Freelancing & Volunteerism

Freelancing is a tough gig, but most freelancers won’t tell you that. It’s easy to talk about the big client they’ve just won, but it’s a bruise to the ego to admit to friends or family when things are slow. Or worse: when they’re totally dry.

I read quite a bit about freelancing, both in books  and online, since transitioning to freelance work last year. I frequent the Freelancer’s Union site, and I’ve learned a lot from hearing what other freelancer’s have to say there. When work is slow, they say, make the most of it:

  • Organize your life. Your desk. Your finances. After a busy period or a fast-paced project, those things might need a little attention.
  • Market yourself: Spend time on your personal brand, your web presence, and on applying to new gigs.
  • Volunteer: Don’t let your skills go unused! You never know where volunteer opportunities will lead, and volunteering is a good way to bolster your portfolio.

Although my desk is actually messier now than it was before Small Shaw was born, I have been spending a of lot of time marketing myself lately. I’ve merged Marrying the Army and A Small Town Girl’s Guide into I’ve uncovered MilliGFunk’s brand dimensions and written its brand story. I’ve contracted a graphic designer to create MilliGFunk’s visual identity, and I’m actively working on the backend of this site to fix broken links and clean up categories.

ArmyFRG MilliGFunk

Also, I’ve decided that if freelancing is slow, I’ll volunteer my butt off. Although volunteerism is, in fact, a good way to bolster a portfolio, that’s not my only aim. My heart is in doing good for others. It always has been. I believe in doing good: I’ve worked for nonprofits who could pay me little more than what it cost to live, and so I’ve taken second (and sometimes third jobs) to get ahead. I’ve volunteered for arts organizations, public television phone-a-thons, and major running events. I’ve learned that giving back fills up something inside me that paid work never will.

I’m helping a friend launch a business that I believe in. I’ve taken on the position of Website Manager for one of the largest independent organizations on our post, I’m a volunteer with our Family Readiness Group (FRG), and I’ve also applied to become a Public Relations volunteer with the American Red Cross.

Slow spells in my freelance work are discouraging, for sure, but that doesn’t mean they have to define my success. I’ve got mad skillz yo — skills that I’ve spent a decade honing — and I’m determined to use them.

If paid work comes my way, fantastic. But if it doesn’t, I’ll use what I’ve learned make my own community stronger.

How have you adapted to slow spells in your line of work? Have you ever used volunteerism to fill the gaps?

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