Friday, April 27, 2012

Mining the Freelance Goldfields

I’ve been watching a lot of Gold Rush and Bering Sea Gold on The Discovery Channel lately.  My four-year-old son really likes Gold Rush, and I can’t blame him since I’ve had a long-time interest in gold mining myself.

While I’ve never made my gold mining dream a reality, as a self-employed freelancer, watching these shows has made me realize just how much freelancing is like gold mining.  So in a way, I am realizing my gold mining dream, just in a different form and way.

Lots of Hours and Hard Work
As I watch these gold mining shows on television, I realize just how much work is involved, and often for a not very big payoff.  While I might not be getting down-and-dirty panning for gold or running heavy equipment, there’s certainly plenty of work involved in my freelance activities; and like gold mining, sometimes for a not very big payoff. 

My day typically starts between 7 and 8 a.m. (which I admit, isn’t all that bad); however, work often doesn’t end until eight or nine at night.  Pair this with caring for a four-year-old, and you’ve got a pretty work-filled day.

Management is Key
Gold miners must know where to dig, how to dig, what equipment to use, where to focus their time and efforts to make the most money, and in a larger operation, understand employee management and how best to utilize those employees.

While I don’t have any employees to worry about, the rest of these aforementioned aspects of gold mining do apply to my work as a freelancer.  I have to be able to know where to look for work, how to do the work, what equipment and applications I’ll need to accomplish my work, and where and in what amounts to focus my attentions and efforts in an attempt to make most efficient use of my time.

It’s a Constant Hunt for the Mother Load
In gold mining, it’s often a constant hunt for the big score, the “mother load” if you will.  And there can be a lot of “grunt” work in the search for that discovery.

In freelancing, I’ve found that you must often pay your dues and shovel through all the tailings (a term for previously mined gold rich material in which there might still be some gold, but in smaller amounts), pick up work that others didn’t find worthwhile, or dig through large amounts of work that just isn’t worth your time in search for employment that offers the opportunity for a bigger payday.

There’s Only So Much Pay Dirt in One Area
For many gold miners, a claim only offers so much pay dirt in one area.  Once that pay dirty has been processed, it’s time to making a decision -- either take a new approach to the same area or move on to a new claim.

I find that it’s the same for me in my freelance work as a writer.  There is only so much I can rake a particular topic such as “How to save money at the grocery store” over the coals until it’s played out.  Then I must decide whether it’s time to take a new approach to the subject, maybe something along the lines of “How to save money on name brand products” or “Money Saving options for single individuals at the grocery store” or decide whether to move on to a new subject area completely.

I Might Strike it Rich, I Might Strike Out, but Either Way, the Chance is There
It’s fun when I’m watching shows like Gold Rush and I see the guys catch “gold fever”.  They get a little taste of some gold-rich pay dirt and they’re suddenly running their operation late into the night to process as much of the dirt as possible.

The same thing happens to me as a freelancer.  I’ll be running along smoothly, staying productive, but not killing myself, when suddenly, BAM!  There’s a big opportunity or chance for a good payday and I find myself really pushing to get more work processed.  It’s hard work, and it might not always pan out the way I’d hoped, but the chance for a big payday is there, and for me, chasing the dream is half the fun!

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