What Star Wars Can Teach Us About Freelancing

With the pending release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, millions of fans are getting excited about the latest chapter in this epic story. It has richly-depicted characters, a captivating storyline, totally cool outfits and makeup, awesome battle scenes, and of course the always-intriguing space setting. But underneath all that, what remains with us long after we’ve left the movie theater is its deep-seeded themes of overcoming against all odds, right over wrong even when the wrong way may be easier, and personal transformation.

Star Wars - BB8

As freelancers, there’s a lot we can learn from the story. We’ll leave the spiritual debates of good and evil to the philosophers, but as far as helping us do our work more effectively, the existing movies are loaded with practical advice—so long as we can put down the popcorn for a minute.

Here’s what Star Wars can teach us about freelancing:

Be adaptive but speak up.

Toward the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke and his uncle are checking out droids for sale. Uncle Owen chooses C-3PO and an orange-and-white mechdroid named R5-D4. But as they are concluding their transaction, R5 explodes from a “bad motivator.” Instead of screaming for a refund and insisting that another R5 be delivered ASAP, or grudgingly taking the broken one and accepting his loss, Owen works with the Jawas for a suitable replacement—a little blue-and-white one by the name of R2-D2.

R2D2 and R5D4

In a freelance situation, there will always be times when “stuff happens” and a deal falls through in spite of good intentions on both sides. It’s a sign of a professionalism and superior customer service to try to make things right, whether you’re the buyer or the seller, and continue a strong business relationship. So rather than let one incident ruin your day, learn to be flexible and go with flow. This attitude will earn you both respect and a reputation for being cool under duress—the kind of person everyone wants to work with.

Contracts can change.

The charming smuggler Lando Calrissian thinks he’s getting a good deal: the Empire promises to lighten up on his mining operation and make life better for thousands of Cloud City residents, and all he has to do is turn his pal Han Solo over to fearsome bounty hunter Boba Fett. Darth Vader even promises to come by to seal the deal. However, as Lando learns, Vader (his client) keeps making modifications to the plan, including trying to kill the rest of Han’s party, carbon freezing Han, and sending in stormtroopers to take over the city.

Lando Calrissian

As freelancers, we know all about changing customer requirements and “just a few more revisions.” Sometimes the right answer is to make the changes, sometimes it’s wise to say “no more.” Since you don’t have to worry about being choked to death by the Force, it’s good business practice to include how many revisions you’re willing to accommodate in your contract. There’s nothing more difficult for a client to try to dispute something when it’s right there in black and white. Don’t leave your friends hanging.

Don’t leave your friends hanging.

The six-film (so far) arc has plenty of instances where people could have high-tailed it, but instead return to lend someone a helping hand. Han Solo helps clear the path for Luke to make a one-in-a-million shot on the first Death Star—the Empire’s giant space station that can annihilate an entire planet. Padme (Queen and then Senator of Naboo) goes back to Naboo to save her family and then again later with Anakin to find his mom and help Obi-Wan. Princess Leia and Lando put their lives in danger to save Luke when he is dangling precariously from Cloud City.

Lando and Chewbacca

As freelancers, we’re constantly balancing on a career tightrope, so we need to look out for our fellow independent workers in terms of job leads, clients who need specialists, or just general support. If you’re a writer, you may know good designers, developers, accountants, or even other writers with different skills. If you come to their aid, they’ll likely return the favor.

You’re your own worst enemy.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke goes into the cave on Dagobah where Darth Vader appears in the darkness and the two fight with lightsabers. The darkness symbolizes Luke’s own dark side which he must face and overcome by fighting what turns out to be an apparition of Vader, the epitome of evil. Luke thinks he is ready to take on Vader, but when it’s revealed that Vader has Luke’s face in this scene, this shows us that Luke’s real enemy is himself.

Luke Vader

This “whoa!” moment can help you acknowledge the role that you play in your entrepreneurial success or failure. Often we are our own worst enemy. Are you actively networking and pursuing leads? Do you return calls promptly and turn in work on time? Are you looking for ways to stay organized and efficient? Or are you too distracted by social media and Star Wars trailers? You’ll never really succeed if you keep sabotaging yourself, so be sure to get the support you need to always rise to the occasion—whether that’s getting organization apps or an action buddy with whom to check in.

The war goes on.

For a bunch of teenagers and Ewoks, Luke and his friends do pretty well for themselves. They take out two Death Stars, defeat the Empire’s top leadership, blow up plenty of capital ships, and kill a Hutt and a Wampa. Everyone gets shiny medals and an invite to the best party in town. But what about the next battle? In the upcoming seventh installment to this galaxy far, far away, we see that good and evil still haven’t resolved their differences.

We face the same situation in our freelance environment. We can, and should, celebrate a particularly successful contract or the satisfactory completion of a challenging project. But until we win the Lotto and retire, we need to remain vigilant. That means continuing to market ourselves for new clients or projects, upgrade our skills, learn from our mistakes, network with other freelancers, and take care of our health so that we’re in the best position to achieve all this.

You don’t have to know the difference between a Bantha and a Bith or even like Star Wars to discover new ways to become a better freelancer. There are all sorts of tools and tips in this epic space opera franchise available to help you become the very best in any universe.