5 tips to break the freelance famine

Sara Donaldson - Freelancers

This is a guest blog from Sara Donaldson. Sara is a freelance editor with an eye for a mystery. When not editing a range of projects (mostly non-fiction) she can be found with her Sherlock hat on as a professional genealogist. You can find her on Twitter @psychodwarf

No matter how hard a freelancer likes to pretend that they have a full schedule – all of the time – for many freelancers there are times when there is no work coming in. It may be because a project has unexpectedly failed, it may be because work naturally comes in waves (imagine the rush to get stuff out for Christmas, then nothing in January), or it may be that there is just no work coming their way. Sometimes it’s all down to lack of marketing and ‘getting yourself out there’ but sometimes it’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Whatever the reason, at some point, even the most in demand freelancer will find themselves twiddling their thumbs and looking at a blank slot in their diary.

When lack of work hits it’s too easy, especially for the new freelancer, to have a sudden lack of confidence. Did I do something wrong? Am I marketing myself all wrong? Am I talking to the right people? Does anyone know I exist? Will I ever work again??

Fear not… there is usually something around the corner. If you have absolutely NO work on the horizon, pull your socks up and get your marketing strategy looked at, sharpish!

But when lack of work hits, and you really can’t afford to take time off, there are a few things to try…

  1. Contact old clients and remind them you are still alive. Let them know you have a gap in your schedule.
    I must admit I HATE doing this… I’m not a natural marketer; the thought of it makes me feel ill.
  2. Hit social media and let people know you have a gap in your schedule.
    Be polite and for goodness-sake do not hit twitter every half hour to scream that you need work. Have a look, there are lots of people doing that and it screams of desperation – and there is nothing that looks worse than desperation, even if you are desperate!
  3. Contact an agency.
    If you have a big gap, it may be worth signing up to a recruitment agency to see if they can put you on their books. They are in business for a reason and so are you…see if you can be beneficial to one another.
  4. Contact potential new clients.
    Have a look and see if you can spot a few places that may need your skills. Contact them in a professional manner, contact the right person in the company, explain what you have to offer them and state that you have an opening in your books. Be polite, to the point and be professional. It may be best to check first to see if they hire freelancers… some companies do and some don’t.
  5. Tell your professional contacts that you have a gap.
    You never know when one of your colleagues may have too much work or knows someone who needs your skills.

None of the above is easy. None of it. Unless you are supremely confident in selling yourself it will feel personal. Freelancers are, after all, selling themselves when they sell their services… we don’t have a big company to hide behind, we are not cogs in the machine, we ARE the machine.

Lack of work is real, and when it hits it can be a problem. There is no point in pretending that this isn’t the case. If you are constantly booked up, well done, you’re amazing. If you aren’t constantly booked up, don’t worry, you are just like the rest of us.

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  1. I’d also say: start 12 months ago. It’s much easier to market yourself when you don’t need to. Inbound marketing works at its best with longer timescales.

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