Freelancing is a battle. Each day you wake up and prove your worth to people who could fire you at any minute or not pay you when the project is doneAs a freelancer trying to find your footing in a Gig Economy, you want to establish some healthy work boundaries, but saying no in a state of flux is so hard. These anxieties can just multiply when you’re a Black freelancer working against the systemic racism baked into employment at large.
I’ve been there, and while there may be no cure for the freelancing blues or racism (at least not at work) there are definitely more personal and human ways to find gigs that are potentially less draining for Black freelancers. If nowhere is feeling like a fit, or you just can’t seem to get your foot in the door here are some good ways Black freelancers can find gigs.
Words of Mouth
Words of Mouth is a weekly newsletter that shares freelancing and employment opportunities in the art, design, tech, research, and non-profit sectors. They describe their mission as a “hopeful, communal way to seek new opportunities, particularly for people working outside or between standard industry categories.” The listings in the newsletter are personally curated by the editor Rachel Meade Smith in Brooklyn, New York. Employers can reach out and pay to have their listings included in the newsletter which goes out every Monday around 8:30 Eastern.
You can subscribe to the newsletter on their website. It’s 100 percent free, but consider donating as it is totally user funded.
Good ol’ Linkedin – You wanna hate it. You know you do. At least a little. Because face it, there is nothing remotely intuitive about buzzing off the serotonin flood that is social media while navigating the anxieties of professional decorum. Despite this, Linkedin is a gold mine of easy access to people you wouldn’t normally have access to. It’s like if Monster.com had a baby with Reddit. A surprisingly conversational way to find work that allows you to connect and talk with people before you go down the rabbit hole of applying for a gig that you’ll hate.
Beyond that, Linkedin is more than a good platform through which to initiate contact with the people you want to be employed by. It’s also a fantastic platform for putting yourself out there and having the opportunities come to you. Once people see what you have done, you’d be very surprised at what they believe you are qualified to speak on and do. Hey, you might even surprise yourself.
Use that Social Media Circle! – Yes, Linkedin is definitley a social media platform, but the kinds of opportunities you find there are limited. On platforms that put less emphasis on professionalism (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) you can find the gigs that your peers may belooking to fill. It’s a way to access people who wouldn’t even think about messaging someone on Linkedin. For example, the Black Undergraduate Theatre Collective is a Facebook group of Black theatre professionals and enthusiasts who want to share and discuss their work. Naturally, the group’s niche comes more than a few “ *photographer, writer, editor, designer* wanted” posts.
Find the social media spaces where people already know you, where they’ve seen you liking and commenting. Once you’re there, try making a post advertising your services, or scroll around and see what kind of work people need done. It takes some patience, but it’s a great way to develop a reputation in the niche circles where you want to freelance.
Idealist- Idealist is perhaps the least ideal way to find freelance work on this list. It doesn’t connect you with employers in a way that’s as personal or direct as Linkedin, Facebook, or Words of Mouth. Bearing that in mind, it’s only fair to point out that as the less personal job listing platforms go, Idealist has Ziprecruiter and Indeed beat by a mile. It’s not so automated that the idea of even looking at listings feels endless and demoralizing.
Idealist is actually a nonprofit based in New York City. They aim to work with others “in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect,” in the hopes that they can “build a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.” They post a variety of jobs available within various nonprofit and advocacy organizations.
At the end of the day, there is no cure for the anxiety of finding work as a Black freelancer. The platforms on this list can only serve as the jumping off point for what is hopefully a less anxiety inducing gig search. If you stay confident in what you know and remain open to what you can learn in every situation, then you will survive this search.