How to look for gigs without going crazy

Feb 25, 2015

Looking for gigs is an inevitable part of a freelancer’s career. Sometimes, a client comes knocking at your door, throwing fistfuls of cash at your head*, but in general, you’ll have to pound the pavement to find a new gig.

* What, that never happens to you either?

Let us first embrace the truth: looking for new (or better) jobs can be onerous. It often amounts to a part-time job, itself: the endless submissions, applications, interviews, and negotiations.

I am not asking you to enjoy this sometimes-frustrating and disheartening and time-consuming process. I do not ask you to be an amped-up cheerleader. Looking for new gigs can really, really stink! But if it’s inevitable, we might as well try to enjoy it, right?

Here is how to look for gigs without going stark-raving mad.

Check out your materials

Review your resume and portfolio (if you have one). Check it once, check it twice – yes, like Santa Claus. Take a few hours to really whip everything into shape; send it to trusted colleagues and friends to review.

Sending off materials that look good… actually feels good. You can’t control the outcome of job searches, but you can gain confidence by developing strong materials. And nothing is more annoying than sending out 15 resumes… and THEN seeing a typo.

Make it as fun as you can

Put on good music. Make yourself a nice snack. Put on a non-distracting TV show in the background. Do everything you can to make this process fun for yourself. I like to make a game out of it, with rewards given for every ten applications. Hunting for new gigs doesn’t have to be torturous – make the ACTUAL process fun by building in little perks.

Expect a low rate of return

Unless you have a personal/professional connection, you’re going to be doing a fair amount of shouting into the void. Expect no response from most of your applications/inquiries. That way, every response is a pleasant surprise. Absolutely nobody gets 100% of the gigs they try for; it’s all about trying and trying again. I know it’s easier said than done, but tell yourself that only the gigs that are meant to be will happen… and let the rest go.

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Reach out to connections

Talk to friends and colleagues. Make a call. Post on social media. I started blogging for Freelancers Union through a Facebook friend! At the very least, reaching out to colleagues will get you an ounce of human connection (something one desperately craves when looking for jobs), and even if they don’t have a gig for you now, they’ll be able to keep their ears perked. In the best cases, you’ll have a connection within a company – and you’ll be better poised to land the gig.*

*IMPORTANT NOTE: you may only do these things if you resolve to help others land gigs in the same fashion – especially after you’re situated. Be that connection for someone else. Give a leg-up to others. Otherwise the Universe will rightfully karmically smoosh you.

Give yourself an (actual) break

When looking for gigs, it is tempting to relentlessly throw yourself against the siege-walls of gainful employment, relentlessly applying and networking and emailing until you wave the white flag of surrender. That’s how you end up slumped despondently on the couch, housing peanut M&Ms and snapping at your cat: “DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT, MR. PRINGLES!”

Don’t surrender! Prevent burnout by taking real breaks (yes, hours and even days – minutes don’t count) and being kind to yourself. There will always be gigs to chase, you cannot catch every opportunity. Likewise, some rejection is inevitable – it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail. Be diligent, but be reasonable; make time for relaxation, companionship, and non-career-related activities. Find a way to channel your stress and angst – exercise really helps, as does creative work.

Applying for new gigs can be stressful, but it needn’t be paralyzing. There’s a world outside of the application process, I promise… and you’ll re-find it soon enough.

Happy (or at least bearable) hunting!

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.