There’s a myth about freelancer’s life that freelancers work whenever they want. We, of course, know that’s not true: freelancers work when they have work. And we also know that there are busy months and quiet, sometimes very quiet, months. So here’s some advice on how to navigate a seesaw schedule.
Do. Not. Panic.
That’s the main advice. Of course, it’s not easy when no work is coming through or you don’t have a lot of prospects on your radar. Business just comes and goes. Depending on your field, there’s probably seasonal fluctuations. Stressing out about it won’t change a thing. And remember, an email or a phone call can come at any time. So yes, it’s not a bad idea to be reasonable in your spending, but don’t wake up in a sweat thinking you’re going to be on the street in a few weeks. You were hired before, you’ll get hired again.
Update and innovate
Polish your website, update your resume or your one-sheet, upload your latest work online, improve your Google ranking or social media presence… Get ready to respond in two clicks, for when a prospective client comes knocking at your door. Now is also a good time to look for new avenues to find work: create a profile on a new freelancer’s website, look for other potential sources of income on sites like Steady or an easy-to-start side hustle, reach out to the company you’ve always wanted to work for, take a look at what your network is up to on Linkedin.
Learn new skills
Even though you’re not getting paid for it now, learning new skills by taking an online class or playing around with a new software will pay off down the line. You’re your own boss, you alone can make sure your business doesn’t get left behind or can expand its offering. Investing in yourself as a professional is one of the best things you can do when work is sparse. And remember, anything you spend to learn new skills is a business expense, aka a tax write-off!
Go out in the world
Sometimes a consequence of the panic is to bundle up inside your home and wait for that phone call. It’s usually not the best approach. Instead, go have lunch with your former colleagues, go to conferences, go to the movies. Stay inspired. Stay in touch. You never know where work might come from.
Prepare for Tax Season
The end of the year is always a good time to anticipate the following tax season, as what you do now will impact your tax bill comes April. Make sure your business expenses for the year are organized (and if you have a Lili account, you know they are!) and look at any other things you might want to consider doing before the end of the year to optimize your tax refund ((invest in a retirement account, take an online class…)
Work is not everything. It’s not easy to be a freelancer. It’s stressful, it’s lonely, it’s ungrateful sometimes. Flexibility is your reward. You should take advantage. Spend time with your kids, go visit your parents, hang out with your friends, go to the beach or for a hike on a weekday, away from the crowd. If a major project comes up tomorrow, you might not see the light of day for another 3 months, so enjoy it now!