At the virtual IABC World Conference 2021, presenter Tiffany Markman shared why all communicators should embrace a freelance mentality, no matter their employment type. Read on for a deep dive of Markman’s presentation, and visit the IABC website to purchase World Conference recordings or the All-Access Pass.
For today’s employee, it’s hard to be amazing. And even if you are amazing, it’s hard to show up, every day, amazingly.
After all, the present-day realities of work-related stress, burnout, financial or social strife, health- and well-being-related anxiety, and a global pandemic are conspiring to tire us, pull us down and make us average.
But what if you could leverage a freelance mentality to be better at your job?
As a 16-year veteran of freelancing, I’ve learned that if I don’t show up every day, amazingly, I don’t eat. Worse, my growing 10-year-old doesn’t eat. My large and hungry husband doesn’t eat. My three psychotic cats don’t eat. It’s a disaster.
Now, if you work for a company and you have a tired, burned-out day or two, you can probably phone it in and get away with it. Yes, there are performance reviews and key performance indicators and 360-degree feedback, but it’s likely you’ll still get paid.
A freelancer won’t.
Job Security Is a Myth
Here’s the first thing you need to know about freelancers: We are obsessed with what we call the “client pipeline,” i.e., what’s coming next when the current job is done. Why? Because we don’t have job security, so we strive to create income security. In practice, this means two to four jobs at a time, for 66% of us, and five to nine jobs at a time, for 13% of us.
Today, even for those of you who are in traditional employment, it’s possible that job security is a myth. It has been for a while in my opinion — at least as far back in my memory as 2015. In that year, I ran two unrelated workshops in one month: one for employees who were being let go and one for employees who were being promoted. I had a revelation.
By way of background, I teach both the employed and the self-employed, and something I realized during that strange month in 2015 was this: when it comes to mentality and mindset, I usually teach employees and freelancers the exact same thing.
What’s the Sweet Spot?
In a world where the biggest trend in global business is the gig economy, the sweet spot for future-proofing yourself is a freelance mentality. According to human behaviorist and business thinker Daniel Pink, “If you understand the independent worker, the self-employed professional, the freelancer, the e-lancer, the temp, you understand how work and business … operate today.”
Practically speaking, how can you use a freelance mentality to be better at your job? There are a couple of ways, but here I’ll focus on one: showing your value.
Showing your value begins with knowing your value.
Show Your Value
Pick up a pen or pencil and answer these questions:
- What’s my specific niche?
- What can I give, in my role, team, division, department or company that no one else can? What are people constantly asking me for help with? (Not the stuff you’re competent at, or even excellent at. The stuff you’re genius at.)
- What’s my unique deliverable?
For example, let’s say you’re a brilliant organizer. So whether you’re in corporate communication, media relations, advertising or nonprofit work, you can find all the organizational things in and around your role and absolutely smash them. You can volunteer and lean in and make yourself known for organizing — which you enjoy anyway.
A zone of genius need not be this obvious.
Let’s say you work in investor relations, but you’re an amazing baker. Your sourdough is legendary. You can bring the same skills it takes to be an amazing baker to your role
- A solid grasp of basic math
- Time consciousness
- Detail orientation
- Calmness under pressure
If you still have the pen nearby, great. If not, pick it up. Yes, again. Use the following template to help you to express your zone of genius:
- I help (insert ideal client/target audience)
- to (do what)
- by (insert your how; your methodology),
- which (optional: how does this add value?).
Here’s an example of one of mine:
I teach corporate communicators to stand out by showing their unique value to the company they work for, which future-proofs them for a changing world.
Once you’re aware of your zone of genius, you can be more deliberate about using it consciously in your workplace conversations and messaging.
Make It Known
You already have this skill, whatever it is, and you use it all the time, probably subconsciously. You’re just not used to calling it out, so you must work to make it known when day-to-day opportunities arise.
In his book “Free Agent Nation,” Daniel Pink projects the far-reaching implications of the “dejobbing” of the workplace and the emergence of a dynamic talent market, foretelling the ripple of free agency from the workplace to our neighborhoods, political systems and the very social fabric of our modern lives.
This is why the stakes are so high. Because it’s not just me fighting for us all to overcome mediocrity; it’s the whole world, pushing hard for us to show our value. The workplace is changing at an exponential rate, and we must stand out.
Whether you are a freelancer or traditionally employed, challenge yourself today to embrace the freelance mentality. Define your value and make it known in your workplace.
Tiffany Markman is an international copywriter, trainer, teacher, writer, thinker and speaker who creates and runs training on business writing, communication, digital marketing and more. With her writing hat on, she’s known for creating website copy, digital content, marketing material, radio commercials and corporate video scripts for over 400 brands worldwide — both big and small. Over the years, she has delivered keynote addresses, created masterclasses and presented training courses for prestigious conferences, blue-chip companies, tertiary institutions and start-ups in 14 countries. Markman likes her coffee strong and black, her paragraphing short and tight and her apostrophes in all the right places. She has a big mouth and tiny feet. In 2020, she was the winner of “Freelance Copywriter of the Year: South Africa” (Corporate LiveWire Prestige Awards).