Reflections On Freelancing: Leverage Your Expertise
I'll admit it. My post from a couple weeks ago, It's All In The Approach, got pretty deep. This isn't a world for the thin-skinned. I'm certainly not going to beat around any bushes here. But today I want to talk about something more positive. Something that everyone can bring to the table as an expert: their own experiences.
If I had to narrow down the factors that most benefit me as a freelance media guy, two things make the top of the list:
- Maintaining the contacts I make.
-Incorporating my own experiences to give me a foot to stand on.
What experiences? I'm just getting started!
For me, this road started back in the fall of 2010. Broke, I'd spent the past two and half years since graduating college bouncing between restaurant jobs and hitting the road with my band as much as possible. Professionally, I had nothing going. I felt as though I were falling behind many of my friends. Barely scraping by financially and desperate to get some sort of career going, I jumped on Craigslist.
The experience of a handful of years playing in a punk rock band, combined with a passion for media, landed me a gig writing a weekly music column for an online startup. A year down the line, that experience along with a heavy dose of networking landed me a job at a small music magazine. Ok, my degree in Communications didn't hurt the cause, but more than anything, it was the fact that I had been around the block in the music scene, spoke the lingo, and had demonstrable knowledge of the magazine's content that impressed the publisher.
Truth is, even though I majored in a media-related field, I didn't have a lick of 'professional' experience until I got that weekly column, beyond writing a guest article for the local paper my senior year of school. I should have written for the school paper or done a summer internship, but I couldn't get myself off my snowboard during college. On top of that, I worked five nights a week and still needed time for the obligatory level of partying (life was rough, I know).
The passion for writing and working in media was there, but I felt totally lost when it came to getting started. I never thought playing in a band would benefit my career. But I absolutely made the right call by starting off focusing on what I knew, was comfortable with, and didn't have to bullshit my way through.
Make yourself an expert.
YOU are the expert in your experiences. You're the one telling the client that you deserve their time and money. Once you've landed a gig, uphold that image of yourself: the expert in what you've been hired to do. I'm not saying don't ask questions or make sure you're doing the job right. But don't beat around the bush with price quotes or make statements demeaning your qualifications. I'm not a big advocate of the 'fake it till you make it' mentality, but in order to progress it is imperative to get in over your head now and then.
It's like snowboarding: when I ride with someone who is better than me, it pushes me to challenge myself and get better. I apply that attitude to my freelance career: I will stick by my ability complete a task as well as or better than the next guy because I trust myself to do the research and gain the knowledge relevant to do so.
Level your experiences. Capitalize on your expertise.
As freelancers, we're fortunate to have the ability to incorporate our passions into our work (at least some of the time). There are outlets for just about any niche, and the truth is that these outlets need media whizzes to create content for them. If you read a blog, magazine, or website regularly and have something to say, reach out.
The same is true for experiences that might not be as prominent in your life. Maybe there is a gig posted on Upwork that is super niche, or perhaps you have an inkling that the company posting the offer might connect well with a certain part of your personality or a story you can tell in the application process. I've found time and time again that being myself and letting my personality shine is far more attractive to potential clients than trying to conform to some stereotype of a professional copywriter. Clients really seem to like a writer (or designer, or whatever!) that can stand out from other applicants, and that doesn't always mean by having more jobs under your belt.
Get started somewhere, then take that experience and level it towards a bigger and better gig. From what I can tell, that is the best form of job security we have in this line of work.
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