It’s always been feast or famine when you are freelancing. Whether you are under contract to publishing houses, are popular with students and indie authors or push yourself on social media, there will be times when the work dries up. It’s in the nature of freelancing that workload is uneven but for many of us, bills come in with frightening regularity. So how do you cope with the slumps?
- Be a squirrel; when times are good, stash some cash in a savings account, pay off your credit card and fill the freezer.
- If you belong to a professional association or similar, check to see if they have a directory or means of advertising your availability on a short-term basis.
- Be active on social media, particularly where there are private groups for freelancers in your field. Cultivate relationships, then someone who is overloaded may call on you to help.
- Be publicly upbeat. People might get the wrong idea why you have no work. Turn it into a positive, so the reader thinks there is a rare slot coming up they would be mad to ignore.
- Update your website so it is the best it can be. Learn about inbound marketing. Write some blogs. Tell the world, and the world will come to you.
It’s difficult to stay positive when things look grim and there appears to be no end to the slump but it does give you time to take a step back and have a close look at your business. Are you doing any planning, or are you relying on jobs dropping out of the sky by chance? Do you only work for companies, or do you hope enough members of the public will come forward to use you? It’s always good to have a mixture of ‘one-off’ and ongoing clients when you are freelancing, whether these are businesses or not. Similarly, a mixture of job length (and possibly type) is good. A lot of small jobs will quickly add up if you work efficiently, and most can be slotted in between those longer manuscripts you have allocated two or more weeks to. Sometimes—and this has happened to me—a small job done well can result in a lucrative, interesting and big project that is right up your street and will keep you fed for a year. Clients sometimes test you without you even realizing it.
Consider diversifying: I am a copywriter as well as an editor and proofreader, which has expanded my client base as well as allowing some up selling to current clients. Don’t spread yourself too thinly or venture into unknown territory, but consider how your services and skills could be adapted for a different market. Look at your hobbies and interests—will any of those allow you to offer specialist expertise?
In quiet times, it is also important to recharge your batteries. Do what you need to in order to get work in, then step away from the computer. Give your brain a rest, your body some extra exercise and fresh air, and above all—don’t worry. You don’t want to appear too desperate when the phone finally rings with someone offering you a good gig. And it will.
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