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How I Keep Myself Swimming in Freelance Work

Come on in, the water’s great. Photo by Drew Dau on Unsplash

All too often, I see freelance writers bemoaning a lack of work. Why? I have freelance work running out my ears. I’m swimming in work. I have too much work. I have a waiting list and I’m turning down projects. Frankly, I have enough work that it’s become a problem and I’m overworking myself. So why isn’t that the case for every other freelancer out there?

I’m nothing special. I’m a good writer and a professional freelancer (ie, I don’t leave clients hanging and I meet deadlines; I’m also flexible enough to meet individual clients’ needs), but I’m not a wildly outstanding writer. I’m not writing for high-paying, high-profile publications. Most of my work is for small businesses and small publications (by choice).

So what am I doing that’s different? Here’s what I can gather.

1. I’m not picky.

I think this is one of my biggest strengths as a freelance writer. I’m not picky. I’ll write about just about anything and I’ll write for just about anyone. Seriously. One of my very first gigs was writing online profiles and marketing copy for call girls. Someone’s gotta do it.

What I am picky about? Money. I won’t take gigs under a certain amount. I have my limit. Otherwise, anything is fair game. You want me to write it? I’ll write it. I know that being picky means, often, being poor.

2. I’m constantly pitching.

You cannot rest easy as a freelancer. You can’t become comfortable in whatever you’re currently making. You never know when a client is going to go belly-up. I just this week had one client that was routinely paying me $1,000/month lose one of their clients, which means they no longer needed me to work on their behalf.

But if you’re constantly pitching and constantly looking for new work, you’ll never run out. Even now, when I literally freaked out this afternoon because I’m not sure how I’ll do all of my work scheduled for next week, I’m still trying to get more work. Because I know that’s a better boat to be in, than the no-work boat and I know I’ll figure it out. Something always falls through and then too much work becomes just enough work.

My habit is to…

  • Pitch one new-to-me publication per week
  • Pitch three not new-to-me publications per week
  • Apply for one new gig per weekday

This results in me, often, getting around 3–5 new gigs or assignments per week. On top of my regular, reoccurring work, as well as my wait list, that leaves me in a great spot.

3. I’m always saying “yes.”

Okay, so this gets me into trouble. It gets me into trouble often. But where it doesn’t get me is out of work. I’m always saying “yes” to clients. Even if I don’t immediately know how I’ll get something done, I’m always saying I can, because I know that I really can get it done. I might not know how currently, but I’ll sure as hell figure it out.

So, the next time a client proposes a scary, new-to-you project, go ahead and say “yes.” Have a little faith in yourself and your skills. You’ll figure it out.

(Disclaimer: Don’t say “yes” to something you literally cannot do; I do not say “yes” to design work, for example. Do say “yes” to things you’re just somewhat scared to do.)

4. I value efficiency and have a “get it done” attitude.

If you want to be a high-volume freelancer and you want to have a continual flow of work, there’s one thing you’re going to have to do: you have to put efficiency over effectiveness on occasion. That means not every single piece is going to be a work of art. Sometimes, you’ll have to churn out a so-so piece if it means getting your client all of the work they need, when they need it.

It also means that you have to pay attention to how you work and then you have to “hack” your work style. If you work best in the morning, work more in the morning, even if it means dragging yourself out of bed and to your desk at 5 a.m. If you know you can’t focus with others around, it means making sure you always have a solo spot to work, every. single. day. It means putting your work style first and not making any apologies.

That’s it!

That’s literally it! Now, keep in mind that I’ve been freelancing full-time for more than two years. So, if you’re just starting out, you may have to tweak my “always pitching” schedule and do quite a bit more pitching at first; you might also have to take a lot more work that you don’t want to take, for a lot less, until you build up a client base and portfolio.

However, if you put in the work, you, too, can be swimming in work. Of course, that also depends on if you want to be swimming in work. Some freelancers don’t prefer this work style and that’s fine. Just don’t complain when you don’t have any work in your pipeline.

Holly Riddle is a freelance travel, lifestyle and food journalist and copywriter who dabbles in fiction. She can be reached at holly.ridd@gmail.com. Her website is hollyriddle.org and her twitter handle is @TheHollyRiddle.

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Holly Riddle

Holly Riddle

Content creator, full-time freelancer. Passionate about non-traditional careers. Published thousands of non-fiction articles and not one word of fiction.

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