Every freelancer is familiar with the “feast or famine” nature of the job. One month, you’re drowning in work. The next month? Crickets. It can be tough to ride the waves without feeling anxious. “Our culture is so work-centric, and our sense of self-worth is connected to that paycheck,” says career coach Indrani Stangl, MA. “But that’s not all we are.” You could use this freed-up time to explore your hobbies, get outdoors, reconnect with friends and co-workers—or take a break. And if you want to develop your skills further and increase productivity, there’s plenty to explore.Stangl offers her best tips on how to be more productive, regardless of your current workflow.
What did your website look like? How about your resume? Is your LinkedIn profile updated? When things slow down, you may rely on these tools to attract new clients. Stangl recommends refreshing your site’s search engine optimization (check out this free one-hour SEO class from Moz), updating old blog posts, and using a web host compatible with your business needs. You can also tailor your resume to any specific clients or companies you plan to approach. (While you’re at it, give your social media profiles and online portfolio a refresh.) Even small tweaks such signaling that you’re open to employment opportunities on LinkedIn may reel in inquiries and leads, Stangl says.
We know, we know. Networking can feel awkward or forced. So start by joining your alma mater’s online alumni group. Since you have a shared experience (and school pride), you may feel more comfortable compared to approaching a random person, Stangl says. These communities are great places to find new projects and see how your peers applied their education to different industries. Finding out how your skills may translate to another industry will help you effectively pitch new clients, or change career paths altogether.If you’re already involved in your alumni network or want to cast a wider net, there are many online spaces to connect. To help you find your community, we’ve rounded our 15 favorite social networking sites for tips, gigs, and encouragement.
Staying up-to-date on marketable skills is key to bringing in new work. The upside of a dry period is that now you finally have the time to commit to an online class or certification. Stangl points to Forbes for paid courses and Khan Academy if you’re looking for a free resource on economics and computing subjects. To learn more about business development, Coursera is offering a selection of courses for free through the end of the year.
When Stangl lost her job in January, she found a creative outlet in drawing, which led her to start creating coloring pages to share with others online. Devote some of your free time to nurturing your other passion projects. Avid runners might consider coaching, or a penchant for crafting could lead to an Etsy shop. The benefits of having a pastime outside of work aren't just monetary: Studies suggest that having hobbies and creative activities may be linked to lower blood pressure, lower stress, and more positive moods. Researchers have even noticed a work performance boost in people who engage in leisure activities. (It’s possible that having a hobby might lower your risk of burnout.)
Stangl volunteers at a local dog rescue facility. You might advise and mentor other freelancers. Helping others is generally a stand-up thing to do, and Stangl points out that your contacts may be more likely to return the favor the next time you need support.
Maintain your finances: Keep up-to-date books. Make sure any remaining invoices are on track to be paid—and have a plan if a client fails to pay on time. (Wingspan’s easy-to-use invoicing system automatically applies late fees to delayed payments so you can focus on other stuff.) Continue to set aside enough to cover your estimated quarterly taxes. It’s never too early to start next year’s tax prep, and Wingspan’s bookkeeping feature shows your real-time profit and loss, plus flags additional tax deductions. This is also a great time to look into incorporating your business or opening a business bank account specifically for professional use. These housekeeping tasks may not be sexy, but keeping clean records will prevent headaches in the future.
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