What do you do when you have very little freelance work? What do you do when emails stop pinging into your inbox enquiring if you are available for a project?
Tall Tartan Talks here … In this blog post I am going to describe the strategies I have used to cope with freelance famine.
Strategies for surviving freelance famine
- Use a cushion of savings to pay bills.
- Have some rest and time off without feeling guilty.
- Do those chores/hobbies/interests you don’t usually have time for.
- Investigate resources.
- Study CPD.
- Book a holiday. That’ll get the work emails coming in!
In a recent period of work famine, I completed the Word for Practical Editing course run by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) and went on a Solo Business Retreat.
My edibuddies are good at scheduling their work projects so that they are booked evenly over time. This ensures that the time requirements of the clients and freelancer are met. Some freelancers are booked up weeks, or even months, ahead. But sometimes a yawning gap appears. And remains empty.
Many of my edibuddies have used their spare time to do courses to reinforce their skills. The CIEP gives training points on completion of courses. These points can be used towards upgrade. Members get a discount towards those courses. As training keeps your skills current and boosts your reputation as a trusted freelancer, it’s a no-brainer.
I had a course on my mind to do. As soon as I had a couple of free weeks, I dipped into my CPD fund.
Word for Practical Editing
Many of us use Microsoft Word without really delving into all its features.
I already knew about some shortcuts, e.g. Ctrl+X (cut); Ctrl+C (copy); Ctrl+V (paste); and Ctrl+Z (undo). I learnt more shorcuts: Ctrl+A (select all); Ctrl+S (Save). Learning them become more automatic in my muscle memory.
Microsoft Word is the industry standard in editing and proofreading. In the CIEP course on using Word, I studied how to show the different markup systems in Track Changes; and the importance of communicating to a client which markup they should view for ease of seeing changes.
Styles in Word
The most useful part of the course for me was learning about Styles and applying shortcuts to them. This meant that with a combination of keystrokes I can change a heading to the correct style and ensure consistency.
In short, I learnt how to:
- Find which styles were already applied to a document.
- Apply styles to a new document, and modify for clients by personalising their style sheet.
Solo Business Retreat
During this time of work famine, I wanted to take the opportunity to spend some time at the seaside. My children are grown-up and busy. So I was able to escape and book a self-catering apartment in Hunstanton (Norfolk), a 2-hour drive from where I live in Essex.
Day 1: Enjoy the journey and relax. Take in the atmosphere at the coast. I took one book to read for pleasure; and one book about how to survive as a freelance business owner.
Day 2: I worked on the long-term content marketing plan I bought from Jammy Digital. They help business owners with websites and SEO. My first step was to transfer all the record-keeping for blog posts written already, over the last three years, on to their better, more coherent system.
My evening meal was fish and chips on the beach. When everyone had gone home, I went for a stroll on the sand. The tide was far out. The light was special. Hunstanton faces west, which is unusual in East Anglia. The sunsets didn’t disappoint.
Day 3: I studied the advice from Jammy Digital about how to have an effective content marketing plan. This time I looked ahead and planned six months’ worth of blog posts. I wrote key points for each one.
For those who haven’t read my blog posts before, I write about proofreading, education and learning (as a former teacher), and owning a freelancing business. Find them on my blog page.
In my posts I give answers to the questions my clients ask. Lately, those clients are self-publishing children’s authors, businesses or students. More and more, I tweak my website pages to give extra details to those prospective clients.
This means that I have ready-made answers available when a repeated enquiry is made. Why not turn these FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) into blog posts, I ask myself? Repurposing content was added to The Plan.
Day 4: Time to leave. To allow for Covid-safe cleaning, the instructions were to leave the apartment by 9am. Rather than go straight home, I booked a visit to nearby Sandringham House and Garden for the day.
It was refreshing to relax away from a screen. I chatted to other visitors and wandered at my own pace.
My retreat was valuable because it made me focus on one aspect of my business (marketing) that I hadn’t had time to prioritise for at least six months. I felt guilty. It’s hard when you are the sole owner of a business to keep all the plates spinning.
Most freelancers, whether you are an editor or tutor like me, will make a choice at a time of freelance famine. They will either advertise their availability, or enjoy the rest and find something to occupy their time.
I recommend taking time out to reflect, re-evaluate and refresh.
The idea for the retreat came from the podcast Host a Solo Business Retreat by Melanie Padgett Powers who is Deliberate Freelancer based in Washington, DC. Also her Tips from my First Business Retreat of 2020. Twitter: @MelEdits.
The stripy Hunstanton cliffs, West Norfolk.