelance writing community cater only to beginners (or veterans?)
Some freelance writing communities are clearly for beginners, while others are only for vets. There’s nothing wrong with having an exclusive community. Keep in mind that if only beginners are offering advice to beginners, they may not necessarily be offering tips to break out of the beginner patterns. Groups that are only for established freelance writers might offer better guidance, but might also be too advanced for those just entering the business. A solution for new writers might be to first find a community catering to all writers and narrowing the focus once they receive more experience.
10. What are the other freelance writers talking about?
The best way to learn about a freelance writing community is to read the posts to see what the other freelance writers are talking about. Do all the discussion topics interest you? Is the community positive? Everyone’s needs are different, assess yours and find the community working best for your situation.
There are different types of writing communities such as blogs, social networking groups and forums. Think about the kind of group you like best and which types with which you’re most likely to participate. There are so many helpful communities available to freelance writers, you should have no problems finding one to accept you with open arms.
What do you look for in a freelance writing community?
Anybody have any suggestion for good freelance writing communities to join? I’m having a hard time find ones that are active enough and that focus on freelance nonfiction rather than fiction writing.
Nick Daws says
Great post. In reply to Jessie, she might like to check out myWritersCircle.com (linked to my name above), which I help to run. This is a busy, friendly forum, with over 10,000 members world-wide. Although a majority of members write fiction, there are many non-fiction writers as well. And yes, it’s free!
Thanks for the suggestion, Nick. I will check it out!