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How to Find Your Freelance Calling — Discover Your ‘Ikigai’

Allow me to introduce you to “Ikigai.” (Pronounced “icky guy.” It’s neither icky nor a guy.)

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means your “reason for being.”

“Iki” means “life,” and “gai” describes value or worth. Your ikigai is your life's purpose or your bliss. It’s what brings you joy and inspires you to get out of bed every day.

It is also the perfect model to decide what area to focus on in building your freelancing career.

Ikigai is comprised of four parts as it relates to work:

  • What you love (passion)

  • What you are good at (profession)

  • What the world (market) needs (mission)

  • What you get paid for (vocation)

This graphic above illustrates how each part relates to the other.

You need to ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I feel passionate about? What brings me joy?

  2. What am I good at? What’s my skillset?

  3. What does the market need that I can get paid to provide?

These are thought-provoking questions that you need to take some time to ponder.

The first set of questions you can likely answer yourself. It’s internal. The second question you may also identify, but you could benefit from input from friends, your spouse, or coworkers. (As career coach Steve Woodruff says, “You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in.”) The last question will take some research and will be the most time-consuming.

Here’s the thing…

What you’re passionate about may not meet a market need or match your skillset. Conversely, your skillset may not be something you’re passionate about but does meet a market need for which you could earn income.

However, where those four areas come together is your ikigai. Your sweet spot.

My freelance career encompasses several areas related to content marketing, primarily writing and editing. I love doing it, am reasonably good at it, and for the past two years, clients have paid me to do it. I guess you could say I’ve found my ikigai.

Positive Psychology offers a set of tools to help you discover your ikigai. They consist of books, inspirational quotes, questionnaires, and worksheets.

I hope you will take the time to find your bliss and that which gives you purpose. For me, the secret lies in helping others. If I can do anything to help you in your freelancing journey, feel free to reach out.

(One more word regarding passion. People say, “Do what you love.” That’s fine, so long as you can earn a living doing it. If not, doing what you love can make for a great hobby.)

This post is reprinted from my Freelancing After 50 newsletter. You can also listen to my podcast by the same name. Subscribe to both so you won’t miss any of the issues or episodes. I publish bi-weekly.

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