From the moment you meet Julia, you can feel her drive to make this world a better place, and it’s infectious.
As a content writer, communications and marketing manager fluent in English, German and Italian, she has worked with organisations worldwide, helping them reach the right people with the right message.
We used this opportunity to talk to Julia about various important topics – from her freelancing career and Effective Altruism (EA) to strategies for maintaining motivation and what the future might hold for freelancers who want to make a social impact.
This interview will inspire you, give you valuable insights and advice, and offer you a fresh perspective on making a positive impact with your career.
Photo courtesy of Julia Deufel
Q: Can you share a bit about your background and journey as a freelancer? What led you to pursue freelancing and how has your path evolved over time?
I studied law and all of the subjects that I really enjoyed the most were to do with researching and writing.
I’ve always been a words person, so after I finished that, I went and did a Master’s in marketing and communication. I started working in social media management, events promotion, and some blogging and email marketing. With time, I realised that the part I liked the most was writing, so I transitioned into copywriting full-time and started freelancing in 2019.
I do all types of copywriting, content strategy and consulting. Because of my background in marketing, I see communication through a wider lens. I always consider we’re directing our message to and how can we reach and engage them in the best way.
More recently, I’ve been focusing a lot on inclusive communication as well, making sure that we’re not excluding anybody and that diverse groups feel directly addressed. This makes my work feel more impactful. I also write in German, where writing inclusively is a bigger linguistic challenge, and I do some translation in Italian as well.
It was 2020 when I discovered Effective Altruism, and it made a lot of sense to me and seemed very efficient. You know, they say the Germans are efficient – I’m not sure that’s always true, but I found it compelling. Why wouldn’t I want to do the most good in the most efficient way possible?
Q: How would you explain Effective Altruism (EA) to someone who has never heard of it before?
I would say it is identifying the most effective charities or organisations in the world that are doing the most good with every penny they receive. These organisations are also the most transparent, so you can see that the money you donate to them actually does the good they say it will.
The example I often use when I explain EA to people that don’t know about it, is that with $4 you can pay for a malaria net that will protect a family for a year. Or you could use $20,000 to fund one guide dog, which will change one person’s life and is a valid thing to fund.
But if you only have $100 or $1000 to donate per year, would you rather fund a small fraction of something that will help one person, or use that money to prevent many people from getting ill and potentially dying?
Q: What factors are most important to you when you’re selecting projects to work on?
I try to focus on impact-focused organisations, and I’m always on the lookout for projects in the EA space.
Even if they’re not EA or a non-profit, I take on projects if they are focused on doing good in some kind of way.
For example, there are plenty of EA-aligned organisations that are for profit, but working toward causes that are important to address. Sustainability and climate work are important to me, so are education and social activism, especially around topics like gender, queerness and diversity. I also like working with food tech businesses, because health is so impactful and a topic dear to me.
It is important to me that my values align with my clients’. I want to contribute to projects and work with people that I share morals and goals with.
Q: How do you maintain motivation and self-discipline as a freelancer, especially during moments when motivation might be low?
I guess that’s twofold: there’s freelancing in general, and then there’s working in philanthropy.
On the philanthropy side, reading the news can be depressing or it can be motivating – there’s so much work to be done. You can stay in a bubble of people who care deeply about making positive change, but there are many people out there who don’t know or don’t care about topics like global health, animal rights or climate change. Knowing I can help spread the message drives me to action.
But there is also positive news. It’s motivating when you read something like ‘an island decided to close for tourism for six months, and biodiversity has increased’, or you learn about a new invention that’s going to help, whatever the cause that it is.
I also keep tabs on relevant organisations, and seeing the good that they’re doing to remind myself our work is worthwhile or to get inspired by others
On the other hand, being a freelancer can be challenging because it requires you to be motivated all the time, and you have to do everything for yourself. But this is offset by the freedom I have as a freelancer – I can work when I want and from any location. I love being in charge of my own time and being able to travel while taking my work with me. That keeps me going!
Q: Is there a particular book, podcast, or resource that has profoundly impacted your professional journey, and how has it influenced your work as a freelancer?
The book I would recommend is not about EA or philanthropy exactly – it’s called “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.
It really inspired me and solidified for me that I was on the right mission.
It’s essentially a book about trees, but there are many human interest stories that are interwoven and take place over a long period of time. One storyline is about a group of people that set up camp in enormous trees to stop them from being taken down.
The constant is the trees that remain standing and support the ecosystem over generations. You learn a lot about how trees support each other and all the other organisms in forests, not to mention humans. It really blew my mind because I had never thought about trees that way before!
We are all connected, no matter where we live. Nature is so powerful and it’s so vital to protect nature. We need to take care of each other – not just humans, but also animals and plants, the seas, trees and nature.
That really stuck with me, and I think about it often. In a strange way, it reminded me that this is the right work for me and how much I want to have a positive impact and support other people who are trying to make a difference.
Q: What advice would you give to freelancers who are eager to align their work with their personal values and make a difference through their projects, but don’t know how to make the switch or fear they will face financial insecurity?
You can start by having a mix of work. Continue doing some of the work that you’re already doing and when you take on new clients, look for work in an impac-focused space. Dedicating even just some of your professional capacity to effective causes can have a big impact.
There is a misconception that working for a non-profit or a good cause, you should be doing that for free. I don’t agree – we need talented people to enact great change, and your work has value. Shifting your mindset is a great first step.
Finally, never underestimate the power of making connections and growing your network!
Q: Looking ahead, where do you see the future of freelancing and social impact intersecting? What changes or opportunities do you anticipate for freelancers who are passionate about doing good?
There are many organisations that could do with more excellent work in any number of disciplines that freelancers work in – copywriting, graphic design, whatever it is. Maybe they don’t have the budget or the need for somebody to work full-time.
Something I love about freelancing and advocate for is that it makes sense to work with multiple specialists rather than make one person do a broad range of tasks. It’s impossible to be fantastic at everything. Freelancers tend to be passionate about what they do and are happy to take on multiple part-time projects at once.
So I think, as organisations realise that, and freelancers also advocate for themselves, there will be lots of opportunities to work with philanthropic organisations, especially in the EA space, which is all about doing the most good with the available resources.
I think if more freelancers advocate for that and put themselves out there, it really is a perfect match.
Julia Deufel currently works remotely from Berlin (and around the world) as a freelance content writer and offers copywriting and consulting services in inclusive communication, content strategy and new market adaptation. She can also support your organisation with translation, content and email marketing. To explore more of her amazing work and how you can work with her, be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn or email her directly at email@example.com.