Why the Best Tools or Techniques Aren’t Important

One of my favorite bands is U2. Or rather was. Because I dont like theexperimentalband I hear nowadays. Im talking about the oldschool U2, the group who became popular even before I was six. The Joshua Tree. With or Without You. Classics.

The earlier, younger U2 were fresh, unfettered, and articulately poignant. Amazingly, this wasnt because of masterful technique or access to highquality instruments. The reason why With or Without You featured a simple melody and that universallyrecognizable bass line was because the band members lacked proficiency. The group literally had to make do with what what they had. But somehow, they were able to produce songs like Bullet the Blue Sky, which continues to resonate with audiences today.

Freelancers can learn from this example. A contract worker who has access to the latest tools or techniques is at an obvious advantage. Yet ultimately, its about who you are and what you bring to the table. Never let your awesome arsenal define your work, because one day you wont have a kickass laptop. Or what seemed cutting edge one year is now passé the next. If you cant survive these developments, youll just become another face in the crowd, robbed of the visibility needed to survive in a world full of many options.

Real achievers find a way to succeed regardless of the situation. And this is only possible because their achievements arent based on the tools or techniques they use, but on what makes them stand out from the rest. Maybe its a distinct way of getting things done. Or an unorthodox yet workable creative outlook. Whatever it is, its definitely not the droolworthy gear.

Writing for Magazines: A Great Start for Freelance Writers

The truth is that many magazines rely on contributing (i.e., freelance) writers for much of their content. So if you’re looking to make a name for yourself as a writer, perhaps approaching a magazine is a great way to start. The pay is more supplementary than significant, but writing for a high-circulation magazine gives you a lot of exposure. We all have to start somewhere.

And that involves making editors aware of your abilities. Of course, it’s a great help to have a friend within the industry (that’s how I got my start). But it’s possible to get attention even if you’re unknown. You’ll need a body of work to highlight your skills, a plan to focus on relevant targets, and of course, persistence.

There are many ways to build a portfolio. You can either write for free, or simply make use of your experiences. If you’ve been invited to a fashion show for example, you can write about that. Or narrate what happened at a sci-fi convention.

Whatever you do, keep in mind that you’ll have a great chance of succeeding only if you approach relevant publications. Or making yourself relevant. If you’re a bona fide geek, Cosmopolitan may be interested in your article about how girls can attract those tech-obsessed cuties.

Don’t expect instant success. Even if your proposals go unanswered (or politely refused), your portfolio is with a potential employer. And if one day he needs what you can provide, he’ll come knocking. In short, don’t give up, because the more you try, the less chance you have of failing.

A Cheap Way to Increase Your Visibility as a Freelancer

Sometimes building a portfolio or visibility is more important than money.

A good friend will resign from the corporate world soon. Hes currently into photography, and wants to take the hobby to the next level. Before we met up last night, he took some food photos for a hotel. What did he get in return? Free access to the buffet!

Yes, the hotel got away with a Php 800.00 ($16, though that buys a lot in a low costofliving economy) investment for pictures theyll use to make loads of money. But at least my friend now has more photos for his budding photography portfolio, and doing some work for a hotel leaves future clients an impression of legitimacy. While not wealthy enough to lounge around and sip mojitos all day, Jayvee also writes for many online publications; food will be on the table at the end of the day.

When starting out as a freelancer, no one knows who you are and what you can do. Though if you can afford to do so, taking on major projects for little compensation and time commitment will build the contacts and visibility that eventually pay off.

Why Decisive Clients Save Your Time.

Nothing is more frustrating and a great time-waster than working for a client lacking a clear vision of the end product. So try to work for people who know what they want.

My actual freelance career actually began as a student; to practice my design skills, I’d take any project under the sun. Yes, the financial rewards were meager, but the extra money allowed more than just student meals.

But many of the clients weren’t sure what they wanted from me. Normally, a client would list down his requirements; I’d submit a first draft and he’d make some changes. After carrying out the changes, everything’s done.

Yet these people just gave me free reign over the project, which I thought was a good thing. So, enjoying my creative liberty, I’d spend the whole night on a layout, only to have my client ask for a complete overhaul the next morning. All my efforts were simply a waste of time.

The lesson I learned is that you should only try to work for decisive clients—those who have a clear idea of what they want you to do, and how they’ll use what you make. It makes sense: with something to follow, the freelancer will have an easier time fulfilling the client’s goals, the client will receive the finished project earlier, and both parties will be saved from a lot of aggravation.

But being definite doesn’t depend on clients alone. A freelancer should ask for the project requirements during the first meeting, because any client worth his time will already have them ready.

What Part-Time Freelancers Should Know About Company Policies

For freelancers working at a day job, setting the right balance between these two professional identities is very important. Achieving such a balance is made harder by the fact that you have less time to do more as a freelancer, unless you want to neglect the commitments of your corporate (and probably higherearning) job.

But such a feat is possible, if you make a conscious effort to work faster and plan better. Knowing what your employer thinks of your freelancing career is much more important. Again, the best way to avoid potentially fatal confusion is to make sure everything is clear from the beginning.

Companies rightfully limit the use of their equipment. They would like to see their facilitiespurchased and maintained at great costto earn more money for the company. This is why its important that you immediately find out whats the company policy concerning any nonworkrelated activity. For instance, can you use your computer to accomplish a freelance project, once youve finished all your corporate commitments for the day? What about your company phone? Can you use it to contact clients? What if theres a scheduling conflict between a company and freelancing activity?

Whatever your company policy states, you should follow it to the letter. No matter how unreasonable nor inconvenient it is for your freelance career. It helps to remember that the company is actually paying you to work for them, and that theyre granting you permission to use their offices to do so. Getting violating company policy brings about a bad reaction from management, depending on how strict they are. It can range from a simple verbal warning, to suspension or even dismissal. The point is that whatever happens, your productivity, as an office worker and freelancer, will suffer.

In short, you can literally pay for not taking your offices stance towards nonworkrelated activity seriously. While youre free to do as you please on your own time and with your own equipment, its an entirely different story when working at a traditional 9 to 5 job. The challenge of leading a double life as a contract and office worker is a very hard one, but one that you must shoulder if you freely sign that corporate contract.

The 6 Skills That Will Pay For Your Retirement: What Do You Think?

Over the last few days, interrupted only by a brief treatise on what we can learn from Lauren Caitlin, I wrote about six skills that will pay for your retirement. Namely:

Writing

Design

Photography

Illustration

Search Engine Optimization

Web Application Programming

The common factor among these skills is that they help clients sell something, particularly online. The internet is a wonderful boon for freelancers, because it provides a wider selection for both clients and contract workers—both can collaborate with people from practically any part of the world—and makes it easier for a good business model to succeed.

Is the future of freelancing that mercenary? Are there viable contract work careers available offline? I’d like to open the floor for discussion. What do you think?