Finding freelance work can be difficult during the summer months.
When school is out and the kids are at home many clients take time off for their holidays, meaning new projects and work is put on hold until the autumn.
There’s a reason why freelancers call it the "summer slump".
But finding freelance work while the sun is hot doesn’t have to be hard. Here’s how to take the heat out of the summer slump and keep you busy through the holidays.
In this article:
1. Email your contacts
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you should have built up a network of other freelancers or previous clients that you can email and enquire about possible work. This may sound scary, but your existing network will be friendlier and more helpful than you think, especially compared to cold emailing people.
Other freelancers might not have capacity to take on more work, so can bear you in mind and refer you work if anything comes their way that they can pass on.
Getting back in touch with previous clients is a good way to keep up relationships and be front of mind for the next time they have a project come along, but this needs more subtlety than just straight out asking for work. Clients want to work with busy freelancers as it shows that their skills are in demand.
Even if you don’t find new projects straight away by emailing your contacts, you’ll be more likely to be remembered in the future – even if it’s a few weeks down the line when work picks up again in autumn.
2. Spend time developing other areas of your business
If you’re finding work a little slow, that gives you more time to work on other less important areas that may have fallen off the bottom of the to do list when you were busy.
Here’s a few ideas of what you could spend time on to boost your business:
- Could your website do with an update?
- Could you write several blog posts for your own blog? Or approach relevant blogs and online sites in your industry and offer guest posts for them?
- Could you approach previous clients for testimonials and write up case studies of previous projects?
- Could you be making more of your online marketing, using tools like Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with new people and potential clients in your industry?
You may not be working on paid work, but by always improving on your business you’re more likely to pick up work in the future.
3. Convert projects to retainers
Most projects start off with a set time period, say 2-3 months. The client needs to get a project completed, so calls in you as a freelancer to help complete that project. But it doesn’t need to stop at the end of that project.
If the client likes the work you’ve done, you could suggest (before the end of the project!) that you could carry on doing the same work for them or carry out maintenance on that project for longer, at a reduced fee.
This way, the client gets the peace of find from knowing that a reliable freelancer is looking after that part of their business, that they’re paying a smaller fee for the privilege and that the project that they started is going to be maintained for the foreseeable future.
Converting projects to retainers is easier for web designers and developers, as maintaining a website is an area that often needs small adjustments and improvements. This suits a retainer more.
This can be difficult to do and you will have to drop your fees to account for the ongoing retainer, but if you pull it off you’ll have a more steady income to rely on.
4. Write a training course
Running training days and training courses can be a very lucrative source of income for freelancers. But finding the time to write the materials to cover a half day, a whole day or even a few days can be daunting when you have client work to deliver on.
But if you’re finding your freelance work slowing down, this is the perfect time to write a training course and prepare training materials.
Research an area you know a lot about and see how others are selling training in that area. What is the structure of their course? Could you offer something similar? How have they priced their training? What kind of clients have taken their training?
Once you’ve written the materials, approach a few clients who you think would benefit from your services and outline your offer to them. A lot of companies have professional development programmes and will bring in outside consultants to run their training sessions.
After the first time delivering the training course, you can repeat the process and offer training to similar companies. Make sure to get feedback from those first sessions, so you can make improvements to the training course you offer.
5. Write an ebook
Standing in front of a group of strangers and teaching them what you know isn’t for everyone.
But you’ll have a lot of knowledge built up over several years that lots of people would love to know about. And an ebook is a perfect way to deliver this.
You don’t have to think of writing a full, 30-page ebook all at once. Note down what areas you think would make an interesting subject, write underneath each of these subjects a list of different areas you could write about, then you should be able to identify which ones will be easier or more engaging to write.
Take each item of the list and commit to writing 500 words about them. If you publish these 500 word articles as blog posts first, then you’re also adding to your blog portfolio and building up your blog readership.
Once you’ve written 5-6 articles, you should be well on the way to creating a full ebook.
When you feel like you’ve reached the end of your list about that subject area or have written a sizeable body of content around the subject area, then package those articles into a full ebook and offer it as a download on your site.
If you put the ebook behind a newsletter signup form, then you’ll capture an audience for future articles and ebooks, which can then be used for future updates on your work.
It takes time, but this may well lead to more client work, through demonstrating your expertise and making yourself more visible in your industry.
6. Take a training course
You may not feel confident enough to deliver a training course or write everything you know around a subject to publish an ebook, but there are still plenty of ways to differentiate yourself from the pack of other freelancers.
There is an initial cost, but taking a training course is a great use of the spare time you have.
- Could you develop and advance on an existing skill you have?
- Could you learn a new skill that will lead to new service offerings for your clients?
- Is there an area of your industry that you always wanted to learn more about?
- Has you ever been in a situation where a client asked you about an ara of their business that you wished you knew more about?
There’s plenty more reasons to take a training course, but as a freelancer you should always be developing your skills anyway, to keep up with client demands and to make sure you don’t get left behind as other freelancers develop their skills
Not only will you learn new skills, but you’ll also see how other business offer their training and consultancy services, which you can learn from and apply to your own freelance business.
7. Try freelancing online
Take some time to browse through online freelancing sites, such as freelancer.com, Elance and oDesk, you’ll see plenty of opportunities to offer your consultancy services online.
If you’ve never tried freelancing online before, you can use this quieter time to educate yourself about the benefits and challenges involved, before deciding if you want to give it a go yourself.
Here’s a few guides you can read to get you up to speed on what it takes to make freelancing online a success:
- Make It Work: Smart advice from real-life client who found success using online work
- A Freelancer’s Guide to Earning More on Elance
- Successful Freelancing with Freelancer.com
If freelancing online proves successful for you, then you have another area to explore and find work if you find yourself facing a quieter period again.
8. Contact agencies to offer support
You will likely know about agencies in your industry and location that offer the same services as you. Over the summer months, they may be in need of support as their team go on their summer holidays, but there is still client work to deliver.
Even if they don’t have enough work to offer you straight away, it’s good to get on their books for when the right project comes through and they do need your help.
Polish up your portfolio, update your CV and get contacting those agencies. It could lead to some brilliant relationships that will you see get work for months to come.
Always Be Closing
These are just some ideas and I’m sure there are plenty more ways to find freelance work and stop the summer slump.
The biggest take away is that you should always be developing your new business pipeline. Even if you’re overwhelmed with client work or have plenty of potential projects coming through, that situation can change in matter of weeks. As a freelancer, you need to constantly be looking for new opportunities.
What are your top tips? How have you coped the "feast and famine" of freelance life?
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