Every freelancer, no matter how talented and in-demand they are, goes through slow periods.
In 2020, I had one of my biggest slowdowns yet. There were about two months when my schedule was only half full.
When the work stops coming, it’s hard not to panic. Even if you have an emergency fund to cover your bills, the nagging worry that business will never pick up again can keep you awake at night.
But trust me—if you leverage your network and consistently market your business, work will start flowing in.
Here are my best tips for weathering downturns as a freelancer.
Set Marketing Goals
A big goal like “get 3 long-term clients” can seem overwhelming. It helps to create smaller marketing objectives so I can feel like I’m making progress even if I haven’t landed new clients yet.
I get a lot of my work by responding to job ads and cold emailing, so I set a goal to send at least 10 per day.
I also tackled some of the marketing tasks I was too busy for when I had a lot of work. I focused on perfecting my website and writing blog posts to attract potential clients.
Maybe you’ve wanted to grow your audience on LinkedIn for a while or start an Instagram for your business. Now is a great time to do it because your schedule isn’t dominated by client projects.
Don’t Lower Your Rates
When work has dried up, it’s tempting to lower your rates or give discounts to get clients in the door. But this devalues your services and could hurt your business in the long run.
If you fill up your schedule with clients who pay less than your desired rate, it will be harder to meet your income goals. You’ll also have less time to market your services and find your ideal clients.
So if you have an emergency fund, I recommend holding out for clients who are a good fit and are willing to pay your rate.
Reach Out to People in Your Network
The great thing about freelancing is that we get to work on a huge variety of projects with a lot of different people and companies. This gives us a bigger network to pull from when we need to find new work.
I recommend keeping an address book with the contact information of everyone you’ve worked with. When you run low on projects, you can pull out that list and email past clients to let them know you have an opening in your schedule.
I can drum up business pretty quickly this way, so I highly recommend it.
Save Up For Slow Periods
Freelancers don’t get a steady paycheck like regular employees. Our income fluctuates based on how many clients and projects we have.
Some months are great, but others can be slow, especially around the holidays.
Because your income can take a hit at any time, it’s important to save a portion of every payment you get and direct it to your emergency fund. I recommend having enough savings to cover your expenses and bills for at least six months.
This gives you plenty of time to find new clients so you don’t feel like you have to take whatever work comes your way or lower your rates.
Try to Stay Positive
If you don’t have client projects to work on and you’re worried about money, it can be really easy to get in a funk.
But it’s important to keep your spirits up and stay positive. Maintaining a good attitude will make it easier to stay motivated and send out all those cold emails.
When I have a slow period, I try to be grateful for the break. I use some of my downtime to pursue my hobbies and practice self-care.
Trying to find work as a freelancer can be tough. You might face some rejection, and it might take you a little longer than you’d like to get new clients.
But if you stay consistent with your marketing efforts and leverage your network, things will start to turn around.