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Freelancing offers valuable freedoms, but leaves me feeling atomised. What can I do?

Female architect using laptop in living room
Lone pursuits ... freelancers can miss a sense of being part of something bigger. Photograph: Hero Images/Getty Images

I feel atomised as a freelancer, but the model of work gives me freedom. Do I have to choose one or the other?

Freelancing is hard. The opportunity to dodge peak-time queues, swap early mornings for weekends and to occasionally miss a Monday at work is a privilege. But alongside that comes loneliness, a lack of structure, and missing being part of something bigger.

I looked into a lot of co-working spaces for this piece. But encouraging insecure workers to shell out hundreds a month in fees to find a sense of community felt wrong. Instead, I spoke to Oliver Rees who, at the age of 26, runs his own tech business. He is also the co-founder of Forge, a freelancers’ support group that he started when he was feeling atomised: “I was really surprised, when leaving a company, how little support there was.”

Forge members take turns to offer a space to host events. A survey is sent out to see what people want to talk about, and a topic is chosen. “The most recent was about purpose – how do freelancers feel a sense of purpose, and stick to their original goals, when they’re so pressured by not knowing when the next paycheque is coming?” The night involves a series of break-out sessions where people come together to solve their problems as a community.

At present, Rees and co-founder Kamylla D’ Sá Caponi only hold meet-ups in London, but Forge can be replicated anywhere, he says: “I encourage people to steal it. They can contact me to ask for materials.”

Forge doesn’t replace the broader sense of purpose that working in a team gives, he says, but “it can make you feel like you’re not the only one going through the struggles you are.” It also won’t necessarily solve all your freelancer problems: “A lot of the time, the topic is really emotional for people, so there’s no real answer. But it’s good to share, and to see how people interpret things.” As far as feeling a sense of community without having to pay for it, it’s a good start.

• What do you think? Or have you got a question for Poppy and readers to consider? Post your responses below or email them to in.it.together@guardian.co.uk

This article titled "Freelancing offers valuable freedoms, but leaves me feeling atomised. What can I do?" was written by Poppy Noor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 14 February 2018 03.35pm

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