5 Lessons Freelancers Can Learn from Taylor Swift

Lauren Bonk

Feeling stuck in your freelance career? Maybe you’ve had some Bad Blood with a frustrating partner, or maybe your oldest client just said We are Never Ever Getting Back Together.

Regardless of what it is that has you in a rut, we think we know just the way to Shake it Off. Come along and learn some lessons that will make a new client say You Belong with Me… and maybe even turn your contract from a Blank Space to a Love Story with an online signature at the end.

No matter which genre of music you prefer, it’s hard to deny that Taylor Swift is a powerhouse in the music industry. Not only is she a seven-time Grammy Award-winner, she is also the youngest recipient of the Grammy Awards’ highest honor—Album of the Year. She has a massive following of fans that spans demographics, contributes regularly and considerably to many charities, and does all of this with a positive attitude that celebrates uniqueness and honesty.

Now, most of our readers probably aren’t international music sensations, and that’s okay. At ApproveMe, our main focus is creating awesome tools that help freelancers and small business owners make money and save time, and even we’re in awe of this young musician’s widespread reach.

Be Original… but Don’t be Afraid to Collaborate

One of Taylor’s many claims to fame is that she is responsible for her own songwriting. In a genre that’s saturated with high-cost music production, it’s rare to see pop musicians writing their own music… which places her at a level above many. The important thing to note is that, while she is notably independent musically, she isn’t afraid to collaborate. By combining forces with respected peers such as Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and Imogen Heap, she has created some memorable and high-quality pieces of music that are appreciated by more than just those in her fan-base.

Being independent and original as a freelancer is essential, no matter what your business is.

Plagiarism and imitation can prove to be fatal mistakes as an entrepreneur, so it’s important to let your talents and strengths shine by using original ideas and methods. That being said, a collaboration with others in your field or network can lead to some beautiful (and lucrative) projects.

Working with someone you respect is a good way to explore new facets of your abilities, as well as gain exposure to a demographic in which you may not have previously been visible.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Taylor Swift has built a musical dynasty on the simple act of being honest. Her songs appeal to her audience in a big way because she writes about her feelings without pretension, even if it makes her look love-sick or naïve. People don’t want to be fooled by celebrities, just as they don’t want to be fooled by the people around them. Another perk of being honest is that it makes you look relatable. Swift often highlights her awkward moments rather than hiding them, solidifying the relationship with her fans even more.

Honesty and transparency are just as important in the freelance world. The last thing you want is for a client or colleague to feel deceived by you.

Be up-front about your rates and methods, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through your professionalism.

Who knows? Maybe you and your potential client share a love for vintage salt and pepper shakers. The takeaway here should be that you never know which details are going to make you appealing to work with… but it’s best if those details represent you authentically.

Call on your Friends

Taylor is no stranger to relying on friends and peers to spice up her projects. In the music video for her recent single “Bad Blood,” she filled the screen with famous friends and pop-culture icons to turn her song into something so dynamic, you’ll be hard-pressed to forget it anytime soon.

While you may not have the means to create a mini-action movie filled with celebrities, you do have the means to enhance your work through the help of your friends.

Freelancing is often a solo-sport, and it’s easy to get stuck in your own head when working alone for an extended period of time. It’s important to share your work periodically with someone you respect or trust—sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to pick up on hidden mistakes or contribute an eye-opening perspective.

Keep Passion at the Forefront of Your Work

One blatantly obvious fact about Taylor is that she’s a passionate human being. Her passion is not only evident in her emotional songwriting, but also shines through her personal interaction with fans. She engages with her fans on social media in more ways than simply sharing promotional posts. In fact, over the holiday season of 2014, this Grammy Award-winner used social media platforms to research fans, learn their interests, and mail holiday gifts to them, complete with hand-written cards. Her public appreciation is the key that turns temporary fans into lifelong followers.

Why is T-Swift so appreciative? Because she’s passionate about what she’s doing. What about you? Are you passionate about your freelance career? Is your love for your work overwhelmingly apparent to your clients?

Take on work that you’ll be proud of, and throw as much of yourself into it as possible. The enthusiasm you show for your projects will attract the kinds of clients you want to work with on a long-term basis, rather than the kind who will temporarily score you a few bucks.

Contribute to Your Community

In June of 2015, after discovering that Apple would not be paying artists royalties during the three-month trial periods of their new streaming service, Taylor wrote an open letter on her Tumblr account condemning the discovery and barring her newest album from Apple Music. She acknowledged that, due to her success, she personally was not harmed by the lack of payment, but that up-and-coming artists would suffer greatly from it. After a period of controversy, Apple conceded to pay artists during the trial periods, in addition to allowing thousands of independent labels to join the service.

Again, unless you’ve got enough fame and fortune to sway the decision of a leading tech-giant, the contribution you make to your community might not be quite so large-scale… but it doesn’t have to be insignificant. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’re in a position of wisdom. You’ve got the experience, you’ve learned a few tricks, and you know what it’s like to start out. Find ways to help others in your line of work get started in their careers, and do what you can to volunteer within your entrepreneurial community. Speaking on panels, organizing conferences, and providing mentorship to new freelancers are all ways you can contribute.

We can all benefit from a freelancing ecosystem that promotes generosity and concern for the community’s good.

Now, of course, there’s no need to replace that 80s metal album on your iPod with Taylor Swift’s newest one… but there is a need to learn from others, even if we don’t think there’s anything to learn. On the surface, Swift presents the image of young, emotional pop-star with expensive clothes and a pretty voice. In reality, she’s all of those things, plus an incredibly successful businesswoman. This puts her in a place of wisdom… and we can all use a little more wisdom in our lives.

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