When you’re a creative person, you want to be creative. And it’s not always easy when you’re freelancing. While there are tons of benefits to gigging—varied industry experience, flexibility, fresh challenges, staying sharp—it can be frustrating to land in a role where the creative blueprint has already been set.
In speaking with freelancers, I’ve been using this analogy—you’re rarely being hired to be Eddie Van Halen. The majority of clients don’t need you to come in and tear off a face-melting, 8-minute solo. What they do need are the equally important, though often understated, members of any great band—bassists, drummers, keyboardists, etc.
For clients in need of freelance help, these “supporting roles” are critical. They’re looking for folks who can stay in the pocket, go with the flow, and make everything from the tiniest layout detail to a strong call-to-action better. As a creative freelancer—designer, writer, production artist—you’re most often hired to step in and bolster the existing creative product.
Most freelance clients need John Paul Jones, the bassist/keyboardist/Swiss Army knife of Led Zeppelin. And even if you don’t know who he is, you would 100% notice if he wasn’t there.
If you’re freelancing, you’re likely there to learn someone else’s songs and, ideally, make them better. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, clients need a creative freelancer to jump in, hit the ground running and create great work within a brand’s guidelines.
So, if you’re placed in your dream job and know you could crush it with “lead guitar” ideas, take a beat. If the job is to play bass, play bass. Because if you show that you can make the band, I mean, the brand better, you may find that you’ll ultimately have an opportunity to move up front.