Why Empathy Is an Important Freelancing Tool

Freelancing is a career path that many strive for, yet few maintain. Sometimes a niche becomes unprofitable, or even extinct. Other times, the time/money ratio is so out of balance that there’s a need to find salaried work for the sake of staying financially afloat.

Then again, it’s that be-your-own-boss-freedom that keeps many in the freelancing game, despite any lingering uncertainties. Those who persevere usually find at least occasional success along the way. Empathy is necessary for the sake of fostering an ongoing productive, inclusive freelancing community.

Ideas instead of isolation…

Freelancing does have a reputation of being more of a solitary sort of endeavor, especially for freelance writers and editors. With deadlines to be met and guidelines to adhere to, the thought of actually reaching out to fellow coworkers and initiating advice-giving discussions isn’t often even a consideration.

Now, however, freelancing is becoming incredibly collaborative. Media projects thrive when there’s a balance of audience input and team creativity. Message boards/groups on company websites/social media platforms are only successful if freelancers are willing to use them constructively, and empathetically.

Tip: Check out Roman Krznaric’s article for Greater Good Magazine, “Six Habits of Highly Empathetic People.”

Every job comes with a learning curve, and it’s common to see a bunch of confused newbies on freelancing platforms searching for advice. Too many seasoned freelancers passively check these message boards and groups; a glance or two, perhaps an “Oh, I’ve been there” thought crossing their minds, and they’re back to work.

If only more established freelancers could think back to when they were just getting started and how grateful they would have been if someone shared their knowledge to get them off to a great start! A little patience and insight could mean the world to some who’s just trying to make ends meet.

Even employers could personally send out the occasional morale-building message of something like, “I noticed your exceptional work on ____,” or “This assignment is challenging, but I know you can handle it!” Whatever the freelancing gig is, efficiency can skyrocket if people honestly feel as though they’re working together towards a worthwhile goal.

Arrogance and annoyance…

Most career choices, freelance or not, have their fair share of hiccups. Some people take the “all-knowing” approach to their work. Others have a knack for complaining and/or repeatedly making mistakes even when they’ve (politely) been shown the correct way to go about doing things.

Instead of focusing on mustering superior amounts of self-restraint when freelancing in these sorts of environments, the attention should be shifted to why these people are acting this way. Sometimes, people act incredibly arrogantly in an effort to bolster their sagging self-esteem. Complainers/constant questioners might not even be aware of their foibles.

The solution? Equal parts patience and kindness – even the most disagreeable people tend to change when they feel as though their being respectfully listened to or talked with. “I understand” can hold just as much weight as “You won!” In fact, people might gain newfound confidence and develop talents that become assets throughout the freelancing landscape going forward.

Freelancers, it’s our responsibility to set the standard for ethical workmanship throughout the world – let’s set our standards high and support each other on the way up.

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