When was the last time you thought about your freelance business and your porpoise…I mean freelance purpose? Sounds a little lofty and almost a bit wanky, doesn’t it?
How about putting it another way – how contented and fulfilled does your freelance business make you?
It takes about two to three years to get your freelance business up and running. In that time, you’re usually far less strategic and unlikely to have a plan. There you are, trying hard to find the clients you need! The focus is on finding the work, doing the work and being paid for it. The clients generally start calling the shots because they hold the money and the bookings.
It’s kind of weird though when you think about it. We forget often enough why we got in this business in the first place.
What happens is the day-to-day takes over. It’s a lot like our creative ideals. Or parenting (so my friends tell me). You have this vision in your head of what it will look like. There are lines drawn in the sand based on what you will and won’t accept. You’re adamant that your freelancing career will give you that freedom you crave. We take on a lot of risk in exchange for these freedoms. The autonomy, the money, the chance to travel, the ability to see the kids grow up, time to enjoy life, a better worklife balance – they inspire us.
And then whoosh! Before you know it, your gym membership has been barely used. You’re picking biscuit crumbs out of the keyboard from yesterday’s lunch. The weekend picnic with the kids is replaced with the kids in front of a TV and you in front of the computer.
What happens is we’re trying our best to survive in conditions. We’re not looking at that thrive part.
Yet we should. Even teeny tiny goals or changes of habit help. That’s why having a freelance purpose matters. We look at study and the jobs we choose in other work environments in these terms. So, why not our own?
The key to having a freelance purpose is to know your why
I know, I know, it sounds like wank, but it’s not really. When we understand why we do things, we have better resilience, greater focus and feel like we’re accomplishing more.
If you shop with a grocery list, you buy less crap. If you have a financial plan, you save more money. If you have a goal, you can aim for it.
Life is a lot like that, too. Especially the work and creativity related parts.
When we set ourselves a target, we keep ourselves honest. Our business needs a purpose to thrive. We need to understand the values that underpin the choices we make and how those choices align with our greater freelance purpose. Or our personal mission statement. Or our business manifesto. Whatever you call it, that concise outline of your intentions matters.
If you don’t believe me, try working for a week without a TO DO list, plan or structure.
You’re likely to find that you are:
· Lead to prioritise email requests over what is the actual priority
· You’ll lack a sense of accomplishment as you don’t have physical proof of completing tasks
· Far more likely to procrastinate and get caught up in minor details
· Less able to counter objections or solve problems
· Prone to more stress
· Disorganised and are likely to forget important tasks
We know we need to know what to do during a working week. Why then do we ignore that necessity when it comes to seeing the bigger picture?
Your purpose doesn’t need to be life altering
A lot of freelancers start blowing raspberries at the thought of a freelance purpose. They have an expectation it is going to be about inner callings, saving the world and wearing underpants on the outside of their jeggings.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
The bare bones of a freelance purpose can be to:
Ø Produce work you are (mostly) proud of
Ø Make the money needed to support your present and future
Ø Challenge yourself to grow, build on your skills and maintain a competitive edge
Ø Ensure you can enjoy the work-life balance you seek is available
Ø Proactively manage your mental health, physical health or parenting duties
Ø Give you time to work on side projects
Ø Work less
Ø Follow that original reason you got into freelancing in the first place
Do me a favour and:
- Take a moment to think about what your ideal freelancing situation would look like. Nut out the details.
- Now, have a look at what your current freelance situation looks like.
- Compare where you want to be with where you are. What needs to change?
Having a freelance purpose doesn’t have to be difficult.
There are some ways you can define it by:
- Coming along to the deadline party with a goal you want to launch
- Nutting out your values and what makes a worthwhile day, week and year for your freelance business
- Thinking about the ways you want to use your business to advocate for change, vote for the things you care about, or fund projects that make headway
- Using creative constraints or ethical boundaries to define the work you will and won’t entertain
- Asking yourself what a meaningful project looks like- and seeking out more of the same