The feast/famine cycle. It's something every freelancer has to learn to manage. Sometimes the amount of work you’ve got on feels overwhelming - other times, weeks can go by without any work at all. And then panic starts to set in.
That’s why the theme of this month’s TweetUp was 'What To Do When Work Dries Up'. Once again, the Solo community didn’t disappoint and came through with some great advice. So in case you missed it, here are the best bits from last night’s TweetUp.
Take a Break
Freelancers often moan about a lack of spare time (myself included). You’re lucky if you get a full weekend to yourself, as there's always something that needs doing, and it can be extremely difficult to turn work down to take time off.
So if you’re going through a bit of a dry spell, take advantage of it. Enjoy it and chill out. Catch up with friends or take a mini break. Book a last minute flight somewhere and kick back with a cocktail on a beach for a few days.
Chances are, by the time you return, your inbox will be bursting with jobs. You’ll be swamped with requests and back to cursing your life and workload in no time at all.
Give Yourself an Appraisal
If the phone isn’t ringing off-the-hook with new work offers and your inbox isn’t bulging with requests from demanding clients, now might be a good time to review your business as a whole.
How are you doing? Have you been getting many new/repeat clients? Are you getting better at what you do? If so, maybe you should consider putting up your rates?
It’s also a good chance to go over old work with no pressure and fresh eyes, and see if there’s anything you could have done better. Which leads us nicely onto our next #SoloMeet suggestion.
Revisit Old Work
If there's a project you really enjoyed but didn't quite crack, or an idea you had that was spoilt by a client amend - now might be the ideal time to go back and take another look.
You can tidy up lose ends, tighten up your copy, or change a colour scheme to make things more contemporary. Whatever needs fixing, doing so can give old work a new lease of life.
And you know what? Do a good job and it might just be reason enough to contact that client again. And if they like what you've done, your work-drought might be about to end.
Work on Your Blog
We all know blogs are a great way to attract new clients and business as a freelancer. They also provide you with something to push out across your social media - but unless you're a whizz with words they can sometimes prove a struggle to update.
Quiet periods are the perfect opportunity to search for new content and fresh ideas. They're also a chance to take a look and see what the competition are doing on theirs.
If you have a day or two free, you can dedicate the time to putting together several blog posts, so they're ready to go. That way, you won't have to worry about putting together your next article when work picks up.
Put Together Case Studies
If you struggle to come up with blog ideas, you could try putting together a case study. It's a smart, useful, and very professional way to attract work.
Best of all, done well, it feels organic. Any prospects reading it won't evern realise they've being wooed.
A good case study not only gives you some great blog content that's very shareable, it gives you the chance to walk people through your thinking and show off your skills to potential clients.
One of the main benefits of a blog, is it gives you the chance to demonstrate your expertise in your chosen field. And I can't think of a better way to do that than with an impressive case study of your best work.
Our human uses downtime to scoop our poop, prepare our caviar & stockpile awesome content for his Social Media #SoloMeet— Ike & Bam (@Thecopycatz) August 28, 2014
Prepare an Assault on Social Media
In this day and age, social media is a necessity for freelancers. However, it can also be a bit of a time suck. We’ve already got some great blogs up to help you get the most out of SM - but another way you can start using it to its maximum potential, is start using it when you’re quiet.
When you haven’t got a lot of work on you can use sites like Twitter and LinkedIn to start building new clientele, expand your network and search for people who may need your skills. You also have the time to experiment with it a bit more. Try finding some new hashtags to use like #designerWanted or #FreelancerForHire.
Another thing you can do is use this quiet time to search the web and stockpile content for use when work picks up again. That way, you won’t have to spend precious hours on your social when you’re back running at full capacity in a few weeks' time.
Call Up Past Clients
Take the opportunity to catch up with old clients, as they may need something new done to their site or design. And if you feel like you're begging for scraps, you can be subtle about it...
