Lately, I’ve been examining my worth as a contributor to my community (aka my worth / value in the workplace). I’m not using the word “employee” because, the fact is, I’m no one’s employee.
I’m my own boss. I’m one of many in the coming era of remote digital workers who have their own businesses and do freelance contract work.
The word freelance tends to get tossed around a lot, and some people probably hear that word and think you’re just bumbling around like a buffoon just doing work here and there, hiking the Himalayas, or backpacking through Europe.
Freelancers are part of a community of people that have chosen to create their own opportunities for work, do the type of work that they want to do, and do it on their terms. These brave entrepreneurs are a special community.
I’ve recently noticed several patterns that are emerging from this community that are concerning.
The digital space is a tough playing field. At times, you’re literally competing with robots, and not only are you fighting for your place in this space, but you’re also having to combat the symptoms of working in an isolated environment.
Sure, you might very well be on the beach, in the woods, or hiking the Himalayas, but you’re working — both with yourself and for yourself. This can be tough sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with clients or you’re in a unique situation where you’re part of a larger team.
Feeling Valued Matters for Everyone
This is where value and a valued workforce can make a big difference. But why is it even important to feel valued? Who cares if you feel valued when someone is paying you?
For most people, the money simply isn’t enough.
I’ve recognized that when I’m not feeling valued at all, I begin to crave that feeling, which makes sense if you think about it. We tend to focus more on the negative than we do the positive, so why wouldn’t we feel a symptom of something missing rather than think of value as something to be done proactively?
You may be wondering why it’s important to feel valued and to make sure that other people feel valued as part of your team. You may even be wondering if it really matters at the end of the day as long as the bills are getting paid.
What the idea of value boils down to is — really and truly — the essence and joy of life and work. What led you to want to do the work you do began with a greater passion inside of you.
If you’re doing something that you don’t enjoy, then that’s a topic for another day. I don’t think there are a lot of people out there who grow up thinking they really and truly want to dig graves for a living or pick up garbage or take care of sick and dying people. (But that’s an assumption I make, and I should probably scratch that because some people DO want to do those things.)
Any job is a lot more pleasant when you know that it’s valued.
While some jobs are unsavory in nature or are just plain difficult and hard, at the end of the day, you know it has their place. It helps make the world go round and has a source of value, which can make a difference not only to the job itself, but to your well-being, state of mind, and purpose when you’re in that working environment.
When you’re self-employed, you don’t have the gratification that comes from hearing “job well done!” from your boss. You tend to lean on your colleagues or on other like-minded people in your community, but it’s not quite the same because you’re not working for them.
Usually, the value we’re looking for as freelancers would come from clients. But, because the client is paying for a job well done, they don’t always see it as essential to the process for there to be an exchange of value.
Your client doesn’t necessarily see the need for a feeling to be portrayed. They think of it as: “I’m giving you money, you’re doing your job, and that’s it.” There’s the idea that “It’s business. It’s not personal.” And, yet, to us freelancers, all business is personal. All of our work is personal.
When you think about it, why would you not want to feel empowered by your work? Why wouldn’t you want to feel valued for it?
“Any job is a lot more pleasant when you know that it’s valued.”
Feeling valued gives you a purpose in life. Feeling valued in your work allows you to get up in the morning and feel like you have a job to do that’s something others will benefit from or that others need. Yes, there’s a monetary exchange, but sometimes, even that isn’t as important as the feeling of value.
We Need to Give Value to Others
The need to feel valued is also why it’s so important for us to also give that same value. In our exchanges with people, we need to make a point to express when there’s a job being done well.
Think about the last time you were on the phone with a customer service representative who was incredibly patient and showed you exceptional kindness in their tone of voice and word choice. I always feel terrible for those people because I’m usually calling when I’m hot-headed and frustrated trying to figure out something. The reality is that the person on the other end didn’t invent or make my problem; they’re just the ones fielding the calls. Sometimes, they don’t even know the full answer because, as I said, they didn’t cause it.
When that frustration bubbles up, I always try to catch myself, and if I’ve lost my temper or sounded snarky, I make it a point to let them know, “It’s not you. It’s just the circumstance. You’re doing a great job. I’m just having a bad day, and I’m frustrated.”
In expressing that to them, they can immediately understand my point of view and are able to put me at ease by saying, “I understand. It is frustrating. I’m going to do what I can to help you.” Sure, you might get a bad apple someday who tells you to go take a hike, but it’s rare.
To be honest, we all know that that job is tough. It’s not easy or for the faint of heart, so when I have an amazing experience, I have to make sure that the other person knows it. I ask to speak to their manager. I make sure I fill out the survey. I want to try in my small way to convey to them that I appreciate a job well done. Taking the time to do this is a responsibility that we all have as a community of workers.
“Feeling valued gives you a purpose in life.”
No matter what our designation, work, and purpose in life is, receiving and giving value is the essence of what drives our passion. It’s what pushes and propels us forward to want to get up the next day and do it again. It’s what makes it feel worth it.