5+ Ways to Survive Freelancing Famine Periods

Any long-term freelancer will tell you that most freelancers go through ups and downs–periods of high pay and periods of low pay. But the feast or famine cycle can take new freelancers by surprise.

While there are definitely some steps you can take to avoid the feast or famine cycle, for many freelancers the real questions is this–“How am I going to get through this slow period?”

In this post, I’ll provide five tips for surviving your freelancing famine periods (plus a bonus tip). Even if you’ve been freelancing for a while, you may find a freelance survival tip that you can use.

Why a Freelancing Famine Hits Us Hard

Here is what many freelancers face–just when their freelancing business seems to be really taking off, they get a month or two of little to no business. It’s the dreaded “famine” part of the freelance feast or famine cycle.

When some new freelancers experience their first good month, they think they have it made. Many go out and celebrate by spending all or most of what they just earned. Since they haven’t really experienced a work slowdown, they don’t realize that slowdowns are common part of freelancing. They aren’t ready for a famine period.

The other mistake freelancers make during a famine period is to get desperate. They sell their services for far less than they are worth. They take jobs at rates that just barely allow them to get by. Soon they are too busy making ends meet to look for better gigs.

It’s easy to see why many freelancers panic during a famine period. Admittedly, it’s hard to stay calm when your bank account is nearing empty. In fact, the famine periods of freelancing often cause new freelancers to quit freelancing. But quitting is not the only way to deal with a freelancing famine period.

How to Survive Freelancing Famine Periods

A determined freelancer doesn’t let a slow period stop them. You can survive.

Here are over five tips for surviving your freelancing famine periods:

  1. Don’t spend everything you make. It sounds simple, but it’s actually harder than it seems. For the first year or so of freelancing, you may need to tighten your belt. I always recommend having an emergency fund, but you won’t be able to build it up at one time. Set aside a portion of your earnings each month for slow periods.
  2. Get a personal project that earns money. Many freelancers have side projects that also earn them money. Common side projects include coaching other freelancers, selling an eBook, selling themes or designs, or being involved in affiliate marketing. Work on your side product in your down time and every chance you get.
  3. Sell your nearly new “junk.” Did you ever buy something, only to find out later that you really don’t need it? Or, did you ever get a birthday present that you didn’t really want? Did you ever think that someone else may want these items? Try selling them to get extra cash to see you through a slow period. Try listing your nearly new junk on Craigslist and on eBay.
  4. Cultivate long-term clients. I go out of my way to provide excellent services to all of my clients, but the clients that I really like doing business with are the ones who need my services on a regular basis. Try to build relationships with clients and prospects who have a long-term need.
  5. Get a part-time job. Many freelancers start out as part-timers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you can work it the other way too. You can get a part-time non-freelance job to supplement the income from your freelancing business until it really takes off.
  6. Bonus tip: Be part of a focus group. If you live near a big city, you may be able to receive pay to be part of a marketing focus group. Marketers are constantly looking for people to test their new products, and if you fit their desired demographic you may be able to earn a few extra dollars this way.

Your Turn

You’ve just read some of my best tips for getting through a slow period. Now it’s your turn.

What are your best tips for surviving a period of freelancing famine? Share them in the comments below.