This is not exactly an “I’ve made it and this is how you can too” type of post. I just know that over the past few months I’ve been given the chance to do some really cool freelance projects and writing project collaborations. I got paid for most of them. I did not ask for most of these things to happen. I want to write about why I think this happened to me.
The reason I don’t talk much about the freelance stuff I do is because I’m still figuring it out. The reason I’m talking about it now is because I want to document my journey and remember these lessons.
An example of one freelance project: this summer, I worked with Banko Media on an article for the Hamilton Arts Council culture guide . This was great because I got to meet amazing people from organizations like An Instrument for Every Child, Hamilton Youth Poets (HYP), and Theatre Aquarius. I was super grateful and excited to be asked to write this article.
Behind the scenes, though, it required work. I had two weeks to complete the article while I was working at my other job till 8pm most nights. The only real time I had to work on it was during lunch breaks. I spent them emailing and interviewing. This was not very glamorous, although the conversations I got to have were super worth it.
The issue: I just barely had time to do the article justice. What I learned from this experience is to say yes as often as you can: but only for things that you can thoroughly commit to.
This semester at school (Sheridan journalism) I’ve been learning a bunch about leadership and teamwork and organization. Honestly, though, one of the most practical lessons I’ve learned is how to hustle.
This is why I think I’ve been landing these freelance gigs and how I’ve learned to hustle over the past few months:
1. SAY YES: Just like I said above, make sure you can absolutely commit to the project enough to do it justice, but say yes as often as possible. Here’s the catch, though: volunteer for small things too. Don’t wait for the huge opportunities. In school: ask questions, raise your hand, put effort into your projects. This is a small form of saying yes that (especially in college/university) can reap big rewards later when you need, say, a reference letter.
True story- I actually wrote a reference letter FOR one of my profs. Yep. But I only got asked to do that AFTER consistently attending class, asking questions, doing my work, and just generally participating.
This brings me to my next point…
2. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS: How did I end up writing the Banko Media article? Babysitting. Yep. I babysat (still do, sometimes) for one of the employees of Banko Media for years. That’s how I got asked to do the article. I had a connection.
When I went back for round 2 of post-secondary, I made a rule for myself: I had to maximize my time as efficiently as possible. This meant networking. I realize that it may look like being a teacher’s pet or kissing up, but my philosophy is to be strategic and genuine at the same time.
This means listening with ACTUAL interest, asking LEGITIMATE questions, and being truly engaged. If you’re just using a person for what they can give you, they’ll eventually catch on. That won’t end up helping you in the long run.
This brings me to my next point…
3. BE GENEROUS: Help out your team, do the job no one else feels like doing, take time to listen. All of these things add up to bigger things like respect and friendship. I’m going to be real here and admit that this is something that I have to work pretty hard at. I like to be independent and sometimes that can look a lot like being selfish and reclusive. It is actually one of my goals for the next year to improve in this area.
However, what I’ve learned so far is that you usually get a better response when you are generous and open and real.
4. BE TEACHABLE: It is easy to shrink away from something that you don’t know how to do. I’m going to be honest with you though: this is life. You’re going to keep discovering things that you don’t know how to do for as long as you live. You can either say “nope- not going to learn it” or “ok, I’ll try.”
I’m not knocking saying no. I actually think it is a great way of assembling your priorities. However, if saying no to learning something new is the only thing in the way of you and accomplishing your goal, then we need to talk about fear.
The key is to be honest about what you don’t know. Then ask questions and practice until you do know. This applies to anything from learning new equipment to learning how to be a leader.
The truth: you’ll mess up. The truth: you’ll learn if you allow yourself to. The truth: next time, you have the opportunity to not make the same mistake twice.
The truth: learning is kind of the whole point.
5. DO THE WORK: Invest yourself into the work. Make it great quality. Try to do better than you think you can.
People can tell when you put effort into something. They can also tell when you really don’t care. If you consistently produce good work, I think you begin to build a great reputation for yourself. This is ultimately what gets people to ask you to do work for them.