3 Ways to Fight the Down Cycle of Freelancing

Clients come and go, but freelancing can be forever.

Sales and freelancing, like many things in life, ebb and flow.

It’s true with any sales-related job like real estate, business development, and other things like relationships and seasons.

Sales and other client-facing roles are cyclical. For example, as a Business Development Director, first and second quarters were always the highest in revenue, mid-summer was down, it picked back up September through early November, and then died again around the holidays.

As a freelancer, down cycles can be scary. Sometimes you get SO BUSY that you slack off on maintaining a pipeline of future clients and then suddenly you have several projects end and you have no new incoming clients.

It can be frustrating and annoying, and can be scary. When you cannot reliably know what money is coming next, it will certainly be nervewracking when the clients dry up.

This is why it is so important to be maintaining a pipeline, no matter how busy you are.

Here are 3 tips that work for me. I do these things even when I am super busy so that when I am less busy, I have maintained a pipeline of things to come.

My 3 tips:

  1. Always ask for referrals from previous clients and also previous potential clients. Sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often people forget to do this.
  2. Maintain your blog and website. Though you get busy with client work, make sure to keep the public “face” of your business updated and active. Engage with other bloggers, respond to comments, write new content, and make sure to share it on social media.
  3. Even if it is only 5 minutes per day, be putting out feelers for new clients and keeping your social media active.

What does this mean to you and why should you do them?

As to Number One: Everyone you talk to has a network. Be nice, professional, and responsive. I have had many clients that went with another freelancer, but ultimately referred people to me.

I know I won’t be the right fit for EVERY job. Maybe I don’t have the right knowledge, or my writing style is different than what you’re looking for, or you were really looking for a guy to work with, or someone who is older/younger/more blond. There are a million reasons why I might not be the best pick for your specific project.

But I guarantee you will remember me fondly. I will be kind, available, responsive, answer questions, ask the right questions, and honest if it isn’t in my wheelhouse. I will follow up with a polite email saying thank you for the opportunity and I wish them the best with their project. Oh, and if you know of anyone who needs writing and editing, please let me know.

All of my current clients are from referrals.

Number two may sound obvious, but when you get super busy, the first thing to go by the wayside is personal non-revenue, non-client writing.

You want to keep your blog and website maintained and updated so that as new clients or potentials look you up or when you come up in random searches, you have a great looking something for people to see.

My website is nice looking (I did it myself, for free, over many annoying hours on WordPress) and my blog (this one you’re reading right now) is updated every couple of days with new original content.

When people ask for writing samples or a portfolio, I send them here and to my site, so I need to be proud of what is here.

The third one is regarding marketing yourself. In this day and age, you MUST have social media. If you don’t, people find it fishy. I have gotten several clients straight from Instagram and even a couple from Twitter!

Present a whole person and not just your writing or freelance work. Clients often want to feel like they know you. On my Instagram, I have pictures of my cat, my vacation, writing and editing stuff, inspirational quotes, and random pictures of stuff I think is funny.

Spend 5 minutes per day “liking” and commenting on other people’s social media and sending out a copy/pasted message like “Hey! I am a full-time freelance writer based in NYC! I do everything from blogs and articles and website copy to ghostwriting and book editing. Let me know if you ever need anything!”

A surprising number of people respond with questions and a few have become clients (an even a couple friends!). This has the double effect of helping you market yourself in a super simple way and be hopefully building for the future pipeline and also continuing to have a social media presence.

I know many freelancers who hate “sales” or “promoting themselves,” but when you are an entrepreneur it is necessary to do some of that. But like I show in my above 3 tips, it doesn’t have to hurt to be effective.

What do you think are the most important things to do when you’re busy? Do you have ebbs and flows in your business? How do you address them?