I recently gave a lecture for National Women’s Equality Day and much of my presentation centered around what it means to be empowered. Even though my speech was about women’s empowerment and the ratification of the 19th Amendment, it made me wonder how empowerment can be applied when addressing the world of freelancing.
So, I embarked upon a quest to find a definition of empowerment that would be most applicable to the freelancing industry—with some tweaking, as I will explain later.
Business Dictionary defines empowerment as follows:
“A management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take the initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance. Empowerment is based on the ideas that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well as holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction.
Obviously, this definition is predicated upon a traditional employee/employer model, but there are still some aspects of this that are useful when talking about being empowered as a freelancer.
Why is this important? Feeling empowered can lead to longevity and sustainability.
Be clear about your management style
This may seem odd because you are not managing other people. However, as a freelancer, you are managing not only your time, but also your skills, your resources, and your finances. Think about some of the managerial-like decisions that you have made about your freelancing career. What was the impetus for your decision making?
There is a strong probability that your style determined the way you make decisions. The key to empowerment is having a working understanding of your style and the best situations to apply it to. A few years ago, The Huffington Post presented a concise and user-friendly article about management style. You may find it helpful to peruse it and determine if one of the six management styles is closest to yours. Keep in mind that managerial styles will vary from person to person, or situation to situation, so be clear about what works best for you in your industry.
Create measurable outcomes
We are encroaching upon the 4th Quarter of 2017. Have you set your goals yet? Goal-setting is a well-tested mechanism to create an external layer of accountability. It moves beyond just intrinsic motivation and hones in on concrete and measurable outcomes.
Think of this as your personal growth plan. There are things that you have already accomplished that are replicable; they were not by default, but by design. The key is putting a name to them, being specific and being clear about timelines for accomplishment. Instead of someone else checking to see if you have accomplished these outcomes, assess yourself.
When is the last time that you literally rewarded yourself because you accomplished or exceeded a goal? Incentive pay and merit pay are not that uncommon in traditional industries, but it may seem odd to think about it as a freelancer. But, it makes sense. You have positioned yourself to be successful, so why not reward your own efforts?
Inspiration can come in different forms. For some, a reward may be a dinner at a favorite restaurant or for others, it may be splurging on a vacation.
It doesn’t really matter what the reward is—it matters that you see yourself as being actively involved in your own satisfaction with freelancing. Sure, there are aspects of this that you cannot control, but this one you certainly can.
Will there be times when being a freelancer is disempowering? Yes. Will there be moments when you wish you were more empowered? Yes.
Unfortunately, I have personally seen people low-ball freelancers because the assumption was that ‘some work is better than no work’ or that a person working for him/herself is desperate for work.
Obviously, this is not true, but I am sure that all of us have accepted a contract or job for which we were underpaid or for which our hourly rate was low. This is the antithesis of feeling empowered.
It’s important that you frequently evaluate your practices to determine what, if anything, needs to be tweaked or retooled. This may necessitate acquiring tools, resources or training that will enable you to grow or expand as a freelancer.