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When I tell people about that I currently freelance for a living, without a doubt one of the number one questions they’ll fire back at me is: what do you do when you have no clients?
For a lot of people, the instability of freelancing is a big turn-off. I get it. It’s a worry for me, and I don’t have big, scary adult responsibilities like a mortgage, car payments or (thank goodness!), children to worry about.
However, that doesn’t mean you should rule freelancing out altogether. Yes, there are more risks than your standard office 9-to-5, but there is also more stability than you may think.
Here’s what to do if your freelance work dries up, and how to make sure that never happens in the first place.
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Find Long-Term Clients
I’ve been working with two clients on a monthly basis ever since I started freelancing. Those two clients provide the large majority of my monthly income and are as close to stable, long-term work as you can get.
And no, these long-term clients aren’t unicorns in the freelance world. In fact, there are tonnes of businesses looking for reliable freelancers that they can hire on a long-term basis. No one likes working with strangers all the time, so having a friendly, trustworthy face to rely on for work of a consistent quality is a plus all-around.
How did I get these clients?
I looked for them. I use Upwork, ProBlogger, FlexJobs, Remote.co and several other job boards to find freelance opportunities, and without fail there will always be multiple postings from companies looking for freelancers to work with on a long-term basis.
They are out there, and these contracts are the best way of guaranteeing you’re never caught short unexpectedly one month (although, of course, you need to work hard to make sure you keep your clients!).
Be a Great Freelancer
No, seriously. Freelancing means you can work in your PJs from bed all day if you want to, and that can induce some seriously lazy habits in even the most motivated of people. Being a freelancer should not be an excuse for waiting to do your work at the last minute and barely holding up your job – believe it or not, that’s exactly what some people do, but they don’t get away with it for long!
If you let that affect your work and your relationship with your clients, you’ll find your freelance work drying up quicker than you can say summer in the Sahara.
Meet your deadlines. Don’t waste your time – or your clients. Keep your work to a high, consistent standard. Stay courteous, professional and polite.
Being the model freelancer will not only keep your clients but will also convince those that may have just wanted a ‘one-off’ project this time to come back to you time and time again.
You likely have a lot more experience in your field than your clients – be that copywriting, web design, social media or something else – so use that experience to show your clients what they’re missing.
I had a client that wanted 500-word articles once a month for their website. I showed them (with proof!) the wonders that long-form content can do, taught them the basics of SEO, and up-sold my services while also helping their business out big-time.
Just be genuine when you do this – you want to actually help your clients, so offer services that could really boost their business that they may not have even considered. Your clients will see your authenticity and be grateful for that expert knowledge, trust me.
What if the work actually dries up?
Sometimes, work can dry up for reasons beyond your control.
Just last month, my work-load from two clients was greatly reduced by pure coincidence (and thankfully not due to my performance as a freelancer!), and I couldn’t have predicted the change of pace because it was unexpected from both ends.
So what to do then? First, don’t sweat it. You found work before. You’ll find work again – just get started.
Use Your Time
Use any extra time you have to network and apply for more projects on job boards and personalise every single pitch. As someone who previously worked in recruitment, I can tell you right now that a generic cover letter will win you only glazed eyes and barely-stifled yawns. I wrote a great post a while back on landing your first client on Upwork, and the same applies even when you’re more experienced.
If you haven’t already, create a portfolio. If you don’t have enough experience to create a portfolio, create a blog and use that as your portfolio! These days, I win more work from this website than I do from my portfolio and supplement my income with money made from blogging, so that shows how a website can transform your career!
Get a ‘Real’ Job
Just because you’re a freelancer now doesn’t mean you can’t consider getting an office job. The stable pay can be extremely helpful, even if to you, it’s a temporary measure until you grow your freelance business.
It can take time to grow a freelance career, and there will always be peaks and troughs as you progress. Considering a job in an office should not be thought of as failing – it’s a smart move that will give you some much-needed stability.
When I’m back in the UK, I may even get a part-time office job to supplement my income while I’m converting my van – taking the pressure of always seeking out more freelance work off my back a little!
Expand Your Services
While I primarily work as a copywriter, I’m also a virtual assistant and social media manager for several companies. This keeps things interesting and diverse, but it also widens my skill base to qualify me for more project vacancies online.
If you’ve been narrowing your services on one service – such as writing – and are struggling to find regular work, don’t be afraid of expanding your services. So many people say to niche down, and while that can work, it can also take time. Learning new skills and working with new clients in different ways is not something to be looked down upon.
I recently wrote a really in-depth post on how to become a virtual assistant, I’d highly recommend checking it out if this is a service you’re interested in offering to your clients!
Your turn – what do you do when your freelance work dries up? Any tips or tricks I haven’t mentioned?