When you’re self-employed or even just freelancing on the side, there are weeks where your inbox seems to go quiet. Right as you start to doubt yourself, the work suddenly comes flowing in, offers for blog and magazine features pile up and it seems as if the world is being handed to you on a silver platter. Then, as if on cue, another slow time hits. What gives?!
This year, I’ve had a lot of those moments. Even when I have a seemingly full schedule on paper, those days hit where I have an open block of time and look around nervously, refreshing my emails and wondering if I’ve done something terribly wrong. And truthfully, everyone does. Sometimes, this stretches on for months at a time. It can feel like an intense roller coaster ride, full of the highest highs followed by a high-speed dash back to the bottom. Instead of questioning why it’s happening though, you have to accept that when you work for yourself, this is the new normal.
When I worked at design studios, I watched them experience the same highs and lows. One month, we’d be feverishly busy and just barely hit our deadlines. Late nights and pizza were accepted as the norm. A few months later (usually at the height of summer or right before Christmas break), we’d be looking around, wondering when the next project was going to drop and idly surfing inspiration sites, bored out of our minds. When work stops fortoo long, it goes from fun (afternoon movies, happy hours and long walks in the park) to a really dark place (which one of us is going to get cut first?). As uncertain as it feels, work, just like everything else is always going to have an ebb and flow.
When you do slow down, even if it’s just for a few days, instead of panicking, use this time to really promote your business. Instead of taking off to the beach (okay, that’s fine every once in awhile!) put together a really nice media kit of your services and packages, dust off some of your most loved blog posts and re-share them across social media, tighten up your portfolio (because let’s face it, it’s never really done) and showcase some of those projects you never quite had the time to post about before.
View Slow Times As An Opportunity
If you’re still on the edge of your seat and there’s not an immediate uptick in demand, use that nervous energy to think about how you can diversify:
1. Make a list of other services can you offer and add them to your site and / or media kit. Dive into something new, like designing e-books or digital courses.
2. Contact previous clients to see if they have a project they need help with.
3. Create a digital product. What can you teach someone?
4. Brush up on new skills with a Skillshare class (they’re really affordable). Blog about this new skill you’ve acquired — your audience may need it.
5. Volunteer for a non-profit. They always need good, willing design help! Make connections in the process.
6. Offer an incentive for new clients to work with you. Just be careful to not come across as desperate — desperation, no matter the situation, is never attractive!
7. Offer a referral program. Happy clients love recommending services to their friends!
8. Build out old projects for your portfolio. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-initiated work.
9. Use your downtime to connect with design peers. Also, let them know you’re able to pick up extra projects they don’t have time for. Every designer likes to keep a list of referrals on hand for jobs they can’t take on.
10. If you’re not blogging, start. Share genuinely helpful information. Here are 30 topic ideas to get you started.
When times are slow, they give us the chance to reflect and improve upon what we’re doing. Everyone, no matter how skilled, famous and fabulous has room to improve! We all hit slow times. Embrace them. Make the best of them. They won’t last forever.
It’s your turn: Do you have any coping skills to deal with those painfully slow times?
P.S. That yellow poster in the top photo is pinned behind my desk and reads Stay Positive. Yes, I glance at it often. 😉