The typical freelance career, illustrated, would probably look like a wave. It has "crests", where you have more than enough work to keep you going, and "troughs", where you have little, if any, work on your plate.
During the "trough" times — or "famine periods", if you will — you have to be extra careful since it’s when you’re most vulnerable to being upset, desperate, and ready to take on any job, no matter how degrading the work and/or the pay, as long as you can get by. But you know what? There are better ways to deal with "troughs" than settling for the low-hanging fruit.
Think about it. If you have less work at the moment, you have more free time to focus on tasks that can help with your freelance business. These tasks increase your productivity, flex your entrepreneurial muscles, and, most importantly, give your business a push in the right direction, whether you’re in a "crest" or a "trough".
1. Pitch Guest Posts to Websites in Your Niche
Do you have any skills, knowledge, or experience that the Average Joe can’t easily learn/fake? Use these to your advantage by pitching article ideas to websites that align with your interests and expertise. You can start with Carol Tice’s list of 100+ websites that pay you to write, but not before reading Hongkiat’s excellent articles on the do’s and don’ts of guest posting.
By the way, use guest posting in moderation. If you have something to say, and can put a unique yet grounded spin on what you want to say, then by all means send in that pitch. If you’re only guest posting for the exposure and backlinks at the expense of your readers, there’s a good chance Google will penalize you for that.
2. Update Your Online Profiles
If you’ve learned new skills, gained more experience, or just finished a major project you’re proud of, it can only do you good to have your professional online profiles reflect that. You never know whether clients look you up online before hiring you, and if this infographic is any indication, there’s at least a 90 percent chance of that happening.
Also, if your freelance rates are available for public viewing, you might want to update those too. You don’t want to be in an awkward situation where you have to explain to a client why you’re charging 50 dollars per hour today, when your Odesk profile says you only charge 10 dollars per hour!
3. Learn New Skills (or Hone Existing Ones)
Now that your schedule is wide open, you don’t really have an excuse not to improve your current skill set. If you want to keep your core skills (e.g. writing, designing) nice and sharp even without a job, try initiating a pet project. The great thing about pet projects is that you have full control over everything: the pacing, the deadlines, the artistic direction, etc.
You might also want to read more books, take more courses, and keep abreast of the latest developments in your industry so you won’t feel "rusty" or "out of touch".Networking with other freelancers, especially the more experienced ones, is likewise a step in the right direction.
4. Organize Your Paperwork
It can be nightmarish to deal with paperwork, but that doesn’t change the fact that contracts, invoices, feedback survey forms, and the like are indispensable for the serious freelancer. These documents can easily get lost in your computer or cloud drives, so it’s a good idea to keep them organized while you still have the time.
Here are a few more posts (and featured tools) to help you organize your paperwork:
- 8 Tips To Create An Organized & Productive Home Office
- 10 Tips To Better Productivity With Evernote
- Google Keep – Organize & Save Your Thoughts
- Keep Files Organized & Accessible On The Cloud With Doctape
- Saving And Organizing Web Pieces With Keeeb
5. Market Yourself
The word "marketing" tends to conjure up images of sleazy, smooth-talking salesmen who care more about fattening their wallets than giving customers value for their money. It’s not surprising, then, that most creatives – including you, perhaps? – cringe at the mere mention of that word.
Now that your potential competition is on the rise, though, you can no longer afford to just let your talent speak for itself. You have to work harder to get yourself noticed by setting up a website, showcasing your work through that website, and promoting the same through social media.
Of course, even while you’re doing all that marketing, adding value to your clients should be your utmost priority. "Value", in this context, is not so much what your unique qualities are as how your unique qualities can help a client achieve a specific goal.
For example, if you’re a writer, your client won’t care much about a claim like "I can write high-quality articles", unless you can re-phrase that as "I can produce content that will bring your website a high volume of traffic".
Just like any other business, freelancing has its "crests" and "troughs". You can’t always avoid the troughs, but you can cope with them in a healthier manner.