Have you ever noticed that the freelance life is either feast or famine? Sometimes, you're trying frantically to balance 20 clients at once as that vaguely-remembered state of consciousness called sleep becomes a distant memory. Other days, you can't pay someone to give you a gig.
When the slow times come--and they will--don't declare a vacation and party until the work starts trickling in again. Instead, use the time to strengthen and build your business to minimize the financial impact of dry spells in the future.
Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Market, market, market.
Try cold-calling, warm-calling, email campaigns, direct mail campaigns, and tapping into social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Take out a paid ad through Google or Facebook. Go back to your client list and touch base with the people you haven't heard from in a while--nothing high-pressured, just a short email that asks how they're doing and lets them know that you're still available to take on projects. I've even been reduced to going around town and leaving my business cards and brochures at any business with a community bulletin board.
2. Catch up on the business end of things.
If you've been letting the business end of your freelance career slip, now is a great time to get caught up. Send all those invoices you've been putting off, and follow up with non-paying clients. Now is also a good time to get a simple accounting program and enter your business's expenses and income. Granted, it doesn't really make for a good time, but think how pleased your accountant will be with you.
3. Learn a new skill.
Have you always wished you know how to write grants? Document papers in APA format? Put together compelling white papers? Market yourself more effectively? Now is the time to research and take classes to learn skills that will earn you business in the future.
4. Focus on your own projects.
Whether you have a half-written novel that you haven't touched in ages, a manuscript about a cat sanctuary in Rome that you need to market, or a great idea for a book about a local celebrity, slow times make a great time to follow up on your own pet projects. You can even do it guilt-free, because you know you're not taking time away from your clients.
5. Look at sources of passive income.
There are many sources of passive income. One of my favorites is Web Answers, which allows you to create an account and answer other people's questions. After you have answered a certain number of questions, you can create a Google Adshare account and make money from clicks on Google ads. Another great source of passive income is the e-book. I list e-books on Amazon Kindle. They don't cost a thing to upload, and if you choose a popular topic and market effectively, you can make some good money.
Whatever you do during the down times, don't allow yourself to fall into a pit of despair. The freelance business is unpredictable. Even if you don't have anything in the pipeline today, you could get half a dozen calls and be crazy-busy again tomorrow. It's just a matter of hanging on until business picks up.