The Freelance Dance

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 15.09.28We asked Yen Ooi, co-founder of CreateThinkDo and marketing mentor, for insight into the rewards of freelancing. Here she writes about channeling one’s passions and expertise into a bespoke offering that encompasses what she has learned from the freelance world. 

CreateThinkDo provides a two-step consultation for creative brand development and strategy, working with authors, musicians, artists, and more.

We’re told that today’s workplace is filled with more creatives and freelancers than ever. It’s the boom of the creative class – more people want to take full control over their work and time and do what they’re truly passionate about.

So, is that really what freelancing is all about?

I started my career in a corporation and as the years went by, it took many different turns, landing me in a completely freelance position for the last five years. Indeed, I do have full control over my work, my time, and I am doing much more of what I’m passionate about. However, the truth is, freelancing is actually about team-building.

When you work at a company (big or small), the first thing that you come to rely on (and appreciate when you leave) is your team. You would generally have a manager who is more experienced than you, who would be able to spot any problems in your work and share the responsibilities of your work. You’ll also have various colleagues from different departments or roles who will provide you with the skills you don’t have, that are necessary to support the project you are working on, while being on the ‘same side’ as you. It’ll only be the ‘external’ clients that you’ll have to concentrate on pleasing to ensure that the company gets more return business.

As a freelancer, you are your team, and everyone you work with, is a client and a colleague. The relationships become more convoluted. No one is there to watch your back for you, but, if you are working with a team of freelancers, everyone would also be sympathetic to your position. It’s a balance between cooperation and competition. In this world, trust and loyalty really counts.

Having spent the last few years watching and learning from various successful freelancers, I’ve set out a few rules to go by:

• Be humble – there’s always someone out there who’ll know more and is more skilled than you. Never stop learning and never think you’re the best in what you do.

• Be confident – understand where your skills lie and believe that they’re needed. You might feel like your work is common sense and easy (because you’ve done it for so long), but we’re all different, and what you have is probably what I lack.

• Be truthful – speak your mind, but speak constructively to help. It is easy to agree with everyone who is your client or could be your client, but that would neither benefit the project nor yourself. When you speak the truth, you’ll learn quickly if the project will progress in a direction that you believe in and allow you to plan and act more effectively.

• Let go – if you’ve had a bad experience with a client or colleague, or find that you’re not compatible, learn to let go and part amicably. Not all relationships are forever or should be forever. If they’re a client, introduce them to someone else who might suit their working style better.

• Be reliable – there’s nothing worse than a freelancer who doesn’t meet deadlines. When you’re reliable and consistent, you’ll find that your colleagues and clients will be able to support you better. They’ll know what to expect from your work, and in turn, would enjoy working with you again, and recommend you onwards.

Lastly,  and most importantly, collaborate instead of competing. Don’t waste your time being territorial or shying away from colleagues who do the same thing as you. They’re the most sympathetic and understanding to your cause, and can be the most supportive too, if you let them. You might think that they’re not on the ‘same side’, but in freelancing, there is no side, there’s just a dance floor.

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