A guest article by Shelby Deering.
Yes, you read that headline correctly. As it turns out, George Clooney and the one-third of Americans who work as freelancers have more in common than one would think. For instance, freelancers are generally known to be devastatingly attractive and all-together charming. So we obviously share those traits with Clooney. But besides that, George Clooney has developed particular tactics over the years for choosing his projects and maintaining his career that freelancers can apply to their own careers. Most of us won’t be able to count an Oscar to our credit, but maybe working for a dream publication wouldn’t be too far-fetched.
So, here are five things we can learn from Mr. Clooney:
1. George Clooney Chooses Different Roles as His Career Progresses
Although Clooney could easily play a superhero at 54 and fight alongside the likes of young actors like Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum, he has accepted that his career is in a different place now. “Look, these are the cards we’re dealt,” he says. “You can fight it, and lose eventually one way or the other, or you can go with what direction it gives you.”
Most freelancers aren’t hired for their combat talents, but,like Clooney, we meet changes in our lives, too. And in order for a freelance career to succeed, it has to allow us to go with the flow. Are you wedding planning? Dial down your workload by only going for a select few high-paying jobs. Have a child that just started school? Use that time and opportunity to chip away at lengthier projects or craft high-quality pitches to major publications. We have to adapt to life’s changes.
2. George Clooney Admits That He Hasn’t Made the Best Choices, but Has Learned From His Missteps
George Clooney might seem like a Greek god, but, let’s face it, he’s just as human as the rest of us. He says, “After a series of very bad mistakes in film early on in my career, I learned that I should probably read a good screenplay every once in a while before I’d say yes.”
Freelancers make mistakes too. Many of us are perfectionists, but we’re not perfect. Maybe you sign a contract with a client, complete the work, and then you don’t see the check until you’ve reminded the client four different times. A story will come back to you littered with tracked changes. You’ll misjudge the scope of a project and end up putting in more hours than you anticipated (luckily, that’s what Brainleaf is for!). But as one of my favorite sayings goes, “Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.” Get up, dust yourself off, and move on to the next project.
3. George Clooney is Versatile and Takes on Projects Outside his Wheelhouse
At this point in his career, Clooney is both acting and directing, adding credits such as The Ides of March and Good Night, and Good Luck. When asked how he juggles both, he says, “You just jump in… It requires a lot of energy.” Even though acting was what he was most well-known for, he was willing to break out of his comfort zone to try his hand at directing and writing. Both have proven to be successful.
Some of the best freelancers out there have learned to hone other skills. Writers turn to making content tailored for social media. Book designers create wedding invitations and business cards. Step outside of your comfort zone, and you just might find more opportunities to make money than you imagined.
4. George Clooney Paid His Dues
George Clooney wasn’t always the pillar of success that you see today. In order to achieve his dream career in acting, he had to run the job gauntlet, too. “I grew up doing some really crappy jobs over the years,” he says. “I sold ladies’ shoes. I sold insurance door to door.”
It’s important to remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. Maybe you’d love to write for Vogue one day. That’s great! But first you might have to write ad copy for local stores in a penny saver. That’s okay. Take the jobs that pay the bills and don’t lose sight of your aspirations.
5. George Clooney Believes in the Power of Small Projects
This year, George Clooney took home the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement. His toil, his mistakes, his hard work — everything paid off in the form of amazing honor and a shiny statue to take home. He was refreshingly down-to-earth when he made his speech, saying, “Thank you for keeping small films alive. Big ones do fine. It’s the little ones that need an audience.”
So, you know that penny saver that you’re writing ad copy for? It’s still important. All of our work is important in one way or another. Words and art, no matter what size publication they’re in — they matter. Even the little publications have an audience. Focus on those readers, and perhaps the big fish might swim in your direction soon enough.
And thanks for the insight, George.
Shelby Deering is a freelance writer, editor, and small-business owner from Madison, Wisconsin. In her decade of industry experience, she has written on anything from farm animals to stage fright to organic blue jeans and everything in between. Visit her website, blog, and Etsy shop, and follow her on Twitter @SDeeringLLC, Instagram @shelbydeeringllc, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pinterest.