If, like me, becoming a freelancer wasn’t much of a ‘choice’ during the pandemic, it may all have seemed a bit overwhelming. On the one hand, setting up a company, figuring out how to pay your taxes, networking and of course, finding work – any work – is not so straightforward. On the other hand, the zeitgeist is demanding, and rightly so, that we act on social and environmental challenges. But, if the SDGs, ESG, GHG, CDPs, Net-zero emissions, the climate emergency, social inequality, etc., are concepts you are aware of but not familiar with, it can feel like too much tackle from the get-go. Yet, if you want to make a difference, the time is now.
WHERE TO START? FOCUS.
Of all the issues that need addressing, which ones make your blood boil? Is it world hunger? Plastics in the ocean? Shrinking biodiversity? Racial injustice? Which ones outrage you? Make it your focus. Spend time getting to grips with its various layers and complexities. Don’t try to become an expert across all.
Finding your focus will make it easier to find like-minded individuals – through events, talks or courses – that care about the same things, because no one can change things on their own. These individuals and communities will be the key to access work in things that matter to you, whether this is paid, pro-bono or volunteering (which at the beginning you may do lots of, but it will pay off in time).
Focusing also allows you to do ‘other work’ that you may need to do to pay the mortgage, childcare, etc. Yet, knowing you will come back to projects you really care about, will sustain your energy when the days get long, or the invoices slow down. By focusing on one or two issues, it is easier to act and feel you are making a difference.
HOW TO FIND YOUR FOCUS.
I know narrowing your field of action to only a couple of things, when the world is burning, is not an easy thing to do. And there isn’t an exact science on how to do it, but there are some excellent tools to help narrow down your list. Two exercises I recommend are the Seven Stories and Richard Bolle’s Subject Matrix. Both of these bring to the fore what is deeply ingrained within us, what resonates with who we are and our interests. Because you can only make change happen when you really care.
THEN, FOCUS YOUR ACTIONS.
Once you find your “topics”, the next step is to think what you could do about it. Identifying your areas of control and influence is essential to further focus your time and resources on not only what matters, but what you can actually change. The Circles of Control are a commonly used tool in Systems Change and Agile thinking to take action.
My two cents? As freelancers, the opportunities to do projects that have a positive impact are out there, particularly as businesses and organisations shift towards sustainable development. It is up to us to choose work that is worth spending our time on. Because when your children ask what you did in the most critical decade for humanity, I am hoping most of us will say we did everything that was necessary.
Finding your path