Something happened this week that I couldn’t help but observe and want to write about.
I am a freelance Graphic Designer. What that means is I take on contract work for clients in a temporary or indefinite capacity. I work for companies to help create marketing campaigns, the visuals of said campaigns, as well as support their full time designers with little tasks so they have bandwidth for bigger projects. Depending on the company it’s a very collaborative job and you have to have confidence to jump into an office culture and just work and help the other designers and marketing staff. I see helping as my main job, so literally, just here to help, hello. Now I am a freelancer in Chicago. I moved here specifically for the work. It’s easier to get work here, and the work is better paying. That being said it’s still competitive. I currently have an indefinite contract with a major global company. I am very very happy with this position. But I gotta talk about ‘The Game’.
For me The Game refers to life, and the position you’re currently in. The Game can beat you, or you can ‘game the system’ it all depends on your perspective of The Game. The Game can also be played differently depending on your own personal goals. Either way, being cognizant of The Game can help you play it better should you choose to. For me it helps me remain competitive and hungry. When you work in a corporation or any office there are office politics. There’s ALL these procedures in place to make it as neutral as possible, but, humans are never really neutral. Thus….The Game is prevalent here. Since I am in the position of freelancer here I have 2 options at all times, I can leave to pursue other work, or I can stay and leverage what I want to take away from my work here. Do I want something specific in my portfolio? Do I want new experience in a certain kind of media? Do I want to leave with specific connections? Etc, ect. I am always being human, but taking note of the cards I have in my hand. I legitimately enjoy working with people, but also evaluate the relationships I build, and what battles are worth it and not worth it.
This all brings me to the main point. I mentioned this was inspired by an observation I made earlier this week. I’ve been watching a freelancer get lazy. It doesn’t bother me a ton, it just makes me feel bad for them. They leave early, they contribute zero info about themselves to those they work with. No one knows who this person is, or their interests, thus they don’t know their talents. AND this person disappears, so they are also deemed unreliable. That sucks for them and here’s why: By not letting people in on who you are as a person no one is in your corner. When you need someone to vouch for you, or advocate for you in any way, you have no one. By leaving early, people notice and if there was an opportunity to put out a fire because you had availability you would prove your worth, or to support even a small task if you had free time, you would prove your value to your team. By not speaking up in general you are not showing you have ideas. In every meeting you’re in whether you know what’s happening or not, you should make a point to offer some sort of opinion, challenge, or question just to have someone be able to say ‘great idea!’ or ‘it’s this way because’ have the guts to say anything. People are actually paying attention. Also when you let others see you, they can nurture your abilities. This is happening to me now! I have found some badass women in the organization I contract for see I have a lot of strategy ideas for the way a visual campaign can be executed and they ask my opinion and give me tasks that relate to this when others don't always have the time or resources to spend time thinking on them. That pushes me closer to some goals I have. Not to mention being a freelancer is competitive as hell! You know how many creative agencies are throwing perfectly good candidates at this organization I work for? It’s literally hundreds. Freelancers here can be replaced in days...literally if not minutes. There’s a backlog of people who’ve contracted before, and who are eager to learn and try here. So to be so lazy, is a bad move too! I am SO fortunate of my position here. I leveraged some shit to get to one of the better performing creative units in this organization. That DOES NOT HAPPEN often here. So I am very grateful for the recommendations of others and grateful to myself I put in the work to prove I deserve my spot.
Freelancing or being in a city is super competitive, let alone in the creative field. It bummed me out to see a fellow freelancer not see how badly they were losing The Game when to me, it’s so easy to play. Maybe they didn’t want to play. Something that gets you so far in this life is your interpersonal skills. Knowing when things aren’t about you. Squeezing into little nooks and crannies to be helpful and support your team. Putting your heart out there a little bit and letting these people who are full timers at this company know you a little bit and letting them welcome you into their team. People love camaraderie! People love working for and helping people they like. You should too! Freelancing doesn’t have to be your forever job. But if you’re going to put the work into contracting yourself, respect that hustle and do well while on contract! You clawed your way to the top of the pile of perfectly suitable candidates to sit at that desk, and you won! Be proud of that!
Let me know if you have any interesting stories of how you leveraged a situation in your favor, or you had an amazing mentor!