Career Advice

No Work at the Moment? Use Downtime to Further Your Freelance Career

By Allie Gray Freeland April 26th, 2018

As a seasoned freelancer, you’re no stranger to the peaks and valleys of self-employment. Some weeks your head is spinning from overwork, your fingers cramped from incessant typing. Other weeks, you’re twiddling your thumbs looking at a blank computer screen, praying you’ll catch the next break soon.

Many freelancers seesaw between despair and hope—it just comes with the territory. Instead of sulking in despair during the valleys, do these six productive things:

1. Start streams of passive income

Passive income is cash flow you earn on a consistent basis. Unlike the typical freelance project, this type of income doesn’t require as much effort to maintain. It’s all about the pre-work that goes into the task at hand. Here are some ideas to generate passive income streams:

  • Monetize your website with advertising, affiliate links, or sponsorships.
  • Teach online courses via SkillshareLyndaTeachable, or General Assembly. You can also create a course on your website and charge for it.
  • Produce gated and paid content on your website, like an e-book, guide, or in-depth tutorial.

2. Rethink your mix of clients

Freelancers rarely have a roster full of perfect clients. When in a rut, think about your current client mix. How many provide work that actually propels you forward in your career, and how many are just a drain?

It may be time to start purging the latter and focusing on securing one or two anchor clients that can provide steady, reliable work. “[Anchor clients] are the secret to making a high income,” Suddenly Frugal‘s Leah Ingram said. “When you have an anchor client, your hourly rate goes up because you’re not marketing [as much]. The work comes to you.”

And remember, once you land the client, make sure you get that freelance contract in writing. Freelance union sites offer tons of templates.

3. Perfect your pitch

Given how many freelancers are out there competing, you have to work on differentiating yourself. During a slow period, you can take time to ask yourself:

  • What do I have to offer clients that is unique ?
  • Am I communicating my key differentiators or selling points in the most effective way to the right people?
  • Are my rates in line with other freelancers?
  • What do my accepted pitches have in common? What about rejected pitches?
  • What are other successful pitching strategies? (Here are three examples that have worked.)

4. Get your taxes in order

Tax Day is really a quarterly, if not monthly, occurrence for most freelancers. Between quarterly estimated taxes and the passing of new tax reform laws, it’s critical to maintain a view into your financials throughout the year. You’ll avoid potential penalties associated with freelance tax nonpayment and set the foundation for a profitable enterprise. Here are a few financial-related tasks you could complete while in a rut:

  • Do a cash flow analysis to determine if you can invest in classes, website re-design, or other career-related expenses.
  • Research apps to track mileage and expenses, and handle client invoicing.
  • Set monthly, quarterly, and yearly financial goals.

5. Rethink your beat

When it comes to topics or content types, have you been stuck doing the same thing for years? During a lull, rethink the industry you serve and the type of content you normally provide. Instead of filing blog post after blog post, maybe you could break into podcasting or focus on longform content like e-books and white papers. These projects tend to pay more than blog posts, news articles, or newsletter content. Alternatively, if you’re a freelance designer, consider enlisting the help of a writing coach so you can transition into a full-service shop.

6. Revamp your online presence

Lastly, if you’re between assignments, you can always revamp your social media accounts and online profile. Don’t change just for the sake of change, but really think about how you can professionalize your presence to increase the chances of getting work. Anything inbound (as opposed to pitched) is always a blessing. Consider the following upgrades:

  • Upload a new headshot.
  • Make sure your work samples are recent and reflect your expertise.
  • Optimize your profile description to include commonly searched keywords from hiring brands.
  • Stay active. An account that hasn’t been managed for months might as well be six feet underground.

Got more tips to be more productive and profitable during a rut? Tweet at us @TheFreelancer. If you’re a freelancer, register here for a Contently portfolio to get in front of top brands and score your next gig.

Image by David Von Diemar for Unsplash
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