One of the many weblogs I scan daily is Freelance Switch, which has all manner of helpful hints and information for the sole proprietor, small business owner, and hired gun. One recent article that caught my attention was about a group of Philadelphia free agents who essentially banded together to create a communal design space, called Independents Hall. The inspirational part, for me, was the story of the guy who saw a need to create a community, and went out and did it. The paragraph explaining how he got people involved is a case study for building interest in, well, anything, really:
“I started with going to all these different meet-up groups and finding ways to bring them together and cross-pollinate them. I did that sort of physical outreach and then started a mailing list, which was just a place for people to converse about…whatever. It didn’t really matter to me at the time. As long as they were talking, it was good,” he says. Soon, Hillman and some friends and colleagues started face-to-face events of their own…
…The first meeting consisted of four brave souls who came out in the middle of a snowstorm. The next one was a little bit bigger, and the next one even bigger. It kept snowballing from there says Hillman. “That whole visibility thing was finally starting to go somewhere, and people said ‘whoa I had no idea how much stuff was going on in Philadelphia. I had no idea that my neighbor was doing x-y-z,’ and I thought, ‘finally, people are getting this.’”
On a related topic, I’ve often thought it would be great to share part of the house here with other freelancers in the area, or find a cheap space to rent, fill it with tables, haul in a printer or two, set up a wireless network, and put the word out. I imagine, like any other community-building exercise, it would be taxing to be the glue and the energy, but I bet the underlying guidelines would be much the same as other successful online communities, only with flesh-and-blood people and not screen names.