Blog Post

Where Is Your Community?

As a freelance consultant, I spend my days in front of a computer occasionally shifting around the house to the couch, kitchen table, or porch when I need a change of scenery from my home office. I have a kitchen instead of a lunch room, a phone instead of a conference room, and no water cooler in sight. While the solitary web worker life can get lonely occasionally, most of us have found ways to engage with communities of our peers in less traditional ways outside of an office.

There have been many posts about engaging with coworkers and clients via Twitter, IM, Facebook, and other social networking sites. Those are a great first step to keep in touch with real people throughout the day, but what about those times when you just need to get out of the house?

I’m lucky to live here in Portland where we have a large number of freelancers, consultants, telecommuters, and other remote workers. We frequently get together during the week for coworking sessions at coffee shops where we each work independently, but by meeting in groups, we have people to watch our computers when we go to the bathroom, share quick stories, or get feedback on a tough issue. There are a few coffee shops where my web worker friends regularly congregate, and I can almost guarantee that I’ll see someone I know wander in during my visit.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have something similar already, consider scheduling it. How about coffee shop Wednesday? Pick a few friends who are also busy and who know that the purpose of the day is work (not chatting), and then find a place with solid wireless and caffeinated beverages. I typically save up those tasks that don’t require extensive concentration (responding to email, proposals, contracts, etc.), since you might not do your best strategic recommendations with the distractions of a coffee shop.

Beer and Blog Geek Meetups
Beer and Blog Geek Meetups

photo used with permission from Aaron Hockley.

I also rely on attending regular events where I can interact with people who have similar technology interests. In some cases, I attend events that already exist. Here in Portland, we have events like Beer and Blog, Portland Web Innovators, and many user groups. I also noticed a few gaps, which I filled by working with other people to help start new groups like the Online Community Manager Meetup and PDX GeekChix. Attending existing events and starting new ones is a great way to meet new people and increase your interactions with other human beings offline.

What do you do when you crave human interaction during the work day?

20 Responses to “Where Is Your Community?”

  1. allison

    Coworking is a great way to stay connected to other professionals. It’s a wonderful option for those that work from home, travel or are looking to cut traditional office costs. These spaces are creative & open, while also allowing you to network & share ideas. Look at sites such as twitter & wiki to learn more about coworking & to find a location near you. Chattanooga,TN has coworking space in the downtown business district. Jellies are held every other Friday 10-5 to introduce this concept., wiki.coworking.ino/CoworkingChattanooga, [email protected]

  2. I “see people” online using YouTube and Vloggerheads. Video creates a better sense of community than text based communication through Twitter, blogs, or forums. I like to listen to some vlogger drone on and on about nothing much while I’m working.

  3. Hi Portlanders,

    I live and work in London UK. Recently started a small freelancers’ collective meeting on Thursdays in each other’s homes. We take turns to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a real sense of balance as we work hard then enjoy eating together and sharing thanksgiving, hilarity, conversation, encouragement, and advice.

    It’s been a rich experience of genuine community, interchange, support and challenge for all of us. As well as productivity and creative stimulation. Encourage you to try it


  4. Beer and Blog FTW! Thanks for the mention, Dawn.

    I like the way our Portland community spans multiple services (Twitter, Upcoming, blogs, etc.) and intersects with meatspace. I also like that we have a range of events; some that work for the whole community, and some for the many niche interests too. It makes our connections to each other feel more resilient than if we were formed around a single social object or common interest.

  5. I struggle with this. I live in a rural area so it’s not easy to meet physically with people who share my interests. I’ve been looking into setting up a space for nomadic workers to co-work. Just need to do some market research. Most of my interactions are via Twitter, blogs, social networks, Skype, etc.

  6. Paul – Great point. It’s always nice to get away from shop talk with a few non-work friends!

    Sandra – Feel free to email me (dawn at if you want some suggestions for Portland meetups. Some make it easier than others to get involved.

  7. i’m not a consultant, but i do telecommute full time. i’m in Portland and am starting to build a great virtual community within Twitter. i’ve gone to one Portland event and ended up feeling like an outsider. i guess i’m just too shy or a little too introverted for these meetups, but i’m not giving up yet!

  8. When I crave human interaction, I arrange to go out for a meal with friends, go down the pub (or bar) or go see a movie. I also think its good to have that balance between average people & freelance friends, so your not always thinking about work & freelance stuff.