At the end of her Formation World Tour concert, Beyonce reminded us of something very important: provided we worked hard and were willing to shed blood, sweat, and tears, we could be just like her.
Which, in theory, is true. Obviously, not every attendee in a 50,000-person space can morph into a famous singer because some of us (hi!) can’t actually sing. But she was right about what matters: hard work heeds results. And harder work heeds better ones.
After I left, a friend who’d also been at the show texted me with the best review I’d ever read: “I feel like I can do anything.” Which made me say “YES” outside, out loud like an overeager sports fan, revelling in a championship win.
In only two hours, most of us had evolved from sweaty, tired disasters (and obviously I’m talking about myself specifically) to being eager to get home and work. It was like reveling in a Vitamin B supplement set to history’s greatest pop jams. All I wanted to do was get shit done.
So let’s start there. Beyonce and I don’t have the same jobs and we’re not best friends yet, but she has still taught me so much about freelancing. So much, in fact, that all I was going to type for this was “BE LIKE BEYONCE” until my editor told me I wouldn’t get paid if that’s what I did.
So okay, fine. Here are the specific lessons Beyonce taught me about freelancing. And believe me, there are many.
1. Be a Virgo
You know, I don’t want to say Virgos are destined for greatness but Beyonce’s a Virgo. And I am a Virgo. And if you’re not, I’d suggest maybe telling yourself that you are, because our work ethic is arguably obsessive and alienating to most people, bless us everyone.
2. Keep your eyes on your own paper
Do you know who’s not bothered by what anybody else is doing? Beyonce. I feel safe in my assumption that she’s not currently scrolling through Twitter, comparing her album or her songs or her style to anybody else’s and worrying that she’s not doing it right. Instead, she’s following her own path. She’s making her own music, performing her own shows, and operating under the terms she chooses to dictate. Beyonce doesn’t care about what we think, nor should she. She’s got work to do, and pettiness and jealousy only gets in the way of it.
Which is what I think we can remind ourselves whenever we see so-and-so is doing work for such-and-such, and you wish you could be doing it too. (You can.)
3. Dictate your own narrative
Admittedly, this is hard if/when you’re just starting off because money is real and we all need to earn it. But as time passes and your career grows, the last thing you need to do is take on jobs that feel wrong. So, in the same way Beyonce takes her time between albums and guests only on songs she’s invested in, practice taking on jobs that feel right to you.
If you’re in a position to pick and choose, there’s nothing wrong with politely declining an assignment or suggesting another freelancer take it on instead. No client is going to sit back and shout, “How dare you!” while emailing every potential client ever and warning of your petulance. Instead, they’ll be stoked that you know yourself, and hit you up the next time they think something fits. No harm, no foul, no guest verses on songs that don’t make sense.
4. Maintain that circle
Here’s what we know about whoever Beyonce chooses to work with: they are great, and we’re all better for it. And not only because her taste is fantastic, but because bringing people along with you is important. Especially in terms of freelancing.
So admittedly, yes, working by yourself all day can be isolating. But at the same time, social media allows you to join forces with other freelancers and creatives who inspire you. And this means having their backs and passing their names along when the opportunity arises. That piece that felt wrong for you? It might suit someone you know perfectly.
A client asks if you can hook them up with a few freelancing contacts? Dip into pool of Freelancers You Like™. No one is going to replace you if you recommend them. Hoarding jobs is not going to guarantee your own longevity. Instead, build a community. And remind yourself: Beyonce didn’t have to recruit anybody to guest on Lemonade. (But she did because she could.)
5. Dial it down
There are few things worse than unsolicited name drops and party bragging, even though we have all done it and it’s tempting to do it again, especially if you’re feeling Not Amazing. (But I’m sorry, nobody cares who followed you on Twitter unless there’s a terrific story attached. They just don’t.)
So in moments of doubt, think like this: we didn’t know when Beyonce would drop Lemonade. We didn’t know it was called Lemonade. We didn’t know what it would be about, we didn’t—and don’t—know very much about her personal life, and we certainly don’t see her dropping names to make other people feel bad. Instead, she just does. She releases the albums, sells out the tours, and asserts her confidence in a way that makes everybody around her feel more confident, too. She doesn’t say, “Oh, my husband Jay Z” after singing Single Ladies, as if who she knows (or her relationship) is a currency.
She doesn’t need to—her work is enough. Your work is enough. Chill.
6. Work so hard all the time
You don’t need to burn out. (I have and it’s no fun—and I got super behind in what I wanted to do.) But you do need to hustle. You need to put in the time. Beyonce’s been in the industry for nearly two decades, and it’s within only the last few years she’s established herself as her own constellation. The world—and industry—owe you nothing.
If you’re not willing to work (at night, on weekends, when you’re asked to), there will be somebody who will. If you’re starting out, freelancing is your internship mixed with your new job. And if you’ve been here a while, you know that creating something that lasts calls for a commitment. (p.s. here are some freelancing tips for the summer months)
Laziness isn’t how you channel Beyonce—hard work is. And while that can seem daunting or old-fashioned or the opposite of what you want to hear: too bad. In the wise words of a t-shirt my friend bought me: “Beyonce wasn’t built in day”. So we need to put in our time, too.
7. But most importantly, be a Virgo
And other things I tell myself when I’m tuckered out and still have deadlines.