One of the handy things about blogging, is that sometimes it helps you address issues that you’re pondering yourself. Sometimes it helps to get things down on paper to clear your thoughts and come to a solution that can help you or your readers.

Earlier this month, I had a run of misfortune when several of my biggest clients had to end my contact due to budget cuts. Many of them are clients I’ve had since I started, so it left me feeling a lot less secure. Especially with a mortgage to pay and a wedding to save for. This, by the way, is why you need a freelance savings account. For those months when money is tight.

Looking on the positive side, losing those contracts wasn’t reflective of my services or quality of blog posts. But it did result in a knock to my confidence, as well as to my income. But sometimes, these things happen so you can take on brand new challenges.

Having spent a while thinking through my options, I’ve come up with a few things to get you (and me) through the tougher times.

1) Take a breath and reflect.

To be brutally honest with you, I’m awful at dealing with the emotional side of losing clients. I’m very practical, so emotions often get swept under the carpet. I actually ended up bottling up my worries about business and money until I ended up having a little cry this weekend to my other half. It was only until then that I felt like my mind had cleared and I was able to rationally look at my situation and how to go about rectifying it. Don’t be afraid to mourn the loss of a client if you’ve worked with them for a while! But don’t mourn for long. This is your chance to take on new responsibilites.

Once you’re done mourning, have a look at your business. Is what you’re currently doing working towards your long term goals? Does the extra time you now have give you the opportunity to try out things you haven’t been able to before? Now might be your best chance to put those goals into practice!

An extra benefit is that you’ll be able to start with a fresh sheet with new clients – so potentially you can increase your prices to line up with industry standards, input a new contract or code of conduct and change up how you do things.

2) Reach out to your contacts

Windows Contacts

The next thing to do is to reach out to your contacts. When I knew I was about to lose some clients, I reached out to my friends in the industry to find out if they knew of any potential clients or projects I could work on. I’m very fortunate that several got in touch, plus I’ve discussed a few projects with a few friends that will hopefully come to fruition. Those contacts are vital, and better than any advertising option.

3) Get pitching

Once you’ve spoken to your contacts, write up a list of clients you’d like to work with. Then pitch to them! Don’t wait for work to come to you, make it happen.

4) Don’t panic

Admittedly, this is the advice my other half gave to me. But if you reach out to your contacts, pitch to potential clients, reassess your options and look at all your income options, your work should pay off eventually. It’s now a few weeks down the line and I’ve had contacts from my website and referrals that will hopefully lead to some work next month. I might not be able to relax yet, but it’s good to know the work I’ve done so far is starting to lead to potential work.


5) Use your spare time wisely

Get ahead on your admin. Get out and about in your local area (you never know, it might lead to some business opportunities.) Clear out and tidy your office and home. Take a day or two away to refresh your brain. Hell, enjoy the odd lie in! But make sure you work hard to find new work too. It’s tough out there at the moment, especially in editorial digital media and blogging, but if you can’t find any roles the internet gives you the opportunity to create your own work. Look out for a niche market or something that’s not already out there (or if it is, it’s not done well) and do it!

Over to you! How do you cope with a freelance famine? 

10 Comments on What to do during the freelance famine periods

  1. Emma, I really feel that you have outlined the best way to deal with any sort of employment loss. When I thought I was being pushed out of my own job through restructure I did exactly what you have described – particularly tapping up colleagues and friends in the industry who could offer perspective on new work or help me transition to a freelance/portfolio career. It also gave me the push to move on and try something new.

    Something which I think can really help is to get those Linkedin recommendations up to scratch! If you are losing a client through budget cuts etc there is no reason why they shouldn’t give you a testimonial for your site or for Linkedin. I think I’d prefer them to give it on Linkedin with the proviso I can use for my own portfolio site!

      • I’m checking in on this post a bit late, so perfect timing for a gentle reminder about whether you asked for those testimonials.

        Secondly, you’re High Tea Cast Sam Sparrow? I use your blog as where to go for feel good practical down to earth reading as a nice balance to all the work related worthy (read HMRC related) blog posts. After losing a client, a bigger dose of ‘nice’ is much in order.

  2. This is a really good post Emma – I wish I’d had some advice like this when my work dried up for a short time 18 months ago. Instead of doing all these sensible things I panicked and signed up with some dreadful content providing website which made me thoroughly miserable for a few weeks and earned peanuts. I’d have been much better off taking stock and pitching for work that I actually wanted to do. I was lucky that it didn’t last long! I’ll definitely be more sensible if it happens again. Hope things work out well for you.

    • Thanks Jenny! That’s a good point about panicking too, I had to fight that temptation too early this month. Like you said though, it’s better to pitch for work you want, then wait and say yes to any work offered to you. Glad to hear you’re not still working for them now 🙂

  3. Someone needs to say this so I will. Take that extra time and SORT OUT YOUR ACCOUNTS! There, I feel better now.

    Lots of little luxuries (most not costing any money, like a really good cup of tea or dancing to music), your backed up bookkeeping and admin, email someone (like me!) to hold you accountable, and off you go.

    Most of all, (that’s the Don’t Panic sketch from Dad’s Army. It’s compulsary viewing).

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