The catch-22 of needing experience to get experience is not a conundrum.
It’s not a puzzle designed to frustrate new entrants or test for the most plucky or driven.
It’s a signal.
It’s a signal that points to the truth that “it’s not what you know, it is who you know.” If you knew the “right” people, you wouldn’t ask the wrong question.
It’s a signal that outs a system not based on merit or effort, but on connection, legacy, or lineage.
It’s a signal that you are not one of them.
I…received my experience because one of them…two of them actually, believed in merit. They accepted my markers of education, and speech, and dress as signals that maybe I could perform. They did not need me to play family or boost egos. They needed me to work, so I got my experience. I got my experience despite them that didn’t want to work with another person like me. Despite them that didn’t think I could learn.
I got tired of proving my belonging though. Tired of demonstrating how them I could be.
And then, one day, tiredness became my experience.
Time employed can be a big boost to your freelance career. It was in mine. But it’s important to remember that a lot of the “experience” employers are looking for is simply experience being employed…fitting in and being the best cog in a machine you can.
Freelance experience is different.
Clients want to see that you can solve problems, connect dots, and leave their businesses better off than when you showed up (this is NOT the case with most employed positions…I’ve run across few positions where overall business impact is well-tracked).
As a freelancer, your job isn’t to fit in. It’s to find a skill you can perform that will help businesses with the problems that cause them the most headache. Chances are, between the demand for writing and content creation, social media competency, project management, and skills you’ve picked up in work environments, you’ve already got at least some basics down…basics that you can improve and align with business needs on your own.
All that though, is why freelancers charge rates that start at $25/hr on the low end and shouldn’t dip far below $75/hr (or your regional equivalent)…we’re paid specifically to produce direct business value, not be available. So get ready to shift your focus from being available to an organization, to solving their problems…and charging more for your labor. (If you want to start figuring out what that labor should look like, start here.)