It’s this downward swing of freelance that you won’t hear much about from your self-employed friends. Freelance is a pendulous existence. You’re either having the best time ever, struggling to fit in all the commissions and exciting work you’ve secured or sat staring into space, wondering what exactly you’ve done with your life as everything slowly closes in around you. It’s at low points like these where the thought of crawling back into bed for a good old wallow feels the most appealing. Turns out, the hidden cost of having unchecked flexibility is actually having unchecked flexibility. As the person who calls the shots, you only have yourself to blame when things are going well and when everything feels lost. Yaay… (sigh)
Having endured both situations, I’ve noticed a few things that are worth bearing in mind whenever the work dries up and commissions feel few and far between. Firstly, try to stay focused. Whenever my inbox is looking sparse, it can be easy to lose direction and resort to a scattergun approach in order to secure more work. While one or two carefully planned pitches can certainly help, it’s often not worth tampering with your professional reputation by shooting off some half-baked ideas just because you want to feel busy again. Instead, put your precious time and energy to practical use and focus on the areas of your career that are within your reach to develop. Completing exciting briefs is only one aspect of the freelance lifestyle and while it may be the main one, there are plenty of other parts of the package that need nurturing to ensure the longevity of your work.
Giving your website, social media presence and portfolio a bit of a facelift is background task that can pay off in the long-term. Yes - even giving your LinkedIn profile a bit of attention can help during these quiet moments too. A fully optimised and regularly populated page can increase your visibility and maybe even attract new clients, and by keeping your portfolio updated with all your latest work you can be ready to showcase your most recent achievements whenever you need to introduce yourself to a new editor in a hurry. Most importantly though, as a writer I’ve found that it’s key to try and remain sharp and keep moving forward during these periods of drought. Head to your blog and write - just for the sake of it. Hone your craft and create something new. Independent working can either be all over the place or scarily quiet but when it boils down to it, the best tool you have in your arsenal is yourself, your drive and your creativity. No one’s going to hand you anything on a platter - so with things get quiet, it’s time to get busy.