Today I saw some business advice saying something along the lines of “Don’t wait to be chosen. Make your own opportunities.”
The idea of not waiting to be chosen? Love it! Especially as Black people in racialized environments, waiting on a system or environment that prefers not to acknowledge your existence or discounts the value of your labor can be particularly dangerous.
The second part made me wonder though…do we ever really “make” opportunities or do we find them? That might sound like nitpicking, but where your thoughts fall in this area can make an enormous difference in building your freelance career. I’ll explain why in just a second.
The Problem with Bootstrappers
When it comes to business conversations (or any conversation really), I’m deeply wary of any sort of bootstrap thinking.
Especially in a Western cultural context, bootstrap-talk is generally used distraction from the interconnected nature of economic and social movement. It’s a way to erase the contributions of others and create the illusion that someone, anyone gets to where they are, high or low, respected or not, on their own. (Added bonus: it makes exploitation look a whole lot less unethical.)
The idea of “making” opportunity falls in line here because, especially in an entrepreneurial context, it implies that potential earning, success, and advancement is a matter of creation, as opposed to discovery or molding.
Freelancers Find. We seldom create.
This line of thinking is particularly dangerous for freelancers, because your success, financial and otherwise, largely depends on the potential that a skillset or niche holds. If you hang around business, particularly marketing folk long enough, you’ll be warned about the dangers of trying to force your market to want what you have for sale. Just because you make it, does not mean they’ll come.
For example. I’m a writer. I’m a writer who wants to make a full-time living writing. If I write on social justice, that is incredibly difficult and highly unlikely. There is already a dearth of free content in a wide range of voices and quality levels, so readers and any entity that would pay for this kind of work are likely already getting their ideas and content for free.
On the other hand, if I want to write on technology in education, it’s quite possible to meet my full-time income goals— it is a growing field backed by both government and private money. Writing on tech is a proven, profitable niche. There are also businesses who need content created on the subject. On top of all that, it’s uncommon and definitely not available for free.
Now…I could say I want to make opportunity for myself in social justice writing, but for the most part, as a freelancer, I can only take advantage of what’s already there. The same is true for education technology. I can put in the same effort to “make” an opportunity, but largely all I’ll be doing is discovering what’s already there and responding properly in my freelance business.
This is why, here at BlackFreelance, we address niches from the perspective of learning, as opposed to creation. Building a freelance career is a long process and it can be way too easy to get unnecessarily discouraged and give up if you aren’t honest with yourself about the potential that exists out there. The last thing I want to see is people giving up on the potential freelancing offers simply because they were trying to get blood out of a turnip.
P.S. If you want to learn how to discover the opportunities that are available in freelance niches that interest you, check out this article.