I know what you’re thinking. Attempting to find worthwhile similarities between freelancing and FIFA’s social media record-shattering tournament seems like a bit of a stretch, right?
Well, time to warm up.
I was lucky enough to attend the first fortnight of festivities in Brazil, and as a freelance health writer myself, walked away with a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a successful writer in the freelancer business…
Allow me to elaborate:
1. If you want to stand out, you’ve got to be confident.
Mario Balotelli is the standout player of Italy’s squad selection.
Other people can tell if you’re not confident.
It’s one of the few characteristics that other humans pick up on straight away. And nothing screams RED FLAG to prospective clients more than using fluffy language when responding to an email enquiry. Or forgetting lines of your ‘elevator pitch’ when networking at Fitness Expo 2013 with the director of an international fitness company… :/
If you are the best (or you plan to be someday in the near future), then you’ve got to act like it.
Take Mario Balotelli for example. He is certainly not the best footballer in the world, but he’s got the ability and the attitude to make you think twice. The cocky Italian striker placed stickers of himself on each of his teammates’ spaces in a World Cup book, then posted the photo on social media. It was captioned with his famous quote, “Why always me?”
2. Exceptionally late nights and sleep deprivation are inevitable.
Shopping malls in Hong Kong open 24-hours to show the matches.
The life of a freelancer, particularly a rookie just finding their feet, is not glamorous.
It’s full of late nights, stressful moments and sore eyes. Sleep loss and painful mornings are the small price you pay to get your personal business off the ground. But is it worth it in the end? Absolutely.
For football fans in countries with huge time differences to Brazil, a similar late-night dedication was also essential. Shopping malls in Hong Kong were set up with large screens and remained open all night to satisfy nocturnal fanatics. The time difference was similar here in Australia, where sleep loss and painful mornings became the norm. But was it worth it in the end? Absolutely.
3. You’ve got to be hungry if you want to succeed.
Uruguay’s Suarez bites Italy’s Chiellini. It was the third time Suarez has been caught biting an opposition player in his career.
Anybody who has been successful at their trade had a desire. An appetite for success, if you will.
For freelancers, the ability to maintain focus and consistently push yourself to achieve more – without a boss or confirmed pay check – doesn’t come naturally. You have to work at it.
What’s more, the discipline required to make yourself change out of your pyjamas before work each morning so that you feel “professional” is not innate. You’ve got to be hungry if you want to be successful in this game.
For the record, Uruguay beat Italy in that match 1-0 to advance past the group stages. Suarez was later banned by FIFA for four months from all competitions plus nine international games. Ouch.
4. Sometimes people will rip off your best work.
The World Wide Web is where billions of people spend their time. Whether for information, entertainment, or arousal, everyone is there.
But as a hard-working freelancer whose work is public, it might get ripped-off. It just comes with the territory.
The plagiarised work may contain insightful words that you came up with yourself. Or one of your most popular photos or drawings may be helping somebody else profit- without any acknowledgment whatsoever.
The internet has made it easy for freelancers to showcase our best work, but it’s equally as easy for viewers to use for their own benefit. Or amusement.
5. Occasionally you are going to get it wrong.
Argentine attacker Rodrigo Palacio got it wrong.
You might think your story is a masterpiece. You might spend countless hours refining the little details, ensuring your trademark quirks can be seen in all the right places, and even boasting to friends about how this one is a game-changer.
And then guess what happens? The editor hates it and changes everything. Or readers are left particularly unmoved and underwhelmed.
But don’t beat yourself up over it. When it comes to any form of art these things happen (or so I’ve been telling myself). The best thing you can do is get back to the drawing board and forge something even better.
The point being that every once in a while you will get it wrong, and that’s OK.
There are instances, however, where it’s not OK. Take Argentinian attacker Rodrigo Palacio’s hairstyle for example. Forget allegations of match fixing or Suarez’s act of cannibalism. That asymmetrical rat-tail on a balding scalp is simply unacceptable and unforgivable.
6. Work hard and work smart. Your time will come.
For your typical creative, life’s not going to be all fast cars, flashing lights and front pages.
At least not until you recite stories about the tribulations of orphan wizards, or witty midgets scheming to sit on the throne. Or whatever is the equivalent in your freelancing niche.
But if we put our heads down, working hard and working smart behind the scenes, opportunities will show up. The best part about witnessing your name up in lights? Prestige clients-to-be and lucrative publishers will see it too.
7. To attract the biggest clients, show off for FREE.
If nobody sees your work then it won’t put bread on the table; regardless of how talented you are.
Just ask (or Google is probably better) the late Stieg Larsson, who’s best-selling Millenium trilogy (The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series) was only discovered after his death in 2004.
So first and foremost, as freelancers we need our best work to be seen. If you’re new to the business, you might have to take projects that pay less than you know you’re worth. Or do some ‘guest posts’ that pay nothing *ahem* ;).
What these assignments lack in monetary return they can make up for in exposure, notoriety (the good kind) and new business.
Privilege and honour aside, World Cup players forfeit their summer holidays to play in the tournament at a fraction of their regular club wage. Despite the pay-cut (by their standards), players – newcomers especially – are well aware that a great performance will lead to big opportunities.
DeAndre Yedlin, the lowest earning player on the United States’ World Cup roster, recently signed a contract with AS Roma, one of the most successful teams in Italian football. Yedlin turned heads in his brief appearances as a substitute, and can now move on from his low-paying contract with the Seattle Sounders. Not a bad month in the office.
8. You are responsible for your own goals.
Tim Cahill’s equaliser against Holland was goal of the tournament.
I know that was a terrible pun; I’m not sorry.
As a freelancer you control how hard you work, and how much you have to show for it.
There’s no one else to take credit away from you, but at the same time there’s no one else to blame. You make the critical decisions and you live with the consequences. That’s business. That’s football. That’s freelancing.
9. Some days will be bad.
Maybe you will spend all day doing the billing and invoices. Maybe you will lose a contract with your best-paying client. Or maybe your spacebar will jam up, again.
But no matter how bad your day, just remember that it can be no more shocking, horrific and shameful than Brazil’s 7-1 elimination to Germany in the semi-final… on home turf.
It’s harsh but it’s true.
10. Attitude gets you on the podium.
Is it cliché to say ‘your attitude determines your altitude’?
Our attitude is the one thing that we have complete control of, and affects everything from love-life to your health and career. The right attitude seems to be the ‘x-factor’ quoted by many successful entrepreneurs; it’s the factor that separates the best from the rest.
Attitude determines who will get to work with the best clients, who will finish and publish that best-selling novel, and who will achieve that perfect work-life balance they always dreamed about.
And it’s attitude that determines who the winners are.
Joe is a dynamic content strategist and freelance health writer based in Sydney. He specialises in copywriting for businesses in the health & fitness niche, previously working as both a clinical and sports dietitian. Stroll on by www.thehealthcopywriter.me or drop him a line @mymatejoe.