You can meet them for a drink for a catch up so it feels less formal and more like a social occasion. And if your relationship isn't quite on that level yet you can always meet them for a 'working lunch' (just make sure you save the receipts!)
If they don't have anything for you, keeping in touch will at least keep you on their radar, make them notice you still care, and they might even be able to recommend you for a job to other clients.
Hit The Job Boards
Here's a great idea from Art, who just recently wrote a brilliant guest article for us full of help for any freelancers who are just starting out. After all, aside from the dry spells the start is the hardest part of going freelance.
As usual, Art's advice is spot on. When he tells you to look at the traditional job boards when work is scarce - he's right. Companies looking to fill a full-time position might need to fill the position with a freelancers until they find their ideal candidate.
Expand Your Skillset
When things are slow you can use the time to become better at what you do. It's a great time to watch some YouTube tutorials or take a short course to broaden your skills.
You can also use the time to experiment with new tools or become proficient with a new piece of software (or one you really like, but aren't quite up to speed on, so you can finally make the switch).
Learn a language. Human or programming. #SoloMeet— Gabor Javorszky (@javorszky) August 28, 2014
Learn a New Language
And why stop at learning how to use a new piece of software or technology? Immerse yoursef in languages and you'll open up a whole new set of opportunities for yourself.
If you're a graphic designer, brush up on your copywriting and if you're a copywriter learn some basic HTML? You've just doubled your potential income right there, homie!
And if you want to totally smash the ball out the park, start learning a foreign language. You'll open up a totally new market place, possibly making dry spells a thing of the past forever.
Contribute To Open Source Projects
If you're a freelance developer and have got nothing else on, there are a number of reasons you might want to think about contributing to open source projects on platforms like Github or CodePlex.
They give you the chance to learn from more experienced programmers, and are often tight-knit communities where you can make friends who'll help you out if you get stuck on a job you're doing for a paying client further down the line.
They also give you the chance to influence the direction of popular products, as well as the chance to earn kudos and get recognition for your work, which can then lead to paid jobs.
One of my favorite things to do when work dries up is start working on all those personal projects! #solomeet— Kyle Chicoine (@KyleChicoine) August 28, 2014
Set Your Own Brief
Personal projects are great, because they're fun and enjoyable. What's more, they give you and your work a chance to really shine.
Without a restrictive brief, brand guidelines, budget limitations, and a client who's too chicken to see a great idea through - you have a golden opportunity.
Produce some truly incredible work. Show clients what you're capable of when given the chance. And if you redesign something like the Google logo well enough, it could go viral or and maybe open doors.
#SoloMeet I've found local meetups and networking events really useful when you're looking for more work (or soon finishing a project)— Sophia Skinbjerg (@sophiaskinbjerg) August 28, 2014
Go to Networking Events
There's no better time to go to networking than when you have nothing on the next day, periods when work is scarce are the perfect time to go make some new contacts and indulge in some free wine!
Screw the hangover! Networking events are good fun and a great way to meet new people and make contacts. However, thankfully for your liver, you can network in other ways too.
There are dozens of chat rooms, webinars, forums and meetups which can all prove useful to the modern freelancer. Check out this blog which was recommended to us in last night's TweetUp by @TheFreelancer. Thanks guys!
Keep calm and carry on - that's what we learned from this month's #SoloMeet. It's just like our intro says: The feast/famine cycle is something that every freelancer has to learn to manage.
So if you’re going through a period with no work, the first thing to do is - don't panic!
Recognise there will be times when work is slow and they’re a natural part of the freelance cycle. The keyword here being cycle; as in, it will pass. Dry spells happen to everyone and are not necessarily a reflection of you or your work.
In fact, if this TweetUp has taught us anything, it's that dry spells should be embraced. They're actually a great opportunity for you to take advantage of and up your abilities.
This blog post is brought to you by the creators of Solo; your freelance wingman. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, contact us on hello[at]wearethrive.com.