Right now, the world is in chaos. There’s no avoiding it, denying or sugarcoating it. Too many of us are struggling and it can feel impossible to worry about the mundanity of work during these anxious times. As a freelancer, this is bad news. In our industry, we rely heavily on the financial successes of our clients to keep us paid and in-demand — when they fall, we fall right alongside them.
So in circumstances such as this one, where all businesses are too busy trying to find their new ‘normal’, it’s hard for freelancers to even get a look in. This can lead to slow or suspended work aka ‘quiet periods’, impromptu breaks or even cancelled contracts — leaving the self-employed community stuck without further work.
Whilst the government has put together some packages to support freelancers during the period of lockdown, and we are considered financially stable, from a work-perspective…there’s not a lot to do. Without client work to complete, emails to answer and the chance of new client work coming in right now, what should we be doing to pass the time? As leaving the house isn’t really an option, and you can only kill so much time binging Netflix on your sofa…how do you cope with the quiet periods?
First, clean and de-clutter your space.
As we all take our time adjusting to this new way of living, there are a few ways to help you feel settled and productive at home. Make sure your desk and workspace is clean, clear and tidy, keeping the items around you to a minimum. Use this time to throw out any old files or junk on your desk and give yourself a calm and fresh place to start working.
This mentally also applies to the rest of your home too. Where possible, find ways to keep all of your spaces clean and clear, as this will naturally lead to better mental health and productivity.
Plan your professional to-do list
Although your client work might be a little on the slow side right now, there are still ways to keep yourself busy. Switch your focus onto your own business, and make some improvements where you can. Plan your social media feeds a few weeks in advance, refresh your website, reach out for those testimonials you meant to ask for last month… Many of us will forget to maintain our own businesses when client work starts to pile up, so take advantage of this quieter period to take a step back and appraise yourself.
Figure out if there are any areas of your business model that could be improved. Could you be setting up a spreadsheet to monitor your invoices and expenses? Do you need to take new photos for your portfolio? Do you have a backlog of blog post ideas that need writing? Spend some digging into your own work and start bug fixing it — before long you’ll have a to-do list to keep you occupied for days.
Plan your domestic to-do list
Everyone has those little jobs they’ve been putting off getting done. Cutting the grass, fixing a door handle, repainting the ceiling…even small jobs like clearing out your wardrobe or decluttering the storage cupboard. There are always ways to improve and cleanse your home, and having free time to spare is a great motivator to get it done.
Carve out some time to plan the next few jobs and tasks you need to get done. From an administrative perspective, this could mean organising your digital files, getting that photo album made up or finally looking into changing your gas supplier. From a domestic sense, this could involve a little bit of DIY and home improvement — perfect for keeping your mind occupied and your hands busy.
With the quiet periods that a freelancer encounters, there is always a sense of uncertainty. Will the work pick up again? How long before the next client comes along? Should I dip into my savings just in case?
When it comes to the quarantine, unfortunately, there’s no predicting when things might go back to normal. It could be weeks or months before businesses get back on their feet, and so it’s difficult to put a timeline on your business. But this doesn’t mean that it’s time to give up.
When the quarantine ends, you will need to be ready and organised to deal with what happens next. You should be one step ahead at all times, ready for the changes that will follow — whether it be a sudden influx of work or an even slower pace for a while. Don’t fall into lazy or unproductive habits, as it can be even harder to break them when work does start coming in again.
Be kind to yourself
Whether your ‘quiet periods’ are down to a global pandemic or just a lull in client communication, it’s important to care for yourself in this time. It can be easy to turn your boredom and unproductivity inwards, judging yourself for not being more successful or for not making enough money every day. When you talk to others who might be overloaded with work, it’s hard not to feel guilty for having so much free time on your hands.
Allow yourself some time, and trust that you are a hard worker. These periods are all part of the job and every single freelancer out there will have experienced them at one point or another. It doesn’t matter how or why you’ve found yourself without work, it just matters that you stay healthy and positive until it returns.