Freelancing Outside the Box: How Broader Horizons Can Benefit You

Georgina Laidlaw

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.