The Simple Way to Add Meaning to Your Freelancing

The joy of being freelance comes from being able to build your own little business, and have an impact on the world around you.

But a lot of freelancers feel that there is a bit of an issue with what they do.

They don’t have a purpose. They move from client to client, working on unconnected projects. There is no real thread of meaning running through their careers.

This can also be true in traditional employment. I know I personally felt that I couldn’t really work on causes and issues that I was truly passionate about when I had normal jobs. While I enjoyed working with nice people and having business goals – I knew really that my effort and time weren’t really going towards a kind of mission that I was particularly proud of.

Frameworks like Ikigai, – which are all about finding the work that really resonates with your values and what you believe can be really helpful here. Spending some time thinking about what is important to you can help you to be more intentional about the work that you choose to take on.

simple way to add meaning to your freelancing

Table of Contents:

Why do we go freelance?

We go freelance for any number of reasons, but one of the main ones is that you have more freedom and flexibility to follow your values than you typically do in traditional employment.

You can choose the type of work you do, and who you work with.

Equally, as a freelancer, you have more independence to use your specific skills and talents to have a larger impact.

Despite the possibility to do this, a large proportion of those who are freelance, don’t really think in this way, and never really take advantage of this opportunity. The truth is you are in an amazing position to do a lot of good with your work and your career.

Should you try to work on good causes?

The obvious answer to all of this is that you should find work that strongly aligns with your personal beliefs and ideas.

This can certainly be a great idea, and give you the motivation and drive to do good with your career.

We’ve posted previously about some amazing freelance job boards and sites specifically to help you find meaningful work that has impact.

To be totally realistic, however, this kind of work isn’t necessarily possible for everybody.

For starters finding work you find inherently rewarding can be difficult. Everybody wants jobs where they can feel good about themselves – which means there is more supply than demand.

Equally, even if you’re super passionate about something, turning it into work tends to inevitably erode that passion a little. You can easily become disillusioned with the causes as well.

There’s also the case that you may not be the best person for the job that needs doing. For example, you may care deeply about preventing animal cruelty – but if you have terrible communication skills, you might do that cause more harm than good if you decide you should dedicate your career to it.

So there is absolutely no shame in not dedicating your life to work that on the surface of it looks meaningful, and full of purpose.

So what other ways can you do good with your career?

The idea of earning to give

Earning money with the express aim of giving a percentage of it away is a really interesting idea. I’ve been going deep down the rabbit hole of Effective Altruism recently. This is a movement about doing the most good you can with your money and career.

The ideas can feel a little counterintuitive and even challenging as we normally think about charity. But there is real value in taking some time to think about them.

One of the clear points the Effective Altruism community makes is the idea that not all charities are made equal.

Often our charitable acts and donations are made with very little research or critical thinking involved.

Effective altruists is about asking ‘How can I make the biggest difference I can?’ and using evidence and careful reasoning to try to find an answer. It takes a scientific approach to doing good.

William MacAskill

The truth is that some charities can use your money to have extraordinary effects. Even better, they are deeply transparent and open to challenge and scientific rigour.

For example there are highly effective charities which provide medicine to prevent malaria in sub-Saharan Africa at a very low cost.

The website Give Well assesses charities with scientific rigour and has determined the most effective and transparent charities. They currently estimate that it takes just $4,500 to actually save a real child’s life.

By using this kind of careful consideration, charity can suddenly become incredibly impactful and meaningful.

Taking a simple – but life-changing – pledge

So how does all of this relate to your career? Another core idea of effective altruism is the idea that you can actually do more good by carefully donating money than you might be able to do by directly working on issues.

Working as a banker is typically seen as an amoral pursuit, for example, after the excesses of the 2008 crisis. But if you can make a lot of money working as a banker and then donate more of that money – it can be a really effective way to do a huge amount of good in the world.

Taking this approach can lace your freelance work with meaning. Pledging to donate a proportion of your income can be a revolutionary step that can give even the most boring and unrelated work meaning.

I have joined a community which has publicly pledged to donate 10% of their income to the most pressing causes. By publicly pledging on Giving What We Can the idea is to put your money where your mouth is and inspire more people to do the same.

Why publicly take a public pledge like this

It does feel a bit icky talking about doing good and philanthropy like this – especially publicly.

The truth is that these ideas are not publicly talked about too much, so it is worth doing this publicly, because the benefits of people signing up to this pledge, and donating to these high-impact charities is truly huge.

If these ideas are interesting you, I would highly recommend checking out the website 80,000 hours, where you can even order a physical copy of the book I’ve quoted above completely for free.

I increasingly think that this is one of the best ways to do real genuine good with your freelancing, regardless of the kind of work you want to do and the clients you want to work with.

Taking this pledge can be genuinely transformative, and allow you to do a huge amount of good over the course of your career.

Why You Should Give Back to The Community
Best Freelance Websites to Find Purposeful Work

Our first Skillshare class is now live – and you can watch it for free!

Our very first class for Skillshare – Get Started Freelancing: Build a Sustainable Freelance Business Doing Work You Love – is easy to watch in one sitting, and designed to help you set up a long term, sustainable business doing work that matters to you.

Sign up here to get FREE access for one month to watch it, and the other classes, on Skillshare!

Until next time,


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