7 Things I Did When Things Got Slow As A Freelancer

A friend sent me a photo today.

It was a reminder of a project I did back in 2012 or 2013. I was a “Freelancer” at that time. Which really meant I was just doing whatever I could to make money. I was fresh out of school and attempting to build a book of business.

The problem was… I had barely had any.

When things got slow, I decided to simply start doing experimental projects that seemed interesting to me. They kept me creative when I had open spaces between client work.

And, they taught me a lot.

When in doubt… take action on something that interests you.

Here are a few things I tried.

1. I “Donated” Power Strips to coffee shops with my brand stickered on it.

That way, every time someone plugged in their laptop, theyd see my brand, secretly brainwashing them :).

I wanted to “power” the Columbus startup scene.

2. As an experiment, I left wind-up Film cameras around the city with a note that said: “Please Take a Photo and Leave it Where you Found it.”

I then developed the rolls of film, curious to see what people had done with it. Did they take a landscape? Photos of their friends? Were the images interesting?

This guy took a selfie.

3. I printed a Newspaper with my Brand story on it. It was like a Physical version of my Website.

I left it in places where they had Newspapers and Magazines.

4. I sent members of my personal email list a “Physical” version of my email that week, and I included a secret members-only “tattoo” for them to wear.

People Instagrammed it. And maybe a few people asked them about why they had that on their skin?

5. Instagram was fairly new at the time, and so I organized the first “Instagram-Meetup” in Columbus.

I also got brand sponsors for free gear (camera tripods etc.) as well as a dozen red balloons for people to take photos of.

6. I sponsored coffee for that day at that same coffee shop. The first 100 people who entered the shop that morning got free coffee, on me.

I negotiated with the coffee shop so that I only had to pay $1 per coffee (at cost for them).

This meant that I paid $100 to help make 100 people’s day better. Seems like good ROI to me…

7. I hired Allie to do my personal brand logo.

It’s counter-intuitive, but a good way to align yourself with other freelancers who are doing work you like, is to hire them for their services.

We worked together on that logo project, and then shortly after I tried my next experiment, in which we started a project together called Death to the Stock Photo.

— — — -

There are many companies that could use your creativity. But if you don’t have much work yet, you have to create your own stories to tell. Once I started meeting with people, I told them about these projects, and it was a great way to show them what I was about, and to become the “Hey, you’re that guy who did that thing with the coffee..” etc.

When things get slow, experiment. Find something that’s interesting to you and tinker with it, try it out.

Share about the experience. Involve other people, organize people, do something that snaps you out of a creative rut, and gives you a story to tell.

xx David

Oh, and P.S. Here is the photo he texted me today:

The power strip is still there!! Looking like it needs a vacation.