Freelance for the community

Ever wanted to give back with your freelance work? In this article we chat about what this could look like and why it matters.
Freelance for the community
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Okay, it’s finally happening. The social worker in me is starting to mesh with the freelancer in me and I have to share some thoughts with you all.

For a long time, I’ve had the thought in the back of my mind that I want my services as a freelance photographer to be accessible to those who might not usually have the means to hire me. For example, some families genuinely cannot afford to pay full price for a family portrait session. In my mind, this means they might not get to experience having valuable moments in their family history captured in a special way while families with more disposable income can.

I know that my art and skills have the potential to bring in funds that can support causes that I care about, but how do I go about doing that in a sustainable way? 

Now I’m not saying that we should start doing work for free for every single one of our clients. We all know the importance of charging what you’re worth in freelance. What I’m suggesting is including an approach in our work that involves being accessible to certain communities and using our skills to have a positive impact on the world around us.

The issue of accessibility 

Many of us may come from family backgrounds where we remember our parents not being able to afford certain luxuries. I remember my friends getting their senior portraits taken by true professional photographers and being in awe of the results, while I had to settle for having my photos taken by a family friend who dabbled in photography. There was definitely a big difference in photo quality. 

While the majority of your client base is most likely clientele who can afford to pay our full rates, it’s important to remember that there is a group of clients that end up being overlooked simply because a lot of freelance work is simply inaccessible to them. Some non-profits might not be able to afford paying a freelancer’s normal rates to revamp their website or take photos at an important event without access to a grant or robust fundraising efforts. Maybe there’s a couple who can’t afford to pay a good chunk of money to have their engagement photos taken because they’re drowning in student loan debt. While these types of clients might just make up a fraction of our client base, I believe it’s worth looking at how we can serve them and use our skills to have a positive impact on their lives. I may not have all the solutions for every circumstance, but I’ve got some ideas that might help you get started. 

Leveraging your skills for your community matters

No matter what type of freelance work you do, where you live, or where you come from, you most likely are part of some kind of community. The idea that your community shaped who you are and how you operate in your freelance work likely resonates with you in some way. That simple fact, the fact that your community might’ve gotten you where you are today, is why I am advocating that you leverage your skills to benefit your community.

It’s almost like you’re saying “thank you”. Thank you for helping me get here. Thank you for shaping who I am. Thank you for being my people. 

I’ve seen local photographers in Denver, CO offer to do free family portrait sessions for students at a primarily Latinx school because that’s their community and they want them to have that special experience. I know of local writers who work with non-profits to teach people in their community about the power of writing. I’m personally in the process of thinking about how I can offer discounted photography sessions for single moms and victims of domestic violence because in different ways, that is my community.

<tweet-link>The opportunities to leverage your skills for the benefit of your community are endless. It’s all about taking the time to think about who has impacted you, who you value, and how you can make your services and skills accessible to them.<tweet-link> 

More ideas to get you started 

As I said earlier, making your services accessible and leveraging your skills for your community is not about doing all of your work for free. You deserve to get paid for your special set of skills. What it really means is building in intentional time for your community, using your skills in unique ways, and starting projects that allow you to give back in some way. 

A perfect example of freelance for the community can be seen in Art for Health started by Marek Hosek and a group of his friends/fellow creators and medical professionals. Marek leveraged his skills in photography and graphic design to put on an art show with other creators that raised $35,000 in its first year to help communities in Haiti. Marek and other creators took their skills in photography, design, and community empowerment to make a positive impact in the world. If they can do it, why can’t you? Our very own Darryl Kelly talks to Marek in depth about this on the Hectic Podcast episode, Keep it Going, if you’d like to learn more. 

Maybe your first time giving back to your community through your freelance work doesn’t have to involve putting on a giant fundraiser. It can instead happen in small, but mighty ways. Find a local non-profit that you care about who might be having a silent auction fundraiser and donate your services to that auction! Offer one-time discounted rates to organizations that you care about or even offer to be a regular contractor for them. With all of the challenges that service organizations and individuals face nowadays, there are plenty of opportunities for you to be of service to others with the work that you do. It’s up to you to figure out what you want that positive influence to look like. 

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Marissa Morrow
Marissa Morrow is a Colorado native who loves all things poetry, photography and music. Currently a full time staff member with Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Marissa spends her off time doing photoshoots with her husband for their photography business, Morrow Manor Photography, and hanging out with their two cats. Marissa has been writing ever since she was young and finds storytelling in the form of poetry and photography to be one of the best forms of therapy. As a former advocate for victims of domestic violence she is passionate about social justice issues, self-care, and inspiring others with her art.
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