Contrary to the popular misconceptions, it’s not all lie-ins, late starts and lazy days as a freelancer. Sure, they’re part of it, however more often than not freelancing poses significant challenges – few bigger than the feast or famine cycle.
As an ex-freelance writer, it’s a problem I know all too well. Periods of feast feel like they’ll last forever, freelancing feeling like a path to riches. Then, a couple of weeks down the line, you’re back eating baked beans out of a tin, bawling your eyes out over a lack of work… or maybe that’s just me.
Regardless, it’s a problem that needs addressing if you’re to have a long and fruitful career as a freelancer. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive way to beat feast or famine (you’re likely to get bouts now again, that’s the nature of business), however there are ways you can limit its impact, easing the strain on your wallet as well as your stress levels.
Here are five of my freelancing tips to help you cope with the ups and downs.
Constantly be marketing
First in my freelancing tips is marketing. You must constantly carve out time for marketing, even when you’re at your busiest. On the face of it, this might feel counter-intuitive, however bear in mind that any digital marketing you do in the present might be grabbing you work later down the line. It often takes time for marketing to transfer into sales, so the more often you do it, the better.
Leave it until your projects are all wrapped up and you could have no work coming in thanks to your lack of marketing.
Instead, try to do a little every day – perhaps pitching out for new work, networking, or chasing up old clients. This should bear fruit later on and limit the chance of famine.
If you haven’t already got one or two, try to grasp a big client, as they can help limit times of famine.
Bigger businesses are more likely to have big projects, meaning that they should have more work going around. I’m not necessarily talking conglomerates (although by all means give them a try). I mean those medium sized businesses, perhaps going through growth. Do a little research and look who’s growing.
Let economic conditions play into your hands here. With businesses big and small cutting back on full-timers, there’s increasing possibilities for freelancers.
And also think small
Third in my freelancing tips is think small. Whilst it’s important to have a few big businesses on your rolodex, don’t shy away from the small because they’re just as integral. Be too reliant on one big client and should they leave you, a gaping hole in your income will ensue. So, with this in mind, target smaller businesses in your marketing too.
Local traders, shops, restaurants. All these need an online presence nowadays, many not knowing the first thing about web design in 2020 or any year to be honest! Being the go-to web guru for these folk, you ought to ease the chance of famine.
Be too reliant on one big client and should they leave you, a gaping hole in your income will ensue.
Be frugal with finances
Learn from my mistakes here. Once I snared my first big pay cheque, I splashed out on an expensive holiday to Ibiza. Fun at the time, a month down the line my bank account was looking bleak. Rather than indulging in sun, sand and sangria I should have put some of that money aside.
It’s important to have a cushion for when times get tough, and tough they got once I returned from holiday. The financial crisis hit and almost overnight, work became ten times harder to come by. In short, keep some money aside as a famine can appear out of nowhere.
Divide up your deadlines
Now, this last of my freelancing tips won’t impact upon your earnings too much however it might help with your sanity. When agreeing work, try to space deadlines out and attempt to get agreements with clients that won’t leave you frantically rushing, pulling all nighters fuelled by energy drinks.
Your work will likely suffer, along with your health, too. With this in mind, consider getting to grips with some project management software – Basecamp, Remember The Milk, Trello. Use Google Drive and it’s a calendar feature to ensure you keep things from clashing. Spacing projects and deadlines out should prevent you from having too much or too little work at once.