What I Learned About Freelancing from Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball -- Freelancing GeniusI have a confession to make. As a child, I grew up watching repeats of I Love Lucy.

One thing that I could count on every time I watched an episode is that I would end up laughing. Little did I know that I was also picking up on valuable truths that would serve me for a lifetime.

As a daffy and zany housewife, Lucille Ball’s character would seem to be the last place that a freelancer could find business tips. Well, if you’re thinking that, then you are wrong. Not only are there lessons to be learned from the I Love Lucy television series, there are also lessons to be learned from Lucille Ball’s life. Here are a few of them:

  1. Be Universal. What made the I Love Lucy show stand out among the comedies of its day was that Lucy touched on day-to-day issues – issues that still concern us – and made them seem less serious. The universal appeal of the television show gave it one of the widest audiences that a television comedy has ever had.For the freelancer: There’s currently a debate about whether specialization is a good thing or a bad thing for a freelancer. Lucille Ball had a specialty – comedy. But, at the same time, her material appealed to everyone. As freelancers, we should make sure that we haven’t painted ourselves too tightly into a box.
  2. Try New Things. On the show, Lucy Ricardo was willing to try just about anything once. From running a dress shop to becoming a spokeswoman for “Vitameatavegamin” to her willingness to audition for one of Ricky’s shows (again and again). Lucy was fearless when it comes to trying new things.For the freelancer: It may feel like I’m up on my soapbox again and I probably am, but a freelancer who is won’t try new things is a freelancer that is going out of business. The market is constantly changing and it’s important to keep up with it.

  3. Don’t Give Up. Lucy Ricardo was not a quitter. In fact, her dogged determination lends humor to many episodes because she simply refuses to give in. Evidently, Lucille Ball shared her perseverance. From some accounts, Lucille Ball was sent home from drama school because her teachers felt that she would never make it as an actress, yet she didn’t give up on her dream.For the freelancer: Quitting is one way to absolutely guarantee your failure. If you find yourself rejected or face an obstacle, figure out what went wrong and try again.

  4. Be More Than What You Seem. Who could imagine that the actress behind the bumbling and daffy Lucy Ricardo character on television was actually a shrewd and savvy businesswoman? Lucille Ball played a major role in her own success and wound up being the first woman to own a production studio.For the freelancer: It’s better to have too many skills or too much knowledge than to have too few skills or too little knowledge. Likewise, it’s better to over deliver on a project than to under deliver.

  5. Everyone Needs a Friend. What would Lucy Ricardo have been without Ethel Mertz? Sure, Ethel played the straight character to Lucy’s zany one – but the underlying truth behind the show is that friendship is important. Ethel and Lucy might have had their differences, but in the end they always made up.For the freelancer: As a freelancer, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your work – so wrapped up that you forget to spend time with those folks who are important in your life. Don’t let your work life destroy your personal life.

  6. Laughter Is Good For You. One of the greatest things about the I Love Lucy series is its ability to raise the spirits. The characters themselves understood the value of laughter and often an episode of the television series ended with Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred all in laughter after they had unraveled a misunderstanding.For the freelancer: Humor can get you through a lot of tough times. In my opinion, the ability to laugh at yourself is one of the key ingredients of success.

  7. Be Yourself. Lucille Ball was an original. From her bright red hair to her silly costumes to her loud laugh, there was no mistaking her for someone else. Against the network’s wishes, she insisted on starring with her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. If there had been a rulebook for becoming a star in her era, Lucy probably would have broken every rule.For the freelancer: There are a lot of well-meaning people (sometimes including yours truly) who are only too happy to tell you what you should do. The truth is, you’re already an expert at something – being yourself. Why not take advantage of that?

There are a lot of business lessons that can be learned by examining the lives of others — many people have done the things we want to do and have a lot of experience to show for it. Do you have any role models that you look up to for inspiration?