Freelancing Outside the Box: How Broader Horizons Can Benefit You

Last week, I did something I don’t usually do as “work”: I gave a workshop on an area of my specialization.

I call myself a content developer. Giving workshops doesn’t really seem to fit within that ambit. A mousey bookworm (okay: slight exaggeration) under the bright lights of a boardroom, giving a PowerPoint presentation? No way!

Way. Putting aside the fact that I’m more of a show-pony than either a mouse or a worm, stepping outside the normal realm of my work gave me some intriguing opportunities.

Building skills

I’m a pretty terrible public speaker. I never seem to give things the gravity they deserve—I always wind up talking casually and perhaps too informally.

The workshop format is less lecture and more collaboration, which is a good way for me to move up the scale from cosy chat to professional delivery. It’s also a good way for me to gain competence and confidence as a speaker over time. Afterwards, I was able to assess my effort and pick out things I’d like to improve on the next time I do something like this.

Organizing knowledge

Preparing the information to present gave me the rare opportunity to step back from what I do and look at how I do it. This gave me the chance to spot areas in which I could improve my approach and processes, as well as seek new skills and information.

Effectively, it acted as a consolidation of knowledge and gap analysis in one.

Collaboration potential

The workshop participants work in the same field I do. They’re professionals with complementary skills that, in some cases, overlapped mine.

Over lunch I talked with one participant about how he saw the industry, got some new ideas about the implications of international audiences on our work, and gleaned a clearer picture of some of the job roles that are becoming more common within the industry. This was a fifteen-minute conversation, but invaluable in terms of expanding my knowledge of the industry I work in.

Lead potential

The client organization is new to me, but obviously it needs the kinds of skills and services I offer. There’s clear potential for this opportunity to spawn others either directly, with the client organization itself, or through referrals from the new contacts I made on the day.

Whether or not that happens, though, is almost irrelevant, seeing as I gained all the advantages above just by doing the work. Oh, and yep—I got paid for it, too.

When was the last time you did a gig that was outside what you ordinarily consider your “thing”? What did you gain from the experience?

Image by stock.xchng user asifthebes.

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  • Carlton Barnette

    Great post, and a great reminder that there is much more to our “work” than we might get in the habit of thinking. I definitely think broadening one’s horizons has a lot of benefit for those who do it. For example, I consider myself a designer and not a blogger. However, every time I step away from my comfortable little “canvas” to write a blog post or comment on someone else’s blog I almost always get tons of ideas – for new services, for improving myself, for increasing my skills, and for new blog topics. Clients will likely want to know how much I know as well as see samples of my design work. So this helps me to stay current rather than sitting in my little bubble all day. I’d much rather split my time this way and stay current than plug out a lot of designs without a clue as to what’s new in the industry!

    • Georgina

      Hey Carlton,
      Same :) It’s amazing to see what happens when we step away from the “comfortable canvas” of our day-to-day working rut :) That’s the beauty of freelancing, though — you can do it whenever you like, and be paid for the privilege :)
      Georgina