How volunteering can grow your business

Nov 24, 2015

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

If you’re like me, you generally think of yourself as a good person and would really like to give back and do good in the world.

You may also think, “I would volunteer, but I’m a freelancer; I need to use my time and energy to grow my business.”

Here’s some good news. Volunteering can actually help you grow your business. I know; it sounds counterintuitive. But there are many professional benefits to volunteering in addition to just feeling good that you should consider.

1. Volunteering provides opportunities to network.

Many freelancers work from home or don’t get a chance to socialize with co-workers, because they don’t put down roots at one organization.

When you volunteer your time, you get an opportunity to interact with other like-minded people. It’s a more comfortable way to talk to people about what you do than, for example, attending a networking event where you feel like you have to meet as many people as you can before the event is over.

Maybe your next freelance gig will come from a connection you make while volunteering.

2. Volunteering builds your resume and portfolio.

Consider volunteering your time by providing a skill that is also your livelihood. You have an opportunity to have your work seen by thousands of people and build your portfolio at the same time.

Choose a non-profit that complements an industry you’ve always wanted to work in. For example, if you’ve always wanted to do work in the sports industry, try offering some pro bono hours to a non-profit group that provides sports clinics for underprivileged kids.

You’ll be building your portfolio in the industry, and your non-profit contacts may have some for-profit connections in the same field.

Join a community that cares (it's free!)

Become a Freelancers Union member

3. Volunteering exercises the other side of your brain.

Maybe you have more work than you need, and you don’t need to build your portfolio.

If so, you could choose a volunteer opportunity that simply let’s you change gears for a little while. If you use your brain all day for work, try building a house or cleaning a park.

Giving your mind some time off will let it recharge and probably open up your creativity.

4. Volunteering gives perspective.

Freelancers tend to go it alone and sometimes the going gets tough. Volunteering gives perspective.

Imagine how hard it would be to stay in a “poor me” rut when you’re volunteering at a soup kitchen or doing something to help kids with a life-threatening illness.

Realizing how fortunate you are could be what it takes to push through a rough patch and get reenergized to make some new business phone calls.

5. Volunteering makes you healthier.

According to Harvard Health Publications, studies indicate that people who volunteer their time are rewarded with lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.

Doesn’t it make sense then that freelancers who volunteer will be more successful because they are healthier, having more energy to devote to their business?

Volunteering just a few hours per month might actually help generate more productive (and billable) hours than not volunteering. Totally counterintuitive, but it makes sense!

How to get started

There are so many wonderful non-profit organizations that would benefit from your unique contribution.

First, think about the types of things that move and inspire you. There is surely a group active in that area. Here’s a list of general categories to get you thinking.

Maybe you’re passionate about:

  • Fighting hunger
  • Children
  • Community issues
  • The arts
  • Finding a cure for a disease
  • Reading
  • Helping the elderly
  • Environmental issues
  • Animals

Once you find your category, you can do a Google search for volunteer opportunities or browse Volunteer Match. They help match volunteers with opportunities.

Charity Navigator is also a great resource to vet non-profit organizations. This sophisticated site supplies lots of detailed information about how well the organization is run and provides sorting options that make it easy to explore.

Are you feeling too busy? Try microvolunteering. What’s that? Microvolunteering can be defined as on-demand, no-commitment actions that benefit worthy causes. And many can be completed in fewer than 30 minutes. Check out Microvolunteering Day for some options.

For bonus points, conduct a quick fundraiser with your friends or in your building for the charity you’re going to volunteer with and take the funds with you!

Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Volunteering your time is a great way to “pay” that rent, but it also provides benefits that can potentially help build your freelance business. So go ahead, be selfish – volunteer.

Jeanine Debar is the president at BrandTuitive, an NYC branding agency that often volunteers as a team. BrandTuitive delivers results-driven solutions to their clients that range from global powerhouses to non-profits making a powerful difference. Contact her