What Freelancers Can Learn From William Hung

“She bangs! She bangs!”

There are few contestants on American Idol who have been quite as memorable as William Hung. He appeared on the program in early 2004, offering his rendition of Ricky Martin’s song. Yes, we all laughed at him at the time and there was clearly no chance that he would ever win the competition, but became an overnight sensation. Often ridiculed as a joke, Hung then left college to pursue a career in music.

He enjoyed some moderate success, releasing three albums with Koch Entertainment, even if he was perceived as endorsing racial stereotypes against Asians. Hung has since left the entertainment business, but what can we as entrepreneurial freelancers learn from William Hung’s experience?

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

When he went to audition on American Idol, William Hung was a civil engineering student at University of California, Berkeley. The latter could have led to a very lucrative and respectable career, but Hung had a passion for music and a love for performing. Most other people in his position would not have taken the risk of appearing on national TV, but he took that chance and the judges effectively laughed him out of the room.

It may not have been particularly prudent, but William Hung took a risk. Even after Simon Cowell told Hung that he could neither sing nor dance, Hung told him that he “already gave my best and I have no regrets at all.” That’s an amazing attitude. Even if you go so far as to think that failure is inevitable, you can recognize the value of the learning experience.

In your freelance career, even when you think the odds are stacked against you, there’s no way for you to know how far you can go unless you step out on that stage and take a shot. The only way you can truly guarantee failure is to not try at all.

Embrace Your Awkwardness

Nobody’s perfect. We all have our quirks and there’s nothing wrong with some gentle jabbing between friends. I’ve written before about how we all need to be able to laugh at ourselves, because life doesn’t have to be that serious. The sooner you can come to grips with who you are, the sooner you can move on and focus on what you do best.

To say that William Hung is an awkward performer is to put it lightly, but he loved his brief pop music career. He was able to build up a cult following and land a record deal, along with appearances on TV, movies and commercials. While some people may say that Hung was absolutely shameless in his self-exploitation, we have to respect his ability to strike the pan while it was still hot. How many other American Idol contestants got the kind of attention that he did? As a freelancer, you have to capitalize on who you are and embrace every success you earn.

Destroy Your Pigeon Hole

Yes, most of us still see William Hung as that awkward young man on a national singing competition show. We still see him as that object of ridicule, but Hung has since been able to break free of that depiction. As it turns out, he took on a job as a technical crime analyst with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2011. While he may look back fondly at his pop music career, he is also optimistic for his future in law enforcement. You may have laughed at him once… and now he’s the one helping catch bad guys and keep the streets safe.

This brings a whole new meaning to “she bangs” in Hung’s life. He now follows the smoking gun to track when and where “she moves, she moves,” warning police officers that while the female suspect may “look like a flower,” she actually “stings like a bee, like every girl in history.” And as a freelancer, you have the same vocational freedom. You’re not “just” a writer or “just” a photographer. You can be whatever and whoever you want to be.