How I continue to operate during the lull times in freelancing

Every freelancer I know, and myself included, has to prepare for the lull times. The times when work slows down for a number of reasons: clients cancel projects, budgets are being reworked, or a major shift in the industry.

lull timesBeing able to push your way through these times when finances come with a struggle is what truly separates most freelancers (in my mind). If you can weather the storm, by planning and acting accordingly, you’ll make it in this business.

Every freelancer will approach it in a different fashion:

  • Some save
  • Some hustle
  • Some re-invest
  • Some loan
  • Some tap

I’ve been through rough patches where good work hasn’t come in for many weeks at a time. It’s not fun when you’re reaching a financial deadline and still fighting for those invoices.

Hopefully this should give you a few, good ideas on what you can do during the lull times to continue in whatever industry you’ve chosen to freelance:

  • Small loans – Your freelance business is exactly that… a business. Because you have created relationships, completed projects, and have a history of income you can reach out to banks and other lenders to provide you with financial support. Often you’ll only need a minor amount to cover operational costs – is good in this regard – a bump in income through a loan can float you for that period of time before a new client comes through.
  • Emergency fund – Everyone should have an emergency fund no matter what job you do because it takes off the stress when unexpected bills come in the mail. It’s wise to set aside a reasonable portion of your monthly earnings toward an emergency fund for times when things get slow or you’re faced with situations such as a client stiffing you on a job. A general rule is that you try to build your emergency fund to about 3 months’ worth of living expenses.
  • Quick jobs – Hustling is core to the freelance experience. Hustling, the good way, involves tapping into your network of professionals or seeking additional gigs. The gigs may be somewhat below your “acceptable level” of pay but if they keep food on the table then you’ve got to go with it. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr come to mind in this regard since they’re easy to join and have many established connections for gigs you can start today otherwise see if anyone can toss you a few, small jobs from those you’ve met in your industry.
  • Learning time – Sometimes the financial storm is coming about because you’re simply too far removed from where the industry is going – you’re getting old. Continuing your education is a great choice when you have free time from work because it will build your portfolio and knowledge. You won’t need to invest in any of this because there are enough free online courses to go around to fill a lifetime.
  • Tapping connections – Close to the hustling/quick jobs is the act of updating your portfolio and reaching out to previous clients. You’ll be surprised how far many have come since you’ve last worked with them. You’ve already built a strong reputation so you’ve got the foot in the door. Just send an email to the person you’ve talked with before (or their replacement) asking if there are any new opportunities and you may just snag new work with very little effort.

When you’re in a month where finances are tight you may begin questioning whether you should give up freelancing and go back to a normal position. Don’t. Try your best to keep at it if you’re truly passionate about the work because it’s all too common to fall back into old work routines once you’ve given up on the premise of being your own boss.

Every freelancer gets hit by a lull period so you’re not at it alone. Tap into those resources, know you can still do it, and take action before you’re too far in the hole. That’s what makes all the difference between amateur and veteran of the industries.