My top tips for surviving and thriving online.
We’re all at sea with this coronavirus pandemic, and for freelancers in the UK it’s also been a body blow to learn that (at the the time of writing this) our Government has failed to support our incomes in line with employees. With so much creative industry work cancelled (for the foreseeable future) we’re entitled to feel hung-out-to-dry.
We know that world health matters most, but meanwhile we need to make a living, and find ways to “stay calm and carry on” from home.
It’s wonderful to see so many rapid responses to this crisis. A-N have created guidance and information for artists, Disability Arts Online have responded by creating new commissions, and Mathew Burrows recently launched the Artist Support Pledge. It’s all good. We will refashion our working lives.
But in all the uncertainty, there’s one blinding truth. Abled freelance creatives who’ve taken mobility for granted can no longer do so. We don’t know for how long, or in what ways the coronavirus will impact our future working norms. With self-isolation our new reality, and lockdown round the corner, we will all experience the same level of dependancy on the online world for communication.
So I want to say, welcome! This is where we (the variously-identifying stay-at-home freelance veterans) hang out and do our business. We know that you’ve enjoyed these spaces too, and found them a useful support to life and work. But this is a whole new level of habitation.
You’ll quickly connect to this next level but it can be overwhelming. I’ve spent 10 years building a career online, and this is what I’ve learnt about how to avoid the pitfalls and thrive.
- Ignore social hierarchies that shame online interaction. It’s not shameful to be seen to be a regular online user.
- We can break through social isolation by daily sharing. Regular sharing builds networks.
- Sharing and responding is important. You don’t have to respond to everything. Promote the voices you believe in without expectation. It’s not a given that they will like or share your content in return.
- Sharing quality content is key. This includes process and context for your work, as well as finished works. Visual artists especially, the quality of your images is important.
- Sharing is also the work. Online is also the work. You’re constantly building.
- The pace of online connection is different. It can feel and be instant at times, but deeper connections take more time and patience.
- Share for you, not for likes. You’ll find your own level. It has to feel good and useful to be right for you.
- Don’t worry if no one engages with a post. This isn’t failure. There’s an avalanche of information to process online. It’s not personal.
- Only tag contacts into posts if it’s likely to be useful/relevant/interesting to them. Repeatedly tagging contacts can be off-putting.
- Boundaries can get blurred. Remember online sharing is publishing and subject to publishing law.
- ‘Oversharing’ can be a hazard of spending more time online. This is what the Direct Message (DM) function was made for.
- People respond more to positive messages. It’s okay to share negatives, but a consistently negative message can be off-putting.
- Be true to the core of your creative practice online. Don’t try to be all things to all people, but do link what you do to others, and to what’s topical, when relevant.
- Using hashtags is an important networking tool. Researching relevant hashtags is time well spent.
- In 2020, filtering, muting and blocking options have become an essential part of the online freelance toolkit. It is your right to inhabit and work in a positive and conducive environment. This is now also useful information for safeguarding your mental health online regarding coronavirus anxiety. You don’t need to stay away, you can filter trigger words on some platforms.
- Online platforms can be overwhelming. It can take time to find out what works for you. Follow the people and organisations that interest you, but with multiple contacts it’s wise to use filters. Enabling notifications for key contacts is also a great tool for keeping in touch.
- A watched kettle never boils. Follower numbers are the same. Network for the joys and benefits of connection and your numbers will grow themselves.
- Adopt what works for you, you don’t have to do it all.