Developing Your Freelance Outreach Plan: Inspiration From 3 Philanthropic Indys

Written by Bethany Johnson on December 8, 2017

Don’t worry, you’re allowed to miss the corporate perks of a traditional nine-to-five every once in a while. One of the traditional job benefits I miss most is the ability to participate in corporate philanthropy efforts. As a team, it felt like we could put huge dents in ugly community problems and build initiatives that would last.

As a solopreneur, I’ve learned that freelance outreach can have far-reaching influences, as well. The trick? Strategy. At my old job I could just show up, grab a team t-shirt and start shoveling. As freelancers, though, we need to develop a plan.

First, Find Your Inspiration

Too often, freelancers launch businesses based on cutting costs and stretching every dollar to cover expenses. I know I did. The first thing to go was charitable contributions to my favorite do-good organizations. When I finally lifted my head and moved from start-up to scale-up, the first thing I wanted was an example or two of philanthropic freelancers. The models I found gave me the inspiration I needed to get going.

  • Karine Bengualid: Bengualid is the prolific creative behind digital marketing boutique, TheLetterK. “When I first started freelancing, it came from a place of need. I needed to work,” she says. “Then, when I realized I could actually make a lot of money and not work 40 hours each week, it was like a chorus of angels surrounded me. And then the goal became clear: Make a lot of money without working full time, so I can pursue my true passion — building an animal sanctuary.”

  • William Bessette: “When I travel (which I do a lot as a remote worker), I do at least one volunteering excursion in each city I’m in, provided I’m there for at least seven days,” says Bessette, freelance writer, eco-tourist and founder of the travel blog, Floppy Hat Adventures. “As any freelancer will tell you, time is money, so I give my time instead of my money.”

  • Dodie Jacobi: A giver at heart, solopreneur Dodie Jacobi uses boundaries to give more. That’s right, boundaries. Early on in her freelance career, she clarified where and what to give so that every time a new foundation, charity or association approaches her for a contribution, she knows whether the answer is “yes,” or “not today.” Eliminating the anguish of an immediate mental back-and-forth, she writes, “will honor your intentions and allow good vibes without infringing on your wellbeing.”

Next, Get Started

Ready to develop your own freelance outreach as a business-of-one? Awesome. Here’s how to get started:

  • Choose your charitable niche: “Early on, I focused on eco-tourism and microfinance, then I branched out to volunteering at soup kitchens,” says Bessette. Today, he’s glad he did both, but now knows he prefers serving meals when he can. “Interacting with homeless people in other countries gives you a perspective that a normal tourist would never get.”

  • Determine a strategy: Before choosing a beneficiary of your goodwill, decide what works best for you. Most benevolent freelancers skip this step and wind up back in dire financial straits — or worse — burned out on giving. Write down whether you want to donate your talent, your time, your money, your airline points, your Rolodex or another resource of your choice. Another important part of your strategy? A timeline. Will you donate each week? Once a month? Every quarter? Make these decisions early on. Then, and only then, should you move onto the next, most exciting step.

  • Choose and contact a nonprofit that does work you appreciate: It doesn’t need to match your personal brand’s emphasis, but if it does, even better. For example, the popular furniture brand IKEA has been helping people beautify their homes for decades, so it makes sense they’d improve the temporary homes of refugees in Greece as a benevolent gesture. If you’re a graphic artist, consider giving regularly to an art tutor support program. Writers can volunteer or give to literacy initiatives. In many ways, freelance outreach can be a natural extension of your personal brand.

  • Drum up support: Display “10 percent donated to charity” on your freelance website, and tell clients they have an option to co-contribute. Share success stories with your followers, and prod other freelance buddies to get involved in their own creative way.

  • Reevaluate regularly: Remember the strategy you first documented? Revisit that plan at least yearly to ensure you’re staying true to your purpose. Reevaluating like this also lets you celebrate milestones and see how much you’ve given over time. If circumstances change, this check-in offers you the perfect opportunity to switch gears and tweak your strategy for future giving.

Don’t let the illusion of being small dupe you into thinking you’re weak. In the face of looming needs, the cumulative effect of your freelance outreach efforts can dwarf even the biggest company’s one-day philanthropic “good deed.” Let that be all the motivation you need to get going. Before you do, though, spur other freelancers into action by challenging them to join you from the start.

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