Finding Purpose Outside the Office
In many cases, freelancers are able to find more, or at least more consistent, purpose in their lives than their full-time counterparts. They have the ability to follow the exact path they like in the exact way they want. Their career path isn’t influenced by someone else. This kind of purity often breeds a high degree of purpose. At the same time, there is no one to share that purpose with. Working at a company with other employees means that you’re part of something greater than yourself. Co-workers can certainly bring you down, but they can also lift you up. If you’re having an off day, your co-workers’ energy can support you. As a freelancer you don’t have that. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to help keep you afloat and keep steady your feelings of purpose and meaning.
Becoming clear about your own values and motivators is a good place to start. Doing the work of becoming more self-aware will help you create purpose patterns. Purpose patterns are habits you can build to help drive you when you’re feeling unstimulated. Think about the ideas or types of ideas that give you energy and what aspects of your job exemplify those ideas. These are four potential types of purpose patterns you can create:
· Task-based purposes: loving the craft of your work and finding ways to overcome small every-day challenges. What about the craft itself helps you grow and learn? Think about this when faced with an exceptionally boring or mundane task.
· Impact-based purpose: how is what you’re doing affecting your community and the world at large? These freelancers think about work as bigger than themselves. Who would benefit from their work? Who would be impacted if it weren’t to happen?
· Identity-based purpose: these freelancers focus on who they were in relation to their work and often operate with a set of morals. They might not work for a certain company they don’t ethically agree with because of how it would reflect on them. The work they do creates a narrative about who they are, and gives them integrity and power
· Money based purpose: Financial drivers of purpose are always quite strong. Money and wealth in themselves may not be a driver but what can be achieved with it is, like a family, a life of travel, or whatever kind of future you want.
Regularly implementing these purpose patterns will keep your willpower high. The more you learn about yourself the more specific your pattern can be, and thus, the more effective.
This may be the easiest way to ensure you maintain that important sense of meaning in your work. Only work with clients you really believe in. Easier said than done of course. Being picky is a privilege, but working with clients you really believe in doesn’t always mean the highest paying clients, or the highest profile clients, or whatever the “ideal” client would be. In fact, choosing the clients whose work truly aligns with your values often means working with the client who nobody knows, who might not be able to pay you consistently, or who might not be seen as the best business decision. Being picky will pay off in the long run when it comes to overall happiness.
The best way to find clients like this is to create a checklist for yourself to go through when considering any clients. What criteria do you need? Do you prefer working with small businesses? Individuals? Those in the entertainment world? In the medical world? In the non-profit world? Do you want a client to have a reason behind their work beyond just making money? If you never want to have the thought “I can’t believe I’m helping a company or product I don’t believe in” again, then you’re going to need to ask yourself these questions before you find new work.
CRAFTING YOUR OWN CULTURE
It’s much easier for a freelancer to have a clear culture than a company. You don’t have to corral potentially hundreds of people to adhere to that culture. After all you’re one person. What’s harder is sticking with that culture once you have it. There’s no one forcing you to conform.
“Isn’t my company culture just me?” Certainly, but the same way that your brand is more than just you, a culture is more as well. That’s what a company culture is, an internal reflection of the brand a company presents to clients and customers. Once you’ve decided who you are and what your brand is, try and recreate that in your own behavior. It’s important to show consistency to your clients. You want to walk the walk basically. You could come up with your own best practices. Not even for clients to see, but more of a guide to remind yourself how to behave with clients. Do you feel comfortable sending clients gifts at the end of a contract? Or sharing part of your personal life with a client? Or giving clients advice outside of the specific work you're doing? Having your own culture can help keep you consistent, almost like having your own code. So like Batman, your work isn’t only helping your clients, but fulfilling the culture, or code, you’ve chosen to live by.
No one said following your purpose was always easy, or even exciting. Help yourself stay motivated and keep things fun.