Every job has its ups and downs, but what do you do when it seems like you’re in a permanent slump?
The biggest difference between freelancing and other office jobs is the lack of consistency. Many businesses offer their employees a salary, meaning they get paid no matter how much work they do (or don’t do), barring things like vacation, sick days, and maternity leave (and obviously, the better companies will still pay you during those events). Other businesses have you clock in and out, and you get paid based on the number of hours between those two times (regardless of how much work was or wasn’t completed).
Freelancing, or working on a commission basis, doesn’t work like that, which means you don’t get the luxury of a sick day or taking a break. You don’t do work, you don’t get paid.
And that makes it hard not to panic when times are slow: you’ve finished all the work for your previous clients, your current ones don’t have anything new for you, and prospectives aren’t replying to your offers. Your weekly “paycheck” has dwindled, and you begin to worry about bills and other financial obligations. You wonder if you’ll ever work again. You may even doubt your abilities; after all, if this is the right career path for you, wouldn’t you be getting jobs? Have you chosen wrong? Is your whole profession meaningless?
Don’t let your emotions override your common sense. It’s hard, I realize that, but beating yourself up over something you can’t really control won’t help the situation. Believe me, I know.
Back in June, I was getting barely any work (weird, right?). I still had my regular clients, but things were slow, budgets were being adjusted, and copyediting isn’t exactly the priority for most businesses that (I think) it should be. So I began to panic, thinking all the things mentioned above, wondering if this is what I really ought to be doing with my life. I’m lucky enough to have a supportive family to help when times get tough, and I know there are many who don’t. Some people would indeed have to look for a regular, “real” job, even if it means (temporarily) giving up their beloved freelancing work. I nearly came to that point myself, but in late July, lo and behold, a new client emerged, and I was able to scramble back up from the depths of debt and despair, and now, at the end of August, I’m working fairly consistently, and things are looking bright again.
It really is a rollercoaster ride, isn’t it?
Not everyone is suited for this job, either due to financial/family/etc. responsibilities or simply lacking the mental capacity (some people would hate being stuck at home all day!). If this is the profession you’ve chosen, you have to be willing to ride the ups as well as the downs, even if it seems like the slow times will never end. It may mean that you have to take another job that perhaps you don’t like. It may mean doing work for less pay (try not to make this a habit, though). It may mean saying “yes” to a task you might normally say “no” to. You never know where something may lead, and you never know who you’ll meet, or what skills you may attain. You should see the slow times as a chance to take risks – after all, what else are you going to do with all the free time? For me, I focused on my blog, revamping it and reassessing where I’d like to take it. If you’re able, find another project to work on, something personal that maybe you’ve neglected due to work. Here’s your chance!
Don’t let slow times turn your world into a pity party. No work doesn’t mean it’s your fault, but if you feel you need to improve your skills, do so. If you need to network more, go for it. When the jobs pick back up again – and they will, trust me – you’ll be ready for them.
Questions? Advice? Do you have your own method for dealing with slow times? Sound off in the comments below!