Why does doing good matter?
In my experience, most freelancers are independent thinkers. Creative people who enjoy working on problems and engaging with the world around them. For this reason, we tend to be quite socially engaged and the kind of people who think about the problems of the world a little more than the average joe.
We realise we have a bit more leverage and a bit more freedom in the work we take on. And so we have a bit more of a responsibility to think about the impact that we’re having – or not having – on the things that matter to us.
So I’m certainly not here to say you have to transform into a do-gooder or stop designing fancy logos for local businesses to start working on solving the world’s problems.
I know for a fact that the majority of freelancers do think about this kind of thing, however. They are interested in seeing if they can build a business that has a positive impact – while also earning them enough money.
So let’s look at how you can start to use your career, and why it’s the biggest tool for change you have.
Using your career wisely
The good news is – there’s never been a better time to change the world than right now. More people than ever are going freelance or starting up side businesses.
This is causing more people to think about the impact of their careers.
Your career is the most influential project you will ever work on. You will pump endless hours and endless amounts of emotions and energy into it. Whether you’re freelance or working in traditional employment, it’s going to be the assignment of your life.
As freelancers, the good news is we are uniquely placed to steer our work towards the areas that we actively want to impact.
Many freelancers are happy simply doing work they enjoy – but there is a genuine opportunity to use your career to leave the world a better place if you want to.
You’re going to spend a huge percentage of your hours on this earth working on your career, so it does make sense to think about the impact you want to have with this time.
A lot of us sort of drift through our careers aimlessly. Especially as freelancers – where we can get stuck in a loop with the same clients and the same types of projects.
But the truth is, your career is your biggest leverage when it comes to making a positive difference.
But freelancing can be perilous at the best of times with feast and famine. So how can you start to approach using your freelance career for good? Well, let’s look into that.
What do you care about?
If you are interested in doing good with your career, then it is worth looking at the work you’re currently doing and making a plan to find more of the work you would like to do.
One of the best ways to hone in on the ideal work for you personally is through one of my favourite frameworks. It’s a Japanese concept called Ikigai.
It comes down to working out the overlap between what you’re good at, what the world needs, what will make you money and what you love.
If you can find work that sits neatly in the middle of all of these areas, then this is the kind of work that you might want to think about pursuing. Equally, if it’s not fulfilling these areas, it may be time to reconsider.
The point is – if you’re good at something – but nobody’s going to pay you for it – it might not be the best idea to pursue it. Equally, if it’s a meaningful project but you’re not very good at it – again it might not be the one.
Ikigai is a good guide and a good compass for the kind of work that you should be doing. But I’m well aware that this isn’t always necessarily practical or easy to follow up on.
Chances are, you’re always going to have to compromise somewhere to pay the bills.
Three bank accounts
I like how Stefano Scozzese, an Italian Creative Director puts it. He says we have three bank accounts:
A Money account, a Time account and a Values and integrity account.
On some projects, you might top up the balance in your monetary account but take a withdrawal from your values. Maybe it’s working on something you have no interest in, but which pays well.
On the other hand, you might get approached to help a small charity working in a sector you’re passionate about – but they can’t afford to pay you very much.
In this case, you’ll not be making a big monetary deposit, but you’ll be topping up your values account.
This idea is useful because we need to find a balance here between having an impact and building a rewarding career.
Having this idea of the three accounts – all of which need to be balanced – can help to frame how you approach your work and projects. What you accept, and what you don’t.
An important point is that none of this has to be an instant switch. You don’t have to fire all your clients and go after your dream work immediately. It can be a journey – but being intentional, and thinking about it all now is likely to help you.
Push for the change you want
I do just like to highlight an important point here though. We tend to attract more of the type of work we are currently doing. This is usually because clients recommend us based on this work, or because our portfolios are showing the work we’re currently doing.
This can lead to a negative cycle where you attract similar unsuitable clients and unsuitable projects.
So you do need to push for the change you want. Otherwise, you can easily get stuck in the current.
This is a chapter from the ebook “Freelancing With Purpose”
You can download a free copy by filling in the form below: