As small business owners and freelancers we all have to deal with the slow times — it’s inevitable. I’ve always felt you judge a person’s character when facing adversity, not success. It’s easy to have success. We all go through the ups and downs, and it’s how you deal with those downs to get you back up to reaching your dreams.
One of the primary reasons creatives go freelance is the freedom. Maybe you felt stifled by the corporate life so you decided to branch out and start your own business. As much as I love it, it can definitely lead to stress since the most consistent thing about being on your own is its inconsistency. Many of us are creatures of habit and like routine, but the freelance life can throw your world upside down and have you questioning yourself, “Is this for me?”
I remember first opening my office and handing over nearly everything in my bank account for my first month’s rent and deposit. It definitely had me pondering my future. The key is knowing how to navigate life as a freelancer to keep your mind and body strong.
Here – on what is my 40th birthday – are Shappy’s six tips for dealing with the slow times, an essential trait to being a successful freelancer:
1. Believe in Yourself
Always remember why you left your staff job — because your dreams weren’t going to be reached at your 9-5. You have a unique talent other people are looking for, so have the belief you’re going to do better as an independent than you ever would have working a staff job. If you don’t have belief in yourself, how is any client going to believe in you? Radiate confidence and you will attract business.
2. Take Care of Yourself
I have definitely found myself staring at a computer screen or phone waiting for an opportunity to come through. No joke. Well, I’m here to give you permission to close the laptop, turn off the phone, and head to the gym to work on your physical and mental health.
One of the best things about being a freelancer is the flexibility you have to drop what you’re doing and work on yourself. What’s great is that, more often than not, when you return to your computer after the workout, you’ll find a handful of opportunities waiting for you in your inbox.
3. Go Home
This one may seem funny to you, but I would go home to Rhode Island to stay appreciative of what I’ve built as a small business owner. Especially in my early days as a freelancer when things would get slow and I would get down about it, I would go home to be around family and friends, eat some home cooking, and go have a few drinks with some familiar faces.
It would never fail that three days into the trip I would recognize why I was in production and took the risk to be in New York or LA. As much as I loved my hometown, my opportunity for success just wasn’t there. So it may sound funny, but going home always got me refreshed.
4. Stay Creative
It’s important to work on personal or passion projects. Whether you’re a director, cinematographer, writer editor, etc. work on projects that you really want to work on or that you want to pursue. If it was always about the money, then this wouldn’t be your passion. I feel like everyday I’m working in my hobby, which is amazing because I love what I do.
The personal projects are usually the most rewarding and fulfilling you’re going to do (no client notes!) and usually provide exposure to elevate you in other areas or just getting new eyeballs on your work. Keep going on your own ideas, whether it’s a documentary, writing a book, doing your blog, creating some sort of new medium. Staying creative is key.
5. Take Advantage of Droughts
Being a freelancer, you are your own business, so you have take care of finances, marketing, taxes, estimated payments – all that. Slow moments are good to calibrate yourself on where you’re at – get it done while you’re in between jobs. Waiting can be tough, but work on your books in the meantime or work on updating your website that has been on your list for the past year and a half.
During downtime, you should also keep educating yourself. If there are classes online or at your local college, take them to improve the skills you already have. Keep educating yourself, keep improving yourself, keep bettering yourself.
6. Keep in Touch
First, keep a client list. Second, keep in touch with that client list. You may have clients you don’t work with for a year or two … check in with them. As long as you’ve had a good working relationship, see what they’re up to. They may brush you off, but they also may have a job for you.
So many times I’ve followed up with clients and they’ve said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, this project just came up and we’d love for you to work on it. For some reason I forgot about you because you were working on the six-month project and we haven’t touched base in awhile.” Stay at the forefront of your clients’ minds and you’ll keep getting work.
I will tell you as you build a track record and acquire more clients, it does get easier, so hang in there!
Well, those are my six tips for freelance success as a creative. What do you think? What did I miss? How have you made freelance work for you?