The value in connecting with like-minded, freelancing, blogging-types

With whom do do you "process your stuff"? Because I'm such a social being, maybe, (or perhaps because I'm a woman and we seem to need it more than the men I know do,) I've had to make a real effort to create a collaborative space, since going back to work for myself. There are a handful of women with whom I occasionally meet for brainstorming business ideas. Some of these women have never met each other. Although each one has paid for my creative services at one time or another, these sessions are not about designer/client relationships. Nothing related to "billable hours" makes its way into our conversations. The playing field is even and balanced for each of these meetings.

In some ways these women and I are strangers:

  • I have no idea how either of them feels about Sarah Palin's leadership credentials and whether or not she should or should not hold one of the highest public offices in this country. In fact, I kind of don't want to know .
  • We have never been to each other's homes for dinner.
  • I don't know their favorite brand of lipstick and I couldn't begin to tell you what fragrance any of them prefers - or even if they like to wear perfume.
In other ways it feels we're the oldest of friends:
  • It would be quite easy to pour out my heart about many of the challenges in my life, to each of them.
  • I would, in a heartbeat, tell any one of them if she had lipstick on her teeth, or if her tag were hanging out of her dress. (Although come to think of it, if I did not prefer the scent any of them wore, I would almost certainly keep that one to myself.)
  • I have found myself immersed in spontaneous sessions of uncontrollable laughter with every one of them.
  • Each one of them has candidly told me, at least once, that they didn't quite follow a thought process I'd thought to be crystal clear.
The point is this: while I think of each of these women as friends, it's what we provide to each other during these coffee shop meetings that's becoming more and more vital to my work. As someone who does not work in an office, I miss - and have mentioned here more than once - the regular rhythms of collaborative work.

Freelancing requires that you go the extra mile to add frequent dialogue, opportunities for accountability, and time for brainstorming.

Here are a few benefits I've received from scheduling time to collaborate with other freelancers:

  • New (or expanded) ideas on leveraging social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook & Squidoo to promote our businesses.
  • The knowledge that I can no longer put off completing a delayed task until "a better time." Sharing actual goals and making promises that we'll take concrete steps before our next meeting? I might not want to tell someone else I'm going to do something. But once I've shared the elusive goal, it's a lot more likely that I'll actually meet it.
  • Outside perspective. There's such importance in running seemingly-glorious ideas by others. By the time I've worked on an idea so long I'm ready to implement it, I'm nearly always in love with my idea. It's my creative baby. I've bred it. I've nurtured it. I've cared for it. Showing that baby to someone you trust before you show "the whole world" (or the 75 people who will see it on your blog - whatever,) can be a very, very good move.
  • We each use Squarespace for our website hosting, and share our lessons with each other. Especially since the new - uber-comprehensive - V5 rollout in July, there are lots of exciting options for our websites. It's been fun to see who's figured what out that the others haven't yet stumbled across.
  • And just general encouragement. Whether sharing tiny or huge milestones, or asking for a pep-talk before an upcoming daunting hurdle, it helps to have someone to talk it out with. Our BFF's might care, but sometimes they're not necessarily the ones to get it like a fellow-freelancer can. Like-minded people who are facing similar challenges? Priceless.
What about you? What can you add to this list?