Writer • Editor • Digital Strategist

How to Handle Slow Times As a Freelancer

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July 24, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Ever hear of a summer slowdown? It can happen in any business—whether you’re working a corporate job and waiting for a manger or advertiser to get back to you, or you may have a product or service-based business that takes a hit when everyone goes away on summer vacations. While a slower pace is often welcome when you’re working in a corporate environment, when you’re supporting yourself by running your business, it can feel worrisome and stressful when no one is getting back to you about your article and project pitches. Last summer I shared my tips with the Fast Company’s audience in this article “How to Use a Summer Slowdown to Advance Your Career.”

I can’t speak for other freelancers out there, but when business is slow, I tend to stalk my bank account at least daily (maybe a few times), while checking the tabs in my Google sheet on “Invoices Out” and “Assignments Working On” so I’m tallying up how much I’ll have when all that money comes in over the next two months.

When I decided to step away from my part-time in house editorial role at MuscleandFitness.com at the end of May, I had some clients and assignments lined up for the summer and an idea of how much my business would make if I only did those articles. While I was missing that steady income direct deposited into my bank account, I knew my upcoming assignments would be adequate for keeping me afloat for the season.

I knew if business was slower in the summer, it would allow me more personal time to enjoy my favorite season, work on building the freelance writing course and coaching business I’m launching in a month, and update other aspects of my business that fall to the wayside once I’m crazy busy with work.

Anyone who has been freelancing for at least a year probably understands that there’s a “feast or famine” workload that often happens in this business and it can take some getting used to.

I figured it might be helpful to share some ways I take advantage of a slower pace in the summer in order to set myself up for success in the future:

  • Write content for the freelance writing online course I’m creating
  • Create an email newsletter about the freelance course
  • Redesign my website with the help of a designer
  • Add some of my latest articles to my portfolio
  • Update my LinkedIn profile with new skills, clients
  • Reach out to editors and clients I worked with on LinkedIn to say hello
  • Read magazines that have been piling up in my apartment and jot down potential ideas for them
  • Met with PR people I don’t make time for when I’m busier
  • Attend media events and network with editors, PR reps, and writers
  • Have lunch and coffee with freelance writer friends
  • Find new classes to take at the gym
  • Research how my IRA is performing and moved mutual funds around
  • Posted some items to sell on eBay
  • Read fiction for pleasure
  • Launch this freelance writing blog
  • Make more time to see friends and family in person or catch up on the phone
  • Read content on sites I like and want to write for as well as clients’ sites
  • Watch shows that media is buzzing about, like “Glow” and “To the Bone”
  • Visit museums in NYC during weekdays, like The Intrepid
  • Contact new clients that may take longer to research and pitch to
  • Beef up my social media presence on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, while finding new people to follow
  • Reach out to clients I worked with the past two years who I didn’t connect with in busier times
  • Join Facebook groups for freelance writers, editors, and followed message threads
  • Sign up for online courses from other freelancers
  • Take long walks and listen to podcasts with interesting interviews so I feel like I’m learning while exercising
  • Visit the magazine section of Barnes & Noble to do magazine research
  • Pitch editorial services to new clients for bigger, long-term projects
  • Plan my wedding for next year (The slowdown came at a good time after I got engaged so I could spend hours doing research, spiraling down a wedding and bride rabbit hole of ideas with less guilt, and taking a day in the middle of the week to check out venues.)

While it’s easy (and probably common) to feel anxious and nervous when your inbox is quiet and it seems like your pitches have disappeared into a black hole, take a breath and give clients and editors time. This is much easier to do when you have a savings safety net and if you don’t have a ton of debt. I know it’s tough to be chill about freelance writing when you’re used to being busy with writing, clients, and projects, but I find it helpful to have faith in the process. If I do my best to increase pitching, marketing, social media, and learning during the downtime, it’ll pay off well within a few days, weeks or months.

What do you do with your time when business slows down?

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Diana can help with:

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