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3 concrete ways freelancers can give back

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day designed to beat back the displays of rampant consumerism on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – and remind us what the holiday season is really about. While I think it's great that there's an entire day devoted to giving back on the calendar, let's not forget that it's something we can do the rest of the 364 days of the year too!

Here are 3 simple, concrete ways that freelancers can give back... yes, even with our often-crazed schedules!

1. Pick a Core Cause (or many causes)

The best way to become meaningfully engaged – and STAY engaged – is to pick a “core” cause that is personally important to you. A cause that really fires up your core emotions is ideal; it’s not an awful idea to focus on the issues that keep you up at night.

You may indeed champion many causes – I hope you do! But when you’re starting to find ways to give back, I’d recommend starting by diving deeply into a few core causes. Don’t focus too much on what’s really important to your mom, or your spouse, or your neighbor: the cause that activates YOU is the best bet to keeping you motivated, inspired, and engaged.

You may expand your scope at any time – nobody will ever stop you from getting involved in many causes at once. But prioritize a few battles to begin with: become a real champion of your issue.

Once you’ve picked 1-3 causes, start looking for opportunities to actively engage. Do you want to get involved on a national or international level, or focus on change within your community? Does your cause have opportunities for both? How can you contribute: where can you give time or use your freelance skills to further change?

2. Become an Expert

Once you’ve picked one or two causes that are personally important, commit yourself to learning as much about them as possible. Read books, explore (responsible, credible, well-sourced) websites, keep up-to-date on continuing events.

Become someone who really knows your topic inside and out; really challenge yourself to remain fact-based, diligent, and truthful. Then, armed with your new education, go forth and try to create positive change. Become a dispeller of falsehoods and rumors; work towards (respectfully) informing

At the same time, pair your newfound knowledge about an issue with a willingness to learn and listen. Ask people who have already contributed to the cause what they need, and what lessons they have learned. Listen to people on the frontline.

Don’t assume you know all the answers; keep flexible AND informed. This applies on both the micro- and macro-level: if you’re mentoring somebody one-on-one, make sure you’re really listening to what their priorities are.

If you’re contributing towards a national or international effort, take time to study the opposition’s points: at the very least, you’ll know how to beat them with their own language.

You can become a real expert... without assuming you know Everything.

3. Set Aside Time

Giving back in little ways can really add up, especially when you make it a habit. It can seem daunting to stuff any activity in any busy freelance schedule, but taking small steps every day ensures that your activism will become a crucial part of your lifestyle... and that creates huge potential for real change.

Set aside some specific time in your schedule for activism, no matter on what micro- or macro-level. Make it a part of your daily and weekly checklist: brush your teeth every morning, pay your phone bill on the 2nd, and do a small act for social good before 5 every day.

Checking off an “activism” box every day is a really fantastic feeling; it helps us feel relevant, inspired, motivated, and impactful. When we give to the world... it truly gives back.

Kate Shea Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.