Monday, February 01, 2010

Top Tips: Beating the dry spells

There are two certain Ds in a freelancer’s life. The first one, the big D, happens to us all in the end. ‘The End’, I should say, meaning: all of us die. The little D may be just as obvious, certainly to the veteran freelancer, but happily this D needn’t be as fatal as its big cousin.

Little D in the freelancer’s lexicon stands for Dry, as in Dry Spells, those unplanned periods without work that strike deadly fear into your heart if you’re wondering how to survive as a freelancer. Or put simply, if you can still pay the bills when the work dries up, as it inevitably will do on occasion, especially when you’re a newbie in the business.

Even the most experienced freelancer will succumb to a quiver when confronted by an unintended dry spell. Yes, some dry spells are intended, we call them holidays; but these are planned because – natch – freelancers don’t get paid for going on holiday. But (to get back on topic) as a nervewracked novice, I used to get fraught if I didn’t have the next job lined up straight away. Accustomed to the fulltime security of working for a boss, I only began relaxing in my new freelancing life when I realised that something always DOES turn up, maybe a day or two later than I would really like, but always before things get really desperate.

Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe it’s my Guardian Angel working overtime, helping me find the next job well before there’s reason to worry. Maybe (at the risk of sounding conceited) I’m a good editor and deliver the goods: I’ve never done just one job for a client, sooner or later they always come back for more. Or maybe it’s because I don’t leave finding work up to luck or count on cosy repeat business.

I do loads of stuff to meet new clients and keep current clients aware of what I can do for them with my native-English Editing Service. I serve academics whose mothertongue is not English, people who need to publish their research results in international journals. So I’m a language professional, in the English-editing business for authors. What about you, my fellow freelancer? Whatever your business and whatever target audience you want to reach,the tips I am sharing with you here – and in the following parts of this new Top Tips series -- will be sure to work for you as much as they work for me.

Top Tip #1
Be bold, be businesslike, just ask for work. Sometimes I send round an ‘availability coming up soon’ email to my personal client base and the bigger agencies – it always gets results, if only a friendly message along the lines of ‘I’ll keep you in mind for when the next job comes in’. At the very least, you’ve shown clients you’re ready and willing and, especially these days, a little enthusiasm goes a long way.

Bonus tip: Do this BEFORE you finished your current job to keep the stench of desperation out of your message.

Let me leave you now with a little light something to help you cope if the worst comes to the w├╝rst and you end up suffering a dry spell. Sit back, relax and tune into some close harmony by a German vocal group very popular in the early 1930s. Enjoy!

Watch out for more Top Tips in part 2 of this series, coming soon!