Elise Dopson is a freelance writer and the co-creator of Peak Freelance, a community for freelance writers who want to scale their businesses and make a real living from freelancing. Elise has written for SaaS and e-commerce clients like Shopify and CoSchedule, and she created Help a B2B Writer to connect writers with sources.
We asked her for her tips about finding and cultivating community as a freelancer.
Community and Connection
1. When you first started freelancing, how did you go about building your community?
Twitter was my go-to place for finding freelancers to connect with. I searched for freelance writers with clients in my space and scheduled virtual coffee chats (30-minute Zoom conversations) with people in my space.
Throughout that period, I made friends with people who later became my freelance support system—folks like Marijana Kay, Andra Zaharia, Michael Keenan, and Kaleigh Moore. (I even met Marijana IRL at two conferences off the back of our Twitter conversation. Fun!)
2. Do you have specific communities or freelancers you go to for advice and support on a regular basis?
Yes! My Twitter network is still a key place for me to connect with other freelancers, purely because the community knows what it’s like to work from home. It can be isolating. Twitter fills that gap. People call it a “virtual watercooler” for a reason.
Where I spend most of my time, though, is in the Peak Freelance community. I made it back in October 2020 in the middle of the pandemic because I needed a semi-private place (not in front of potential clients) to chat with people who “get it.”
We now have 250+ people in the Slack community. It’s a great place to chat through problems, get feedback from other writers, and find new job opportunities. I learn something new every day.
3. Can you give us an example of a time when community helped you propel your career?
When I first started freelancing, I didn’t know anyone. My old boss had introduced me to a handful of clients, but they weren’t in the niche I really wanted to build a name for myself in: SaaS and e-commerce.
I knew the only way for me to break into that niche was to start connecting with people in it. So, I scheduled a ton of coffee chats with other freelancers in the niche—some more experienced than me, others at similar stages in our career.
Those coffee chats never gave me direct work, but a natural byproduct of continuing a genuine relationship with the people I’d met meant I got a ton of referrals.
I got one of my biggest clients as a referral from Michael Keenan (back before he joined Peak Freelance). Another brand on my “dream client” list came from a conversation I had with Marijana Kay. In both instances, my freelance buddies were helping an existing client find new contractors. I was top of mind because they knew what I did, trusted me, and genuinely wanted to help.
4. Talk to us about the Peak Freelance community you and Michael Keenan are building and your goals?
Ooooh exciting question! We have big plans for Peak Freelance. Our goal is to make it the #1 place for freelance writers to scale.
We see a lot of content online about how to start freelancing. But once you’ve quit your job and hit $5k per month, it seemed the only way to discover how to scale was by asking outright—often in Twitter DMs or virtual coffee chats.
The problem with that? First, you had to be confident enough to ask. Second, you’re banking on finding the right people—those willing to share their experiences with other freelancers who may be seen as competitors.
At Peak Freelance, we try to uncover those conversations for you. We interview content managers to figure out what they look for in writers. We chat with successful freelancers to ask how they scaled. We have pro Slack channels to find gigs and get advice and premium digital products to help freelancers scale—like templates, courses, and more.
5. What advice would you give to freelancers looking to build their community?
Find people who get it. Most freelancers get a confused look when trying to explain their job to friends and family. It’s why working for yourself can be so isolating—no matter how hard we try to explain what we do, people outside the industry find it hard to understand.
Once you find those people, network in a way that’s honest and genuine. People are, in fact, people. The saying, “Treat yourself how you’d like to be treated” really comes into play. Avoid networking for the sole purpose of finding new gigs.
Granted, your chance of being referred increases when you make friends—but only if your contact trusts you. They’ll ruin their own reputation by recommending someone for a service that can’t actually do the job. The only way for them to know you can is by building a genuine relationship… not one that’s built on “Please find me work!”
One way to do that is by being honest. Share your income figures. Talk about your goals. Chat through any problems you still haven’t solved. Not only does it make for great conversation, but you’ll support (and get supported) through your community.