What to do When Your Freelance Work Dries up
The is the blessing and curse of being freelance.
Unfortunately, it comes with the territory. There are going to be times when you have more work that you can handle. But there are also going to be times when work slows down, and you find yourself with a wide open calendar.
For the creative freelancer not being able to find any work is one of the hardest parts of the job.
One of the primary selling points of going freelance is being able to set your own schedule, say no when you’re too busy and take a vacation whenever you damn well please.
But when you’re planning or hoping to be working and there isn’t any work you can go from feeling slightly annoyed to pretty frustrated to having a full-on is-the-phone-ever-going-to-ring-again panic attack pretty quick.
We know, we’ve had our own dry spells, our longest ones lasting six and eights weeks respectively. And when we say dry, we mean bone dry. Not so much as a single hour of billable work in that entire period.
So, here are some things you can do when the work dries up.
Let People Know You’re Not Busy
Sounds pretty basic, and it is. Go through your mental or better yet literal rolodex of favorite clients and fellow freelances and get in touch with a light message about how you're kind of light right now. The key words here are favorite and fellow. You are reaching out to clients who you've done great work for in the past, and colleagues who know how good you are because they’ve worked with you or alongside you.
Also do a little brainstorm about past clients who have moved onto new companies or new roles, especially if their goodbye I’m switching jobs email to you included a phrase like, “hoping to hire you in my new role.” While you’re at it, make a formal list of all these contacts that you can add to, amend and refer back to the next time things slow down.
Invite People to Lunch
What if you reach out to that favorite client and they say great to hear from you, nothing right now, but we might have something soon? Or that fellow freelancer who does what you do and says they’re also kind of slow? Invite them to lunch. Or coffee, or a drink, or whatever you like to do that they like to do too.
For the former client who might also be a future client it’s a great way reconnect catch up and tell them what you’ve been up to. Chances are they’ll tell you more about the upcoming project giving you an opportunity to tell them how exciting it sounds. As for fellow freelancers, it’s a chance to reconnect, brainstorm about new places you might approach about work, and have more fun than eating lunch by yourself at home refreshing your emails to see if anyone is contacting you about work.
Update Your Credentials
You know you should be regularly updating your website, and your Linkedin page, and your other work and social media related sites. So go ahead and do it. You’ve got time. And you know what happens when you make a significant change to your Linkedin page, right? Yeah, exactly. Everyone you’re connected to gets a ping to congratulate you, putting you top of mind and reminding them you’re out there which might make them realize you’d make a good fit for the upcoming project they have.
So think back on the last months, what new projects do want to share? What new skills have your acquired? Is how you describe yourself to potential clients as accurate and sharp as it can be?
A big part of what we talk about in the Mt. Freelance course is reframing time without client work as time to work on your own freelance business.
Book a Non-Refundable Vacation
This sounds counter-intuitive, but trust us. The universe somehow knows when you make vacation plans and puts in motion a series of events that will lead to not only one, but likely multiple people contacting you, desperately wanting you to start working the day you’re supposed to start vacation. So go ahead and make those plans to do that thing you’re meaning to do. If for some reason we’re wrong and work calls don’t immediately come in, then guess what? Now you’re going on vacation instead of sitting around the house waiting for a work call that isn’t coming anyway.
Cultivate a hobby
What do you call someone who doesn’t have any interests outside of work? Boring. As well as someone who will drive everyone around them crazy if they’re not working. If you’ve already got hobbies that you prefer to be doing other than your work, great. If not, come up with some. Make a list of things you love to do, or maybe used to love to do, or always wanted to try but never had the time.
Whatever tactic sounds best to you, here's the trick. Implement it BEFORE you start freaking out about not working. In fact, you don't even have to wait until a job ends before starting to plant the seeds that will help you line up your next one.
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