When starting our freelance businesses, it seems like everything costs money.
A computer to do your work on? Money.
Certain softwares needed for your craft? Money.
[T]here’s a place right in your hometown with amazing FREE resources you can use to advance your freelancing business[.]
Job boards to help you find clients? Money.
If you haven’t started making a more regular income yet as a freelancer, you might wonder why it feels like you have to spend so much money just to make money.
What if I told you there’s a place right in your hometown with amazing FREE resources you can use to advance your freelancing business?
It’s your local library!
Libraries are not just for books. Libraries can provide you with the resources you need to launch your freelance career.
1. Quiet Space/Study Rooms
As freelancers, we often talk about how our jobs enable us to work from home. But sometimes we need a change of scenery, a break from looking at the same four walls all the time.
Libraries often have quiet areas or even enclosed rooms where you can be completely separate from noise and chatter that can ruin your concentration.
If you are an introverted freelancer (and most of us seem to be), this can be a perfect alternative to working at home or a coffee shop where you never get a chance to work in total silence.
Bring your laptop, coffee, and whatever else you need, and get to some uninterrupted work!
As technologically immersed as we are in this year, we tend to take internet and cell service for granted. Often we don’t even have a backup plan for what we’ll do if or when our home internet goes out or our computer breaks.
Even worse, if technology fails you as you’re racing to meet a deadline, is there any solution?
As long as you have your work backed up to some sort of cloud system (OneNote, Google Drive, iCloud, etc.), you can go to your library and, with a few clicks, be right back to where you were.
Sorry, if your work wasn’t backed up or was changed since it last backed up, you might have to redo as least part of your work. Your librarians would love to help you, but they’re not miracle workers!
3. Online Resources
Libraries own books on lots of different topics, but depending on the size of your library, there might not be many books on each individual topic. That’s where the multitude of resources on the internet come in!
When you include the online databases most libraries are subscribed to, the possibilities are endless for what you can learn.
Since they’re not limited as much by funding or physical space, even small, rural libraries can offer an abundance of resources to the patrons through their website.
How can my tiny library have access to all these resources?
Often, libraries will pay for subscriptions to databases that their patrons can access with their library cards. These collections are put together by state or national library association groups and made available for patrons of member libraries.
These resources are wonderful for any research you may need to do for a project or even just for your own personal enjoyment.
Whether you need to research the history of solar panels for a project or learn how to knit a sweater for your hobby, libraries’ online databases provide trusted resources you can trust in the age of “fake news” and anyone being able to post anything on the internet.
Wait, how did she get to Point #4 in a post about libraries without mentioning books?
While books constitute a majority of what libraries do, they aren’t as much of a focus for freelancers. They can, however, serve as a valuable resource alongside the online resources mentioned in Point #3.
Depending on the size of your libary’s nonfiction and newspaper collections (smaller libraries tend to favor fiction books and keep smaller amounts of everything else, in my experience), they may not always have many resources you can use for your projects, but you’ll definitely be able to find something fun to read in your “off” time!
5. Printers and Scanners
While most people seem to have these in their homes by now, what happens when you run out of paper or ink or your printer just straight out refuses to cooperate?
Whether you need to print out a contract or welcome packet for a new client or you just prefer proofing on paper instead of a screen, library printers can save the day!
Printing pages at the library may cost more than printing them on your own printer, but in a pinch you’ll be grateful to have this as an option.
If your printer can only print in black and white, color printers at libraries can also be helpful if you find yourself with something that must be printed in color.
By now, even most home printers have a scanning feature that allows you to take a physical document and save an image of it as a PDF or JPEG.
If you don’t have a printer or yours doesn’t have this feature, ask your librarian to show you how to use this feature on their printer. It can seriously come in handy if you only have a physical copy of a document or you need to sign something and email it back right away.
6. Design Software
If you do any writing as part of your freelance business, chances are you have access to either Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or other similar word processor.
But what about those times when you need to access other types of software but don’t want to pay for a whole subscription you’ll only use once?
Lots of libraries have the whole Microsoft suite available for patrons to use, and depending on the size of your library, your library card might give you access to Adobe softwares such as Lightroom or InDesign as well.
7. Portable Hotspots
Since most of us have smart phones and lots of cellular plans come with your own personal hotspot, this might not be as useful to many of us as some of the resources listed above.
However, if you don’t have your own portable internet, these little boxes allow you to break away from your desk and bring your internet with you wherever you go — to the park, on a bench along the trail, and more.
Taking your laptop and a portable hotspot outside can give you the fresh air you need to clear your mind and reach for your freelancing goals!
8. Classes and Presentations
Librarians take great joy in helping people learn about topics they’re interested in. While lots of times this comes in the form of books and online resources, libraries also host in person classes.
While some topics might be strictly for personal learning and enjoyment, you never know when you’ll be able to use the knowledge in a project.
These classes can help you learn about some of the history of your area, something that might come in handy when writing the About Me page for a 100-year-old, multi-generation family business in your town.
Or they might feature the basic principles of photography, something you can use to upgrade your website images to make them even more eye-catching.
Maybe you just really want to learn about the history of slinkies or the many uses of aprons through the years?
Libraries are a place where you can go to learn practically anything, business-related or not.
Whether you’re looking for a group of other aspiring entrepreneurs, or you want to step away from the keyboard and discuss one of your hobbies for a change, lots of libraries serve as centralized meeting locations for all kinds of groups.
Depending on the size of your library/city, you can find groups to discuss anything from writing and business to knitting and soap making.
No groups that interest you? That’s okay!
Check with the library staff to see if they know of any groups that might meet somewhere other than the library.
Still no groups? Start one yourself!
Librarians are happy to host your group and often will help promote a group to the rest of their patrons. Who knows? Maybe there are more people interested in the same topics as you that you didn’t even know.
While no one knows everything, librarians definitely know a lot. And they know a lot of people, too, especially in smaller or more rural communities.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend pitching your services to the library staff or other patrons as soon as you walk through the door, but here are a few ways to network at your local library:
- Become friends with the library staff. If they hear of someone in need of services you offer, they might recommend you.
- Most libraries have a bulletin board or wall they let individuals and groups hang their posters on for free. Maybe your poster will catch someone’s eye.
- Join a writing group (or photography, computer programming, or whatever your freelancing specialty is). This is a great way to meet other people who do what you do in your area.
Libraries can be wonderful resources to anyone, writer or not.
Since they specialize in words, just like many freelancers, we can bond over our mutual love for communicating with others and helping people reach their goals.
Well, what are you waiting for? Head on over to your local library today!
Have you checked out your local library recently?
What other resources do they have that have helped you advance your freelancing business?