Flexible class times, varied work environments, and location independence are some of the benefits freelance and online teachers enjoy. However, while working at home clad in yoga pants is wonderful, freelancers often report missing the buzz of the staffroom. After all, seeing colleagues each day provides inspiration, a sounding board, support base, shoulder to cry on, and very often, friendships outside of work.
So what’s a freelance or web-based teacher to do? Resign themselves to a life of screen time punctuated by dashes to the fridge? Or go ahead and create a staffroom environment by connecting with others in their field? If the latter sounds better, read on.
1. Reconnect with old colleagues
When making the change to a freelance life, it’s easy to forget to chat with your colleagues at your last school. But the conversation doesn’t have to wither now you’ve turned freelance or gone online. So get in touch with old colleagues and find out what’s been happening at your previous workplace. You may very well learn something you can incorporate into your work, or get a tip on a future teaching gig.
2. Experiment with coworking spaces
If your income allows it, joining a coworking space automatically connects you with a handful of freelancers and entrepreneurs working in diverse fields. The bonus of coworking is that it can be as social or individual you and the others who use it would like—making it ideal for both introverts and extroverts.
3. Sign up for webinars
Ain’t the internet wonderful? No more battling traffic and public transport to attend a lecture—training and professional development opportunities are now just a few clicks away. Many institutions and companies offer high-quality webinars (such as our own free six-part Teacher Development Certificate), which like-minded professionals can attend. Learning in real time with other freelancers and online teachers can really help foster a sense of growth and support.
*Sigh* No one really likes the word. However, the fact of the matter is that being willing to talk about your work in a non-sleazy way, with everyone from your neighbor to participants at a networking event, can really open doors. And relax: you best strategy isn’t handing out business cards like candy, but getting to know people by chatting like the real human being you are. Once you’ve warmed up, take this up a notch with the next tips…
5. Join your local professional association
English language teachers can find a wealth of support in their local IATEFL associate (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) or other professional association in their country, state, or city. These associations organize conferences, webinars, debates, and offer Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to connect you with others in your field. While there will likely be membership fees involved, remember that they quickly pay for themselves in resources and professional development opportunities.
6. Use social media
The very specific nature of groups on social media never ceases to amaze—and the education sector is no different. Whatever your specialty, interest, or challenge, there’s sure to be a group clicking and chatting away. (To illustrate, here’s a list of 121 different Facebook groups for ESL teachers and 25 LinkedIn groups for teachers, spanning dozens of interests.)
7. Create a freelancers meetup
Prefer to talk in real life? Try getting together a couple of times a year with fellow freelancers or remote workers in your neighborhood, city, or region. To find colleagues, search the associations and social media groups mentioned above. The chance to get off your desk chair and meet others is reenergizing and can lead to new contacts and work opportunities. Happily, a Thermomix and 18-piece dinner set won’t be necessary: A bi-monthly or semesterly lunch at a café is all it takes!
Thanks to our interconnected world, it’s easier than ever to find other freelance and online teachers. A final added bonus of this new style of staffroom? There are zero office coffee cups left abandoned in the sink.