The lean times can be tough when you’re freelancing. It can be easy to worry when you’re going through a quiet period or a dry spell.
However, the lean periods can be times when you truly develop as a freelancer and grow your business. Here are some ways to make the most of the lean times whenever they happen.
During lean times, you don’t have the constant stress of deadlines. You can take a break from your laptop and go for a walk or a run. You can meet a friend for lunch. You’re not chained to your desk the whole time.
Of course, you can create stress during lean times by worrying about your lack of work.
All kinds of thoughts can run through your brain:
· Will I ever get any more work?
· Why are potential clients ignoring my emails?
· Will I be able to pay the bills next month?
These are all valid concerns but, if you allow them to, they can take over your thinking and cause anxiety.
I’ve found that the best way to deal with these thoughts is to counteract each one with a positive thought. So, if you wonder if you’ll ever get more work, say to yourself: “I will land a fantastic contract when the time is right.”
Another technique is just to let the negative thoughts float away whenever they arise. Practicing meditation helps you do this during everyday life.
The lean times give you an opportunity to think about and appreciate what you’ve achieved so far.
Take some time to review your recent busy period and write down:
· Your major achievements
· The new client relationships you’ve formed
· The continuation of relationships with long-standing clients
· The new contacts you’ve met online, at recent networking events and elsewhere
· The benefits you’ve gained from workshops and seminars you’ve attended, such as professional development, personal development, and learning new skills.
Just writing down all these things will help you to appreciate just how much you’ve achieved so far and encourage you to move forward.
Once you realize exactly what you’ve achieved, you’ll be able to decide the exact direction you want to steer your business into.
Take some time to decide what direction you’d like your freelancing business to go into.
· Which recent work projects did you enjoy the most?
· What type(s) of work did you enjoy the most? For example, if you’re a writer, you may have enjoyed writing newsletters more than blog posts, or perhaps you found writing articles on health and fitness more enjoyable than articles on insurance.
· What kind of clients did you enjoy working for the most?
Also, think about the projects you didn’t enjoy as much. What were the reasons for this? What did you learn from these projects that will help you to be wiser in future?
Once you’ve considered all these things, your future direction should be clear to you.
· The type of projects you’d like to do more often in future (and the type of projects you’d like to avoid!)
· The industry or industries you’d like to work in
· The kind of clients you’d like to work with.
Note down anything else you’d like to try.
I’d always wanted to proofread non-fiction print books but had never had the opportunity to do so, despite having done many other writing and editing projects.
So, I researched a list of publishers who publish the type of books I’d like to proofread, sent emails to the editors at each one, and, a few months later, I was proofreading my first book!
Be brave and take action that will move you towards your dreams. Don’t listen to the voice that says you won’t succeed.
One thing is certain: you’ll never succeed if you don’t try. If you do try and don’t give up at the first hurdle, you’re very likely to succeed.
Make Good Use of your Time
During lean times, you have the time to do the work-related and non-work-related things you didn’t have time for while you were busy.
With regard to your business, during a lean period, you could take the time to:
· Re-design or update your website
· Design or re-design a logo that reflects your freelancing business
· Go to an educational seminar or workshop that interests you
· Update your skills by taking an online or offline course
· Attend a business networking event.
On a non-worked related basis, do something nice for yourself. Don’t feel guilty about this. You deserve it after all your hard work.
· Catch up with friends for coffee, lunch or dinner
· Arrange a day out or book a weekend away
· Go to an exercise class you enjoy but didn’t have time for when you were busy
· Try out a new hobby or go on a short course — do something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time to do. Do it just for fun!
· Go out for a walk or a run in a beautiful natural environment.
This morning, I went for a run around the lake near where I live. It was a beautiful morning. The sunbeams were shimmering on the surface of the water like stars. A canopy of leaves shaded me from the sun. The trees stood strong and tall. Everything seemed so peaceful and beautiful.
I wondered why I hadn’t been for a run round the lake in months. Of course, I’d been too busy with work!
So, I appreciated this lean period for allowing me to realize that a life well lived isn’t all about work, work, work and constant busyness.
Let Go of Expectations
Try not to focus on the possible outcome of any of your actions.
When you send an email to a potential client, just let it go and try not to think about it any more. Avoid constantly checking your email to see if they’ve replied. Don’t keep wondering what they might have thought of your email.
Go onto the next action on your list and do that.
Things will happen when they’re meant to happen. You can’t do anything to force them. All you can do is try your best to move things forward but you can’t control which projects will come your way and when.
I’ve found that when I succeed in letting go of my expectations, unexpected things sometimes happen. Yet, when I have lots of expectations, nothing seems to happen. It really is difficult to let go of your expectations, but I do think it’s one of the keys to success.
Make the Most of the Lean Times
So, appreciate the lean times. Use your time wisely to review, plan and catch up with all the things you haven’t had time for during your busy period.
Take some time out to enjoy yourself and appreciate your wonderful life. Let go of your expectations about the future and believe that the right project will come to you when the time is right.
Above all, appreciate and enjoy this awesome journey that is your life. Be thankful for the freedom we have as freelancers that allows us to balance busy periods with quieter times.