February 4, 2024

If you can’t be useful, be helpful

And vice versa

Inside of me is this hungry need to always do right by others; so that I can do right by myself. Being nice to people who need it, and always trying to be helpful (even sometimes when I should just shut up and let a lesson be learned). I think that there are a lot of people who would quickly forget someone being nice or helpful to them, but there are those who wouldn't, and I do like to think the idea would be passed on when they see someone in need. Plus, if I can connect with those who think like I do, I’m finding more people who might also work like me. They are important to keep around.

It’s a part of my personal life, and it’s also a part of how I like to operate as a freelancer. It has shaped my career in a very subtle and organic way; much like water might shape a little bit of sediment over some time. These little gestures do sometimes get remembered, and people reach out weeks, months, and years later and throw some work my way, or ask for my thoughts on something.

When a job comes my way, typically the person I’m working with will have a good idea who who I am, what I do, and what they want me to do with them. That’s where being useful comes in. As they say; put the kind of work you want to do, on your portfolio. Because that’s what you’ll ultimately get hired to do more of. I get to be useful because I’m already very good at it.

But what if I’m not? Or what if I can’t do it because of some other reason? I don’t tend to turn down work I do want to do, even if imposer syndrome says I can’t do it (you can learn some things on the job, but not all of it). Maybe I’m too busy, or it’s out of scope, or I just generally think it’s better to delegate that job to someone else. That’s where being helpful comes in. They say to never lie on a CV. If someone asks me for something else that I can’t do, I like to politely remind myself that while I might be able to do it, it’s not very useful to do it for them (or myself). But I know someone who is, and that’s how I can be helpful. I might forward that job, and in doing so, I’m passing on that bit of trust they had in me to that person I just recommended. I do think it goes a long way to making meaningful relationships with clients and a network of peers or other freelancers.

I do wonder, are there people who are very successful in both their personal life and work life who are incredibly unhelpful, and not very useful at all? Probably! Perhaps this is more of a personality thing than a general freelancer advice thing, but I do think life would be better if we were more helpful and useful to each other.

It’s the secret power of saying “no, but”.

January 13, 2024

Create more than you consume

A lesson in prolific production

Back in university, I wasn’t thinking much about where I was going and what I was doing. Being so uncertain of myself and my goals was one of the reasons I chose to do such a broad course. I liked doing everything, but couldn’t put my finger on what I wanted to do most, and it was very stifling to my output as I could never just sit down and focus on creating. I’ve since come to believe in the power of understanding the different strengths and weaknesses of specialists and generalists, but that’s a different idea to explore another time. One of the ideas that I do want to share, and I still think about it to this day, is that even if you don’t know what you’re doing; understand the value of creating more than you consume.

The concept was explained in passing by one of my lecturers. He simply said (in very loose terms; my memory is shite) “You’re going to be working in the world of freely accessible information and media through the internet and technology. You’ll want to be creating more than you consume to better master and understand how everything comes together…” The course itself was on new media and internet technology, so it made a lot of sense to have this level of thinking.

The bit that stuck out was how applicable this concept is to many aspects of life. Planting a seed will give you a crop of many more during its cycle. Turn an empty page into a story of ideas. Give more love than you receive, and you’ll make the world a better place, and all that.

I try to think about it a lot, and I do love this as a concept because it helps you turn a passive into an action. Taking action and creating something, even if it’s no good, is worth so much more than a million unwritten ideas. It’s not about making noise, but about making better noise next time. Iterative action, improving on the last, progress before perfection. Taking action on something requires the distilling of everything you’ve learned into the tangible action of creating (and even sharing that with the world). It’s very easy to sit behind a book, a screen, or a desk to just learn all your life. An artist who will sit and critique, wondering how they could do better, but never do, is never going to make something worth even a fraction of what they’ve consumed.

I think it’s important to always remember that without ‘doing’, we would never have had the ability to even consume. People are out there pioneering new ideas, not because it was written on how to do it, but because they are prolific producers. They want to create because something inside of them tells them it’s worth doing. To consume more than you create will build an aura of complacency: that you think things are good enough and you can’t make them any better. I’m sure you can make things better if you put pen to paper and start right now.


© 2023 Adam Marshall Creative