There is almost nothing worse than knowing you don’t have any work lined up. But many freelancers will go through the feast and famine work cycle at some point. The feast period comes with its own set of challenges.
For example, you have too many clients and deadlines all in the same week. In theory, it sounds lovely, in practice, it can be stressful and impractical to manage.
But when it comes to famine periods, they have the added stress of finance.
So, how do you deal with it?
If you have taken some time to learn about things like chronotypes, or your circadian rhythm, then you will naturally know your working pattern. And you will also know that there is a range of things you can do between your productive periods to lighten your deep work period.
Apply the same theory to your famine.
Part of the issue that comes with little to no work is that you are out of your carefully organised routine. So the first thing you need to do is actually keep your routine. If you work from 10-4 every day, continue to do that. It will enable you to feel organised.
Lack of routine can be a dangerous thing. And the disciple you have with time management and structure can slip quite quickly.
However, what you are going to do is start your first working day of famine, making a to-do list. You need to make sure any current projects are top of the list. As they will naturally have priority.
- Contact – Get in touch with all your previous clients and let them know that you have space available between X & X dates.
- Check your website, add content, update images, remove broken links, and improve the SEO.
- Go through all of the stats you have for any email marketing you have been doing. Learn what is working and what isn’t. Replicate what is and create your next few months of newsletters and campaigns.
- Create your social media campaign to go with that. Aim to make at least 6 months or more of social media content.
- Look at your services and products – can one be turned into an eBook? Can you record some videos and put together a webinar?
- If you sell physical products, take an inventory, work out any best before dates, arrange a sale or promotion, and push that.
- Consider how your branding looks, it might be time for you to rebrand – while you have time, spend it.
- Idea generation – spend an hour a day (more if you have it) on idea generation for the future of your business. Think about the direction you are going in, what you want to add in terms of products and services, growth.
- Put together a pitch package, things that will accompany your more personal approach.
- Deep clean your workspace.
- Sign up to, and complete your portfolio on as many freelance websites as you can, and make sure that you apply for X amount of gigs per day (not too many or you will end up in a feast and overrun if you have trouble saying no to work).
- Do your accounts.
- Update your software and remove things you no longer use.
- Move unused files or larger files to an HDD or cloud storage – and label them correctly before you do it.
- Personal projects that can hold some weight on your portfolio are ideal here.
What about money?
Hate to say this, but almost every freelance article about starting up will tell you that you need to save. And times like this is why. Learning to manage your income and put something aside is essential.
But that is a privileged way of thinking, and only works if you have high-ticket clients and low (regular life) bills and overheads – which gives the ability to save well.
So when you come back into the feast stages, try to save. Even if it is a minimum amount. Automatic saving apps are great options for many, as it isn’t a conscious decision – and they automatically work out what you can afford to save.
Consider smaller projects for less money. While it is not ideal for taking work that is under your usual fee, it can plug the gap. You can make a decision about working with the client again, or this being a one-off, whatever is comfortable for you.
Try to avoid taking pay-day loans, and only use your credit cards for absolute essentials. And if it gets really tight, talk to your bank first, there might be options that will benefit you.