Freelancer Community Characteristics
Last, and perhaps least, there is the matter of the community that exists on a freelancing marketplace site. I say “perhaps least” because, of all of the attributes I’ve discussed so far, this is the one where the is probably the most legitimate disagreement about its importance. Some people view their involvement in a site as being part of a community, and they care a great deal about those they’ll be associated with. Others see a marketplace as an “eBay for projects” and don’t care much about who is there as long as they get work.
I’m somewhat split on this issue. I tend to be very independent-minded to begin with, and I’ve never been any kind of a social butterfly. At the same time, I recognize that there is much that can be gained from being involved in a smart community of like-minded freelancers.
The main reason I have a section covering this issue is that I believe freelancers are better off on sites that have communities where they are a good fit. Like it or not, you are judged by the company you keep, and some clients will draw conclusions about you solely on the basis of where you choose to conduct business, how others behave in those venues, and how you interact with them.
The matter of assessing the freelancing community on a marketplace site is very much tied to other site assessment factors, especially the matter of project level or quality. Ultimately you will be evaluated on what you yourself do, not others, but where you participate can have an impact on what clients assume about you before they know you well. If you are on a site where most of the freelancers are established professionals who have impressive portfolios and great track records, clients will probably at least start out thinking that the same is probably true of you. On the other hand, if you’re on a site with thousands of people who have no relevant experience or credentials, and profiles filled with spelling errors saying little more than “I need work”, clients may need to be convinced that you are a cut above.
Another way that the community matters is if the site has a discussion forum where freelancers can communicate, share ideas and even debate important issues. Again here, this may matter to some folks a lot more than others, but if it is important to you, you’ll want a community that’s a good match to your own freelancing characteristics. And as mentioned in the customer support discussion, be sure to differentiate between a forum that is there for freelancers to share ideas, and one that is just a crutch to let a cheapskate freelancing site save a few bucks.
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