One of the hardest things about my independent contractor job is the lack of day-to-day interaction with other people that do the same thing. Several months ago I joined an online forum devoted to the field. It's nice to be able to 'discuss' things with other people, and I've learned valuable information from the posters, but typing on a keyboard isn't the same as talking with someone in person. Shortly after I joined the forum I found out that there's another member who lives not too far from my house. In the past few months we've exchanged private messages several times, and finally we set a time to meet for coffee.
Yesterday afternoon I entered a local Starbucks for our meeting. As I waited at the counter to pick up my coffee, I realized I had no idea what the woman looked like. Fortunately, I saw someone who looked just as lost as me. I said her name, she said mine, and just like that we were connected.
The woman is about my age, and has been doing the job on a full time basis for almost eight years. She's a real professional. Compared to me, she's taken things to a whole new level. However, I was surprised to learn that I've done a couple of jobs that she's never tried. At the end of our chat I realized I'd had a lot of fun and got some good tips that I can use going forward. Now when I see her screen name on the forum I'll be able to put a face to it.