How to Get Ahead When There’s No Work

Every freelancer, no matter how awesome they are, goes through slow periods. They often only last a week or two–but when you’re used to getting a lot of checks in the mail, that week can go on for forever. Even though you should be used to it by now, it’s still stressful, but there’s hope yet!

If you’re like me, you probably have the tendency to sit around and stare at the computer screen or play on Twitter all day when there’s nothing to work on. However, if you make a plan for your next slow period, you can get ahead for your next work rush and come out better in the long run.

You’ll actually be looking forward to the slow periods!

Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do when there’s no client work to be found.

Who Are You?

When we’re busy with work we tend to get behind on our marketing and appearances. When your business is completely online you’ve got to keep your presence and your name floating around, or you’ll easily be forgotten by prospective clients and contacts.

Use the slow period to take some time to write several guest articles for prominent blogs in your industry. You can decide to release them all at once, but it’s best to send one out once a week. This way, you can be featured on different blogs several times a month and won’t have to worry about disappearing when you’re busy with work.

Another way to get seen around the web is to participate in community discussions, debates and blog commenting. Not only will reading others’ articles help you learn new things, it will also improve your writing and get your name out into the community as a professional. Twitter is great for this too, just be aware of the magical Twitter Time Black Hole that exists when you get caught up in everyone’s tweets.

An Organized Freelancer Is a Happy Freelancer

Another thing that slips past us when we’re caught up in client work is organization. Take a few minutes to put those tax receipts in an envelope, square away your PayPal account and make sure all clients have paid their invoices.

What about your portfolio? I tend to post something as soon as possible, but I know a ton of freelancers with awesome new work whose portfolios haven’t been updated in years (yes that’s years). Your website is the only storefront clients will see, so make sure it’s clean, polished and updated. Go around and delete some of the older projects that no longer show your work at its best. Make small changes in design and layout to give your portfolio a fresh update.

Now is also the perfect time to move your office around. Especially if you’re in a dark, cluttered ugly room, a good office is essential for productivity. Redoing your office doesn’t even have to cost a lot of money! Repainting it alone can go a long way towards cheering it up.

Grow That Brain

The best way to get ahead is to get ahead in knowledge. Has there been a new programming language you’ve been dying to learn? Some new design techniques? Want to brush up on your skills or take a class? Now is the time to do it. This allows you to stay current with new trends and technologies, as well as putting you ahead of where you were, since you’ll now be able to offer your clients new services.

I’ve been very interested in different program languages lately. It’s take five months, but I’m finally finished with my first iPhone development book. After that I plan to work on some advanced jQuery skills and then possibly play around with some Ruby on Rails.

While I always advocating niching yourself and specializing your services, there’s nothing wrong with learning new things, even if you never plan to offer it as a service to your clients. Learning new things, whether related to your profession or not, go a long way towards improving all aspects of your life.

Another thing I recommend you do in your free time–read! Get your hands on as many business, freelance and industry books as possible. I’ve learned so much from reading about other peoples’ experiences, it’s worth the time and effort.

And Lastly….Just Relax!

Most of the time the slow periods come at the perfect week, normally when I’ve just finished some super large, overly stressful project. I need a break. I deserve a break, and what do I get? A break! Money comes and goes and one week off doesn’t normally affect incoming money much at all. It’s good to take a break off every few months and recharge. Take a break from being a vampire freelancer and go outside. Read some books. Go shopping. Take a vacation. You deserve it!

Your Thoughts

What do you do during your slow periods to get ahead in business?

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