The first step towards finding meaningful work is to think about what specifically you care about. Think deeply here – what would you be happy to dedicate your life to? To look back on in 10/20 years and feel good about it?
Some people know this immediately, but for most of us, it takes a little longer – some deep thinking. Don’t feel you have to rush to conclusions – think about it, mull it over and try to work it out.
Once you know what matters to you personally, this is where things start to get a little tricky.
There is only so much work out there saving puppies, for example, and it’s usually in high demand so it doesn’t pay all that well.
Having said that, it is out there. Different people care about all kinds of different things. Maybe you have a passion for saving dolphins, climate change, or getting more young people to play golf. Whatever it is, look into the opportunities that are currently available.
But rather than just saying I’d like to work with charities, for example, try to dig in deeper. Look for a niche that aligns with your values so you can start to narrow down the competition. Like with any kind of freelance niche, this is a way to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
Once you’ve done this, your work hunting and outreach will also be much clearer. You can approach the specific organisations working on projects you care about.
Make a list of impactful organisations
Make a list of organisations working on problems you care about, or passions you have and introduce yourself or start to get on their radars.
There are also some great freelance job boards that promote meaningful work only. You will find a list of a few of those boards I can personally recommend in the Freelancing For Good resource section, but a quick Google search will help you find plenty more.
Be sure to search within the niche you’ve identified too – you can sometimes find really specific job boards, which can massively thin out the competition.
Using your career as a tool of influence
Sometimes though, it’s simply not viable to work on work that hits the Ikigai sweet spot – you enjoy, has an impact, you’re good at and which makes the world a better place.
So then what? Are you doomed to churn out meaningless work that benefits nobody except a greedy client’s bank balance?
Before I answer that – I want to make the case that even if you can work on a problem that you are passionate about – you might not be best placed to do that.
This sounds a bit odd, so bear with me. But as I’ve said, charity jobs and work which is for popular causes are often in high demand. As a result, it tends to attract top-level talent.
For example, let’s say you love dogs and want to work for a charity that prevents dog cruelty and neglect. But if you break out in tears every time you think about cruelty – you’re probably not going to do that much good working directly on the problem.
So realise that it’s also ok to care about something while accepting you’re not in the best position to make an impact on it.
What to do when you can’t win impactful work
If you can find and win work that fits in your Ikigai sweet spot, you’re going to be in a great position to make a positive impact where you can have a uniquely positive influence.
This is usually pretty difficult to find though.
But don’t worry, all is not lost.
Unless you’re uniquely specialised, actually physically working on a problem you care about may not be the best approach you can take.
It may sound blunt and cold at first, but in most cases, the single best thing you can do is to start donating some of your earnings to the causes and organisations that are already doing the work that you want to be done.
If you can identify organisations that are using money well, have clear aims, and are transparent about their progress, challenges and mistakes – then you can use the money you earn from your freelance career as a tool to have a real, and extremely effective impact on the world around you.
This is a chapter from the ebook “Freelancing With Purpose”
You can download a free copy by filling in the form below: