Freelancing can be a fun gig, provide extra cash, and be a creative outlet. But it can also become frustrating. Especially if you’re getting the wrong kind of jobs.
We at MOJO Marketplace have learned a ton about how freelancing works in helping a diverse audience of customers build websites. To help you find better, more fulfilling work, we’ve come up with some of the best approaches to find better freelance work, and get your career moving in the right direction.
1. Freelancing is a Game of Passion
When you think about freelancing, it’s useful to look at the origin of the word.
Source: Definition from Apple dictionary.
The phrase freelance is derived from refers to a mercenary, or a soldier who takes no particular side, and will work for an army that’s paying.
This typically carries a negative connotation–i.e. all you care about is money, not which side you’re on. Luckily, in our world, the stakes are a bit lower.
You have a choice–you can be a mercenary freelancer, or a passionate one. Would you rather work for anyone that pays? Or would you rather align your passions with those of others?
We think the best work you can find happens when you take the second route, and these two things intersect.
1. Your passion for the work you do.
2. Your client’s passion.
Because when you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll do your best work and put your best foot forward. And when your client cares about the jobs they give you, the end product will be something spectacular. Not just a job.
For example, at MOJO, we have the pleasure of working with entrepreneurs who have both a vision and the motivation to follow through on their ideas. When this happens, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like accomplishment.
So how do you find that kind of work?
2. Networking is Not Optional
As a freelancer, the people you meet and talk to are your most valuable asset. In order to find people who are truly inspired, you’ll need to talk to them. For a while.
Luckily, there are so many resources at your disposal to network. Here are a few places to start.
Find people doing the work you love to do and connect. You can ask them about all sorts of details, such as how to price your services, where to look, introductions to potential clients, etc.
Also, searching for innovative ideas on LinkedIn, Kickstarter, or GoFundMe is a good way to find clients that are doing something exciting, which appeals to you.
And attending Meetups about your trade will help you start relationships that will accelerate your career. You should always ask for advice and feedback on your work–even if you think you’re “better” or “worse” than someone else. Chances are they have a perspective to share that you can learn from.
Why does this work? When people are passionate about something, they want to talk about it. For example, think about Comic Con. When it started in 1970, about 300 people attended. Over 135,000 attended in 2016.
It’s because aligning yourself with a community around your interests pays off. It’s the best way to learn and find clients. And if you keep meeting people who are doing what you love to do, all of the sudden it’s your career.
3. Learn by Pushing Your Limits
Often times, the path of least resistance is the most attractive.
In a time when the dominant thought in science was that no species of animal could ever become extinct, Cuvier questioned things and developed his anatomical knowledge to the point where he could disprove this notion.
He finally discovered some elephant-like fossils near Paris that were distinctively different from the living elephants in India and Africa, rebutting one of the major arguments against extinction.
Cuvier followed a notion he had–that species could become extinct–and developed his knowledge and abilities to settle the score, once and for all.
Simply completing your freelance work at the bare minimum would be the opposite. But if you make each project a discovery, building a new skill or strategy, you will learn to be the best at your passion, and reap more of the benefits of working for yourself.
And your work will show it. This is actually, in a round about way, the best way to gain clients and projects.
Steadily improve your abilities. Your clients will spread the word, and your portfolio will become stronger every time.
4. It’s Okay to be Picky About Your Work
I’ve seen this diagram many, many times in creative discussions.
This is something that creatives–or really any freelancer–should keep in mind. Clients will most likely always be hoping for the point where fast, good, and cheap overlap.
But that’s not a realistic scenario.
And here’s the real issue when it comes to freelance work. When you’re the business, it’s your problem. If your work comes out bad, that’s a piece of bad work with your name on it, which will live out there in the world.
Even if your name’s on it, would you feel good about it? That’s for you to decide, but my guess is no.
You don’t have to take on every project, especially once you’ve began connecting with clients who care about the jobs they give you. If they care, they are willing to pay or wait for better work. Or both.
And most of the time, the reality is that clients who want cheap still won’t accept cheap results. So stand strong with what you love to do. Do it the way you want.
It will more likely help you than hurt you.
5. Be a Part of Something Bigger
Part of being a picky freelancer inspires a bigger picture idea about work and accomplishment.
Most workers want their basic needs satisfied by employers–pay, benefits, balance. But these days, we also want a sense of connection to the bigger world outside our little circle.
On the me to we continuum, created by CultureIQ, studies show that the greatest sense of achievement and satisfaction with work comes from a feeling of doing good in the world.
This is by far the hardest thing for companies to achieve, and for workers to find.
But as a freelancer, and a picky one, you have the opportunity to work toward this goal without the apparatus of a company standing in your way.
If you network well, and produce excellent work, you can find and choose places that contribute to the things you care about in your community.
If you want inspiring work, go after what inspires you!
Whether you’re just starting out as a freelancer, or you’ve been at the game for a while, don’t forget this. In the big, big world we live in, you have the option not to settle for something you don’t enjoy, or do projects that don’t accomplish or work towards your personal and professional goals.
Let us know what type of freelance work you’re interested in in the comments below, and we’ll try our best to help you get on the right path. Plus your insights might help someone else be successful, so don’t be shy!