This title might sound fancy eh? Maybe you’ll say: “Choosing jobs?! I’d be happy if I got handed one!”.
But what I’ve learnt over the years is, is that the more picky you get with jobs, the better the assignments you get.
Knowing what you do and what your goal is
When you introduce yourself to a potential client, you have to able to explain within 10 seconds what it is what you do. This is because people need to be able to remember what you do. Sticking to two lines is perfect. So even when you are indeed an illustrator/writer/blogger/vlogger/word traveller/teacher/health coach/stay at home mum, you don’t have to name all of them. Stick to two.
What kind of freelancer are you? What are your goals, and what are you working towards?
Before starting out in any business, whether it’s illustration, writing, pro-wrestling or the next reality-tv-sensation, you should know what you’re working towards.
Having no goals as a freelancer is like a ship at sea with no steering wheel or sails.
When you know what your goals are, you can more easily decide which assignments fits you.
Knowing your goals = knowing the kind of freelancer you are.
And when you know what you want out of your freelance career, it’s much easier to pick the assignments that fit you.
Does it bring you closer to the mountain?
Neil Gaiman is a hero of mine. A while ago I blogged about his 2012 commencement speech. If you haven’t listened to that speech yet, than you must. Yes, I insist.
At one point Gaiman talks about a distant mountain: his ultimate goal.
As long as you are walking towards that mountain, it is okay. And if you doubt whether you’re doing the right thing, think: does this take me closer to the mountain, or is this steering me away from it? If it’s the latter: say no. Regardless of how much money, publicity or significance would be gained by the opportunity.
I know how tempting it can be to take on jobs that are maybe paying enough, but not contributing to your career. Been there done that.
At times I just needed money, simple as that.
We’re not all as talented as Neil Gaiman so sometimes you just have to do something for the money. But then it has to be a bucket of money. More on that below in the schedule.
It’s okay to say ‘no’
When I first started out, I didn’t dare to say ‘no’ when someone emailed me saying they had an assignment for me. I said ‘yes’ the jobs that made me want to bang my head against a wall.
When something doesn’t feel right, you can just say ‘no’. It’s okay, nobody will die.
Unless it’s an old lady drowning in the lake. Then you must dive in.
Price, prestige and pleasure
When I get an assignment, I first apply the Neil-Gaiman-mountain-technique. But maybe even after that, you’re still in doubt. And that’s where this schedule comes in!
I once heard this in a marketing meeting and decided to apply it to my illustration business as well. When you get asked to do an assignment, consider the schedule below:
Price: do you get a good amount of money for the assignment?
Prestige: is it something you would be proud to put in your portfolio?
Pleasure: would you enjoy the process of doing the assignment?
Where does the assignment go in the schedule?
You know you have a good deal at hands when you have at least 2 out of the 3 circles. So, if it’s a job which is well paid (price) and looks good in your portfolio (prestige) but it sucks to do: it’s in the good-section.
If it’s a job you’d love to do (pleasure) and will look good in your portfolio (prestige) but it pays not as much as you hoped (price), it still might be worth doing.
If it’s a job you don’t like doing at all, it won’t look good on your portfolio but the price is really good, then consider this: is it really worth the money? If it sucks majorly then it might as well pay a motherlode (making a The Sims reference here).
Everything that’s not even within one of the circles is a big ‘no’.
How about working for free?
When I was just a wee illustrator I did two assignments for free: creating album art for Ben Howard and the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the other one for a non-profit magazine for illustration. Both causes I felt good enough to me to work for free.
A rule I’ve set for myself is: Is the person asking me to work for free, also working for free? If the answer is ‘no’, then maybe I shouldn’t either.
I hope this helps you with your freelance business, or if you know people that need help: feel free to send them a link to my blog.
See you next time!
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All text and images © Marloes De Vries