During the safety and emergency demonstration on a plane, the air hosts always stress the importance of putting your life jacket on before helping anyone else. This includes parents, siblings, lovers or friends; sort your safety out first because you can’t help anyone if you’ve drowned. That makes sense. It’s probably hard to resist if you’re any one of the above categories but it’s something to aim for.
The life jacket analogy also works with helping other people. How can you truly help someone when in a state of freefall yourself and on the flipside how can you possibly ask/expect help from someone who is freefalling (people do, I know, but that’s for another blog)
Let’s move away from emergency landings and life jackets for now; I’m going to use another analogy; a hug. I’m not usually a fluffy, huggy, pink petals kind of writer but it fits for the act of helping someone. A hug is free, memorable and can yield extraordinary results much like any of the acts of help I’ll be talking about below.
Why a freelancer? Because I’m a freelancer and could do with a hug sometimes (still speaking analogy here) and many of my peers are in the same boat. It’s our choice but that shouldn’t negate the fact that it’s hard. I was thinking of opening it up to ‘how to hug…’ but there’s a ‘how to headbutt a freelancer’ section at the end which is specific to the trade. The rest, of course, can be applied to anyone else who needs a hug.
If you’ve read this far you’re probably a freelancer, that’s okay, we can also do this for each other but maybe you’re a freelancer’s friend or lover or wife or parent which would be amazing and as I said the advice in this section can be applied to anyone; my mind jumps to overworked nurses and teachers, unwell friends, anyone engaged in a struggle.
When things are tough a little bit of positivity can go a long way. I’m not talking about bragging about your bonus at work when your freelancer friend is skip raiding (dumpster diving in the US I think) for items to clean and sell on e-bay to pay their tax bill.
If you feel like your freelancer friend is so deluded that the only way they can be saved is to serve them a big slice of your view of reality then go for it but do analyse your motivations first.
Negativity can also come in the form of doubt. Of telling people you don’t see their value, or you can’t see them changing or making it. There’s so much of this out there. Sometimes it is disguised as concern. If you’ve been in the same job for 15 years, or you’re retired and you’ve gone through the labour market in a different era don’t piss all over someone else’s idea just because you can’t see it.
A traditional workspace is a hive of activity. There are (sometimes) bosses to encourage you, colleagues to laugh with and a couple of special people to run your ideas by but a freelancer doesn’t always have that. Again, we choose that life but if you want to be a good person then the simple act of listening can go a long way. Maybe the freelancer hasn’t spoken to anyone for a week or more.
Lending an unjudgemental ear to someone doesn’t have a huge listening network will mean a lot to them. You give them a platform for half an hour, or an hour or something and just watch the energy running back through their veins. If it’s regrettable then oh well, you tried, you’ve done something good today and the universe might reward you.
This is an extension of listening but what is it your freelancer friend, colleague or interesting person is working on? People I’ve met recently in tech and gaming are working on incredible projects that are focused on building a better world. Ask them about it. Be curious. Share their work with someone.
When I produced my play in London in 2017 I remember those friends who went out of their way to bring someone else. I remember the colleagues that I hadn’t worked with for long buy a ticket and come along to see the show. It was a horrible time for a couple of reasons but seeing my network come to support my venture was one of the highlights of the process. You don’t forget that kind of engagement.
This can be tricky, especially if you don’t have your life jacket fastened but if you do, if your business is thriving or you’ve just received a promotion in your job why not give an hour for a coffee or longer for lunch or even just a phone call. Offer up some real human contact to a solitary freelancer.
A book or film recommendation
How many times have you heard of a book or film that someone you know may like? Send them a message, it reminds them that they do exist in the universe. Sometimes us freelancers feel as though we’ve disappeared into a black hole in space, especially in quiet months like January.
Sharing ideas and recommendations is the easiest way to connect with someone. It transcends cultures, continents and even political spectrums.
To counterbalance the huggy nature of this post I’m going to offer up three ways that you can also headbutt a freelancer. Whether by accident or intentionally this will always result in a headache.
Warning — negative turn in the road.
Ask them to work for free
Note here, generally, when I’m asked to work for free it’s dressed up as a mutually beneficial situation. This is either a lie or a heavy delusion on the part of the requester. If you think that the chance for someone else to work for free for you is a big prize. It’s just not. For me, it has come in the form of being asked to review a website and all social media channels. Uh no, you do it for free. I do my own marketing for free.
I don’t mind it as much if it comes from someone else who is offering their skills and services for free but if you’re a profit turning business. Nobody ever goes to the dentist and ask for free work. Why so with freelancers?
Try to explain their value to them
If you can’t afford to use a freelancer just say so but don’t try and undermine their price by trying to quantify their value for them. If you could do it yourself you wouldn’t be having this conversation. If you want a budget service don’t bother a freelancer, go to a big grey corporation.
Drain their time and ideas
Freelancers need an income. If you approach one there is a certain amount of work that has already taken place. They’ve looked you up, they’ve arranged a time to spend with you etc.
If someone is hounding you with offers of free literature that’s great but this one is the biggest headbutt of them all.
So if you’re feeling like making a small difference in the world I bet you know a freelancer or person who could use a hug sometimes. You do now