So after working like crazy for a good long while, about a month ago I hit a bit of a lull. One of my clients was occupied with another project, my part-time onsite job with my old employer was tapering off, and another outlet stopped their paid content. You know, that is just the way of Freelance Lyfe, and a lot of the time you have zero control over that kind of thing.
While I had been working hard to keep my head well above water since last fall, it as my first lull and found myself with more free time than I had ever imagined.
And you know what? I started to get super anxious. All that spare time allowed my neurotic thoughts to creep up. What a waste of mental energy, amirite?
But whatever you do, DONT PANIC.
You could squander time quibbling over whether you did something wrong, or if your days as a if you should look into getting a part-time gig, or back into the 9-5. But you know what, unless you absolutely have to, all those negative thoughts are just wasted energy. Focus instead on what you can be doing with all that free time. You can even think of it as a gift.
Get Mo’ Work
If you need to get your hustle on, tap into your network to see what kinds of job opportunities are out there. I’ll go in greater detail about creating a CRM, or Customer Relations Management System, that will help you keep track current clients and potential leads, in a later post, but you’ll want to tap into connections you’ve already linked up with, which you’ll most likely have an easier time securing work.
Even if you have a lull, when it comes to consistent, ongoing work, if you can, you’ll want to keep your same pay scale as when you were busy. But what if you really need the money? I still say stick to your guns as much as possible, because when the work does ramp up again, you’ll be quick to drop the lower-paying clients. Plus you might not be as motivated to do your best work. That being said, you’re ultimately doing a disservice to both you and your clients.
For instance, I have a price range I would ideally like to charge per article, which can vary according to the type of outlet (i.e., a corporate client versus a consumer blog), word count, and the amount of research and interviewing is involved. I’m been tracking the time it takes me to write an article since I began freelancing full-time last fall, and I have an idea of how many articles I can take on in a given week. Of course, this isn’t a perfect science.
It’s also a good opportunity to go for the clients and type of work you really want to do. Who are your dream clients? What was lacking in the work you had been doing? Having a lull is kind of like clearing half of your slate, and having half a clean slate to work with. Kind of exciting, right?
Work on Yo’ Passion Projects
Okay, you know that project you’ve let fallen by the wayside, the one that you treat like an ugly stepchild? Well, don’t lollygag. Now’s your time to get crackin’ on what you really care about. Now when I sensed a lull coming on, I reached out to some outlets that were hiring to secure more work. But I soon stopped myself.
When I first started freelancing, I had thought about doing the minimal amount of work to get by so I could focus on finishing the first draft of my short story collection and working on this blog, but work ramped up quickly and I was reluctant to decline work, especially as I was used to having a day job.
Well guess what? I’m in a really situation to focus on my passion projects. And the best part is that I didn’t really have to let go of anything. I’ll be doing the whole digital nomad thing for the month of June, and am in Chicago. I’ve got a lot I want to explore while I’m here, including biking through the neighborhoods, eating delicious grub, and working on my collection of short stories.
If you want some time to focus on personal projects or to just enjoy yourself, I find it helpful to create a bit of structure. For instance, maybe you can spend a morning block of time to do your freelance work, and then spend the afternoon focusing on your personal stuff. And set a specific time. I have lied to myself by creating a loose structure. You just gotta stay accountable!
Enjoy Yo’ Self!
Give yourself permission to chill. You earned it. And even if you didn’t, so what? Do it anyway. Go check out a museum in the middle of a day, or go out for a leisurely lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s okay not to be focused on making the dollars 24/7. In fact, you’ll probably gain some perspective on the role work, having a career identity, and making money plays in your life.
Now for work-oriented people such as myself, this may be easier said than done. I tend to turn anything and everything into a project. I will eventually learn to chill out and have less on my plate, but to be honest not sure how to go about it. Does that sound strange? Oh well.
So yea, make the most of your lull. No need to fret or despair. I guess it’s important to remember that no one client is responsible for your financial well-being, professional development, or sanity. You are.
Illustration by Viet Vu