Every freelancer will tell you that throughout their career there will be periods of high workload, and then just as quickly the work will slow down again. This phenomenon is called a freelancing famine.
Learning how to manage ‘the feast and the famine’ is one of the most challenging aspects to working as a freelancer. Understandably this fear is what often causes many freelancers to take a retreat and head back to a 9 to 5 job. But with a little forward thinking and a solid plan to manage the tough times, this simply isn’t necessary.
At some stage every freelancer has asked the following questions, ‘How am I going to get through this? How can I make ends meet?’ Below are some helpful tips that my freelancing colleagues and I have learnt throughout our careers to help you through a freelancing famine.
Embrace the fear
After a few months of slogging away at the computer a big, fat payday comes rolling in and you think ‘WooHoo, I deserve to celebrate!’ Yes, but try to put a small amount aside for the slow periods. Over time you will build an emergency fund and the famine won’t be quite so bad.
Don’t sell yourself short
Many freelancers get really nervous and will start working for less than what they are worth. Don’t get too desperate, because while you working on these projects you might miss more valuable opportunities which will lead to even great opportunities you may not be able to see.
Having a part-time job is a great way to help supplement your freelancing income while you’re building your business and get you through the slow periods. This can be anything, the choice is yours.
Service with a smile
The most important part of any business is to provide an excellent level of service to all clients. This will ensure regular business and referrals to other business groups. Don’t be too concerned about offering a small amount of free extra customer support. High levels of service always lead to more work.
Expand your business network and maintain regular contact. You want to be at the forefront of your business contacts minds when work is available. This also opens up opportunities for referrals. Just remember there is a delicate balance between hassling people and maintaining a professional business relationship.
Expand your scope
If your workload has slowed then it might be time to expand your services or also the content area that you work in. The skills of a freelancer are often varied, and it could be time to diversify, but ensure you only complete work you are experienced enough to provide a quality outcome.
Corporate hiring freeze
While many organizations are experiencing hiring freezes, the workload remains. While the organizations cannot hire permanent staff, they may be allowed to hire temporary staff to meet the deadlines. Again, this is why it is helpful to maintain your network.
Don’t forget tax time
Unfortunately when it rains it pours. Freelancing work all seems to come at the same time and bills seem to do the same thing. One bill that you don’t want to fear is your tax bill. This can be easily avoided by putting a small amount of money aside each week. Try to remember to do the same for your superannuation.
Shop like your life depends on it
Whether you’re buying a new computer or office supplies make sure you get the most out of your money. It may only be a few dollars here-and-there but eventually it all adds up. Also don’t get carried away. It’s really easy to succumb to the marketing ploys in the big department stores, however, stick to essentials. No one really needs all the different shades of post-it notes!
Patience is a virtue
All businesses experience quiet periods, but try to take this as an opportunity to build your business in different ways.
Surviving as a freelancer and surviving the famine
Building a successful business as a freelancer can take time. Maintaining longevity and surviving the tough times can be tricky, but more and often than not, what can appear a challenge at the present moment, can be a stepping stone to much bigger things.
These are just a few tricks that I have learnt throughout my career. I would really like to hear how you’ve built your business and survived periods of freelancing famine.
Good luck, and happy freelancing!