Empowering the Freelance Economy

What successful freelance songwriters can teach the rest of us about upping our game

Freelancers that broaden their networks have a higher success rate than those to do not
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Martin Gargiulo, a Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD conducted research with Yonghoon Lee, an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, on the early career of 4,387 K-pop songwriters between 2003 and 2012. The findings revealed that the freelance songwriters who were more likely to land their first top-100 song were those who ventured beyond their existing network of collaborators.

“While that was no guarantee of success, those who did not broaden their networks had little chance of creating that coveted first hit,” says Gargiulo in his piece, Escaping the Survival Trap.

Gargiulo suggests reaching out to new collaborators beyond one’s local network is a way to learn about different trends and ideas, which increases the potential of creating something that “becomes a hit.”

He says it can also open up opportunities to work on projects that a freelancer, in this case, a songwriter, would never otherwise have heard about.

What does opening up your network look like?

The INSEAD professor says your network is not something that just happens. “It is something that you manage,” he says.

He appreciates that this may be easier to do if you work in a formal organisation and harder if you are an entrepreneur or a freelance worker.

“The people who succeed are the ones who reach out to people beyond their local network. They don’t wait for things to happen – they make them happen,” says Gargiulo.

One of the biggest challenges is that freelancers are responsible for their own upskilling and mentorship. There is no employer to provide them with training and development opportunities, and there is no one to guide them through their careers.

This can be a daunting task, but it is essential for freelancers to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive.

Mentorship can be a game-changer for freelancers. A good mentor can provide guidance, support, and accountability, according to David Burkus, author of Friend of a Friend: The Hidden Networks That Can Make or Break Your Career.

How freelancers can be more responsible for their own upskilling and mentorship

  1. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies

The world of freelancing is constantly evolving, so it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies. This means reading industry blogs and publications, attending conferences and workshops, and networking with other freelancers.

  1. Take advantage of online learning resources

There are many online learning resources available to freelancers, such as Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare. These platforms offer a wide range of courses on a variety of topics, from business and marketing to design and development.

  1. Find a mentor

A mentor can provide valuable guidance and support to freelancers. A good mentor is someone who has experience in the freelancer’s field and is willing to share their knowledge and expertise.

How to find a freelance mentor

There are a few different ways to find a freelance mentor. One way is to ask your network for referrals. You can also look for mentors online through professional organisations, social media, and freelancing platforms.

Once you have found a few potential mentors, reach out to them and introduce yourself. Explain why you are interested in mentorship and what you are hoping to learn. Be sure to be specific about your goals and what you are looking for in a mentor.

If you are lucky enough to find a mentor who is willing to work with you, be sure to value their time and expertise. Be prepared to put in the work and learn from your mentor.

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