Can Banksy's spray can social commentaries say anything about the world of freelancing? We thought we’d cast our eyes over his past pieces. What we found were ten well-known works with ten equally valuable lessons for budding creative freelancers.
Lesson 1: Don’t ignore problems
Don’t be tempted to sweep something under the carpet for someone else to find. It’ll only trip you up later on. If there’s an issue - address it. Ostriches bury their heads in the sand, not professional freelancers.
It can be tempting (especially with a deadline looming), but never ignore a problem, no matter how small. If you think something needs doing or might cause an issue further down the line - chances are it does and it will.
Lesson 2: Learn to think on your feet
Like true love, the course of a freelancer's work never runs smooth. Minds change, deadlines move, amends come in, and budgets shrink. Being able to adjust to new situations is an essential skill for the freelancer to learn.
Working freelance, there’s nowhere to pass-the-buck when problems arise. You have to deal with them yourself or face the consequences. So learn to think on your feet and adapt quickly, because it’s you who’ll be left carrying the can if you can’t.
Lesson 3: Be resourceful
Banksy is a master of making use of whatever’s around and incorporating it into his art. Often the sum is greater than the parts. For him, the world is full of resources, and as a freelancer make sure your’s is too.
Get to know everyone around you, and what it is they do; because, whether it’s a skill, advice, or favor you need, it’s good to have a pool of resources you can draw on when you need them. Who knows, they may even throw a bit of freelance your way.
Lesson 4: Mediocrity Kills
According to Banksy, Mediocrity killed the rat - and guess what ... it’ll kill your freelance career too. It won’t be a fast death, but a slow, dwindling one. A death where jobs slowly dry up, and people stop returning your calls.
When you freelance, competition is fierce and the old adage is true: You’re only as good as your last job. So never adopt a ‘that’ll do’ attitude, and always push yourself to do the best you can. If you don’t, someone else will and you’ll be left scurrying around for scraps.
Lesson 5: A winning formula
Here’s a way to clinch a deal wonderfully illustrated by Banksy. Simply put, find out where your client wants to be - then show them how you plan to get them there. Demonstrate to them how much better you can make things if they give you the job.
Find out what they want, tell them why they haven’t got it, and let ‘em know how you’ll take things forward. Highlight what they’re doing wrong and how you’ll improve things. If you’ve got a pitch with a prospective client, identify their problems then provide the solutions.
Lesson 6: Practise the art of diplomacy
The art of diplomacy is a valuable skill all freelancers should learn. No matter how bad a clients ‘creative input’, resist the urge to laugh in their face. Listen to their ideas, feign interest in their designs ... and then find a nice, polite way to tell ‘em they suck.
As Bruce Lee once put it, it’s the art of fighting without fighting. Throw a bouquet instead of a bottle. Be honest but not brutally honest because sugaring the pill is the best way to dodge ridiculous demands and tell clients ‘no’ without pissing them off.
Lesson 7: Lead clients from A to B
Sometimes clients are a bit like children. They’re scared of the unknown and if an idea is too big or a change too radical they get cold feet. That’s when it’s your job to take them by the hand and lead them to where you want them to be.
As a freelancer, you’re the expert; so it’s your job to take on the role of the adult and reassure them. And just like a kid, the best way to convince a client you’re right is to walk them through everything step by step, and explain your reasons for doing things.
Lesson 8: Learn to let go
It can be painful to do, but there’ll be times when you have to throw in the towel and - dare I say it? Compromise. It’ll go against every grain of creativity in your body, but sometimes, to keep your client happy, it’s necessary to water down your ideas. Just a bit.
So don’t get too attached to ideas. Learn to let go. You don’t have to totally give up on your creative vision and artistic ideals, but don’t be too precious about your work - because at the end of the day, it’s not your work, it’s the client’s. After all, they’re paying for it.
Lesson 9: Work freelance. Work hard
Some freelancers might be able to write a best seller down the coffee shop or work one day a week, but generally, that’s not the norm. If you got into freelance because you think you can work half the hours for twice the pay, boy, you’re in for a shock.
Gone are the days of a steady paycheque. Now, you have the added stress of finding work before you’re even in with a chance of doing it. And if you’ve done it - then you have to chase payment! Working freelance has its perks, but it’s still work. Hard work. So work hard.
Lesson 10: Keep smiling
Some clients can be awkward to say the least. Sometimes you’ll want to punch them square on the nose. But no matter how strong the urge to beat them to death with a riot stick is, you’re gonna have to learn to bite your tongue and smile.
Face it, for the time being at least, the client is king. And if they’re being particularly obnoxious or difficult, the best course of action is to grin and agree. Take it on the chin, do the job as quickly as possible and get the hell out of dodge. Then you never have to deal with them again unless you’re broke.
This blog post is brought to you by the creators of Solo; the beautiful app that's your freelance wingman. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, contact us on hello[at]wearethrive.com.