“Is That Illustration What It’s Like for ALL Freelancers?”
It’s a little exaggerated, but…yes.
ALL freelance writers will experience an ebb-and-flow where work is concerned. Yes, even the staunch professionals who’ve been in the business for years. (Linda Formichelli, The Renegade Writer, went on record saying she went over 3 months without work in 2009 and she’s one of the most well-known bloggers in the business!).
It’s called the “Feast or Famine Cycle.”
But it’s something that every freelancer experiences. (Worth saying it again!).
Sometimes the work will be there. Sometimes it won’t.
But there are some precautions you can take.
4 Steps to Beating the Feast or Famine Cycle:
1. Don’t spend like you’ll always have money.
I love good food and I hate cooking. See where I’m going with this? Well, if you don’t, it means that I really dig restaurants. Which is fine when it’s a “once and a while” treat; however, if you eat out all the time, you’re going to have a pretty big money suck on your hands. Money that you could be saving. Which brings me to…
2. Save some of your money for the “famine” times.
I’ve always been good about putting aside money for taxes–I don’t want to go to prison!– but I’m horrible at saving for anything else. Emergencies will always happen. Sooner or later, something terrible is going to happen to you. That’s life.
At the end of last year I was in terrible pain due to an impacted wisdom tooth. It gave me daily migraines and, although the pain was excruciating, I couldn’t afford to get the problem fixed until this year when business picked back up again.
If I had socked some money away during the “feast” part of the cycle, I wouldn’t have had to suffer for months before finally getting help. (If I had to point to one thing as my biggest “Fail” as a freelancer, this would be it!).
3. Invest in your business, not just in yourself.
Real businesses don’t spend all of their profits on fancy lunches and gifts for their friends. Well, not businesses that want to stayin business. The same should go for you and your business. At least part of the money you’re making needs to be invested back into your business.
Toward the end of last year, I followed what turned out to be terrible advice and made major changes (for the worse!) to my website. And, thanks to my poor spending habits, I wasn’t able to fix the issues I’d created as quickly as I would have liked. I ended up losing business/traffic.
4. Market yourself, even when you’re working.
If you take away ONE thing from this post, let it be this!Even when you have steady work, please, please, please continue to market yourself.
The clients you have now could be gone tomorrow. And, if you haven’t been marketing yourself, you’ll have no new clients lined up to replace them. It’ll be like starting over from scratch. TRUST ME ON THIS! It’s the WORST! Keep yourself in the public eye…or the public will forget you.
Those are the four big ones. All of which I had to learn the hard way.
For more resources on how to beat The Feast or Famine Cycle, check out these articles:
- “How to Break Out of the Feast and Famine Cycle” – Be A Freelance Blogger
- “7 Easy Ways to Control the Infamous Feast or Famine Cycle” – Freelance Folder
- “4 Ways to Beat the Feast or Famine Cycle” – Write To Done
Bookmark those for future reference!
What goes up must come down…
But remember this: It will come back up again.
I put “G is for Gravity” but freelance writing is more like a rollercoaster. It goes up and down. It’s fun…and it’s absolutely terrifying.
You have to trust that the work will come back.
It always does.
I experienced a dip toward the end of 2012. It hit me pretty hard.
But even though I was struggling last year, I knew, deep down, that if I waited long enough…things would get better.
And they did.
Every year I go for a few months without work. And every year I end up getting that work back again.
The same goes for you.
Hang in there!
Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of bylined posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers. Thousands if you count all the articles she’s ghostwritten (but she’s not allowed to talk about most of those).