Fellow freelancers know all too well that the transition to a new year is typically slower on the work front. While this largely depends on your line of work and the industry you’re in, you could experience a slowdown. Clients might put a temporary halt on services they usually hire freelancers for until they can review next year’s budget, or they might be checked out and on vacation.
Whatever the case, it equals less work. While it’s easy to want to hit the “panic” button, fear not. Before you drain your emergency funds, consider these tactics to increase your cash flow during an end-of-year lull:
Repackage Your Services
Lowering your current rates might seem like the best thing to do when you’re suffering from a dry spell. But here’s the catch. Let’s say you offer a deal or lower your rates during a lull. When things start to pick up again, you’ll most likely drop that client — or feel unmotivated to deliver quality work.
For the sake of both you and your clients, repackage your services instead of lowering your rates. Case in point: You’re a writer who specializes in content marketing, and you find that clients aren’t looking to ramp up their editorial calendar during this time of year. However, companies are looking to populate their social media feeds during the holiday season, when there’s a sales flurry.
In that case, offer packages that include writing web copy or social media posts. By repackaging your services, you could potentially tap into different kinds of clients who could use your help. Try looking for opportunities on LinkedIn, Twitter, or by asking your professional network for leads.
Focus on Value and Profitability
Truth be told, I’m not as big into rate shaming as I once was. That’s because it’s not just how much you’re getting paid, but about two things: the value of the project, and about the profitability. Touching upon value, is it work you enjoy? Does it relate to what you want to do long-term? If you’ve answered “yes” to both, you might be cool with taking an assignment that pays a little less.
As for profitability, how much work does a project or assignment take? And how much time and energy will you potentially spend on it? Some colleagues who know certain topics like the back of their hand can crank out an article in a short amount of time. While the rate might not be $1 a word, it might be more profitable because it’s a skill that’s in their zone of genius, and they can do it quickly and well.
Play Up the Holiday Angle
Whether you’re reaching out to former clients or pitching to new ones, ask if they need help with the busyness of the holidays coming up, suggests freelance writer Hailey Hudson. “Maybe their in-house team is slammed or leaving on vacation, they need help getting out extra Christmas content, or refreshing seasonal content from years prior,” says Hudson. And by putting out feelers and seeing which types of clients might need some help over the holidays, you’ll have a better plan of attack come next year. In turn, you could potentially avoid the slump altogether.
Get Clued in on What’s in Demand
A friend I met through water aerobics told me she was able to run a successful consulting company for decades because she had skills that came in handy during both economic upswings and economic downturns. For instance, when the economy was doing well, she worked with a lot of startups. And when the economy was in a slump, she helped corporations be more efficient.
So consider divvying up your skills into two camps based on the time of year. Besides what you normally offer through your freelancing business, think about what skills can you offer during the lulls.
Pick Up a Side Hustle — or Two
In the first few years I freelanced full-time, I picked up a few gigs to bolster my income. Namely, pet-sitting, house-sitting and test proctoring during finals week at a nearby university. Tap into gigs that are in-demand during the holiday season. Think: Seasonal jobs in service and retail, babysitting, or being rented out as a friend. Sure, these gigs are outside of the wheelhouse of your freelancing business, but they can help you stay afloat.
Besides raking in a bit of extra cash, these side hustles were ones that I could stack. In other words, I could technically do two side hustles at once. For instance, working on a writing assignment or doing some other type of computer work while house sitting. A side hustle can also help you segue to work you really want to do.
Work on Side Projects
You might not want to hear this, but consider spending some time polishing your professional website, coming up with a game plan for the new year, or working on a side project that could potentially bring in more money. Planting the seeds now, so to speak, could help you stay in the flush for the following year.
Reach Out to Your Network
Instead of reaching out to new clients, you might have a better time landing work from existing ones, points out writer and editor Elen Turner. They might have other freelancers or staffers who are on vacation and could use more work from you.
Along the same lines, reach out to your network of freelancers to see if any are going on vacation and need someone to cover for them. While some might work ahead during the fall, others might have clients with assignments available during the end of the year.
Crunch the Numbers
Try number-crunching a couple of times a month to make sure you’re hitting your minimum income goals, suggests Dori Zinn, a freelance writer and co-owner of Blossomers. If you foresee your earnings coming up short, check-in with managing editors. “Whenever there’s a slow time — which is usually around the end of the year — I dig back into that list of editor emails to follow up,” says Zinn. “One thing I sometimes forget is the assignments won’t always magically show up. I have to make sure they show up.”
Suffering through a work lull isn’t easy for anyone. And if you end up needing to tap into your savings, just make sure to come up with a plan to replenish them when things start to pick up again.