If you’re a freelancer, spikes in sales are random. But for most of us, our rate of client acquisition and conversion is a seasonal cycle, and we can anticipate when we will be busy and when our schedule will be empty or in a dry spell.

How do we manage those seasons when new clients are sparse and our inbox is empty?

Start by Anticipating the Seasonal Low Points

Once you are no longer a new freelancer, you probably know when these times are going to arrive. Plan your finances accordingly, stocking up an emergency fund during your busy season so that your expenses will be covered when there are fewer clients. New freelancers often have an unpleasant wake-up call shortly after their transition from 9-to-5 work to entrepreneurship, and learn the hard way that income is not consistent month to month. Being a freelancer requires long-range vision and skill at managing variable resources. Plan ahead!

Use Those Times to Enhance Your Career and Advance Your Education

If you will not be busy with clients, dry spells are a great time to renew your knowledge by taking a class or going to a conference. Without constant incoming e-mails and calls, your focus will be free to concentrate on acquiring new skills and thinking expansively. You will emerge from your period of professional development with new ideas, more connected creativity, and fresh engines.

Take Your Vacations During These Times

We all need breaks, and when we run low on clients during a predictable dry spell, we often panic and start to conserve money out of fear that the lull is permanent. However, if we plan ahead well, we can anticipate the seasons that we will be temporarily free, and we should take our trips and time off during these leisurely periods. Instead of frantically (and pointlessly) checking e-mail, running spontaneous ad campaigns, and worrying about money, we should go out of town, give ourselves permission to enjoy the time off, and plan to return just in time to lay the groundwork for the upswing.

Find a New Niche by Offering a New Service

If, for example, you are an accountant and most of your work is between January and June, you can spend July, August, and September teaching community classes about taxation, or offering your services to teach accounting software to freelancers. By doing this, you can make quick cash, but also broaden your network so that you can get even more clients during your busy seasons. Community contacts, in the right context, often convert to clients because they already trust your credibility.

Ask Openly for Referrals

If the dry spell was unexpected, you may find yourself going back through your records to seek out former clients. While this is a great idea, it’s also smart to ask friends and family if they know anyone who needs your services. As a freelancer, there’s no shame in asking for work, and even a quick social media update that asks for referrals while projecting confidence can do the trick. A positive one-liner for a photographer, for example, could be: “Here’s a sneak peek at my latest wedding album for the Smith nuptials! With this project finished, I have room in my schedule for one event this spring! Message me for pricing details!”

Final Thought

Dry spells are inevitable, but if you are savvy, you can make them work to your advantage!


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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