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How to Accommodate for Slow Freelancing Periods | Freelancers Forum #9

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How to Accommodate for Slow Freelancing Periods | Freelancers Forum #9

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

In this episode of Marketing Nerds, I joined Kelsey Jones, Executive Editor of SEJ, for another episode of Freelancers Forum, a series of Marketing Nerds episodes about the ups and downs of being a freelancer. We share our experiences, tips, and advice on how to be a successful freelancer.

In this episode, we talked about the dreaded slow season every freelancer faces, including how to prepare for it. Read excerpts below or listen to the full episode at the top of this article.

Flat 3d isometric design. Man sits in the workplace and working at a computer. Vector illustration. Work, table, freelance

When Are the Slow Seasons?

Danielle: There are slow seasons every year. Summer, I’ve noticed, June and July specifically are slower, versus August, people tend to get back into the office. Then again at the end of November, beginning of December, probably into the first or second week of January. This is because everyone’s pretty much on autopilot. All the projects are wrapped up, they’ve got one foot out of the office door, so it’s hard to sign those new contracts during that time.

Kelsey: Then, it is a new year. Everyone’s re-motivated to start working again. And I feel like it’s taken me a long time to realize this, but I love having those slow periods because during the holidays, you want to be with your family more anyway, and then in the summer, I love the summer, so I’d rather have it be a slower summer so I can do stuff.

Danielle: One of the things about the holiday time with it slowing down, every year it happens, and almost every year I forget about it, if that makes sense. We hit October, November, and I’m like, “Where are all the clients at? Holy crap.”

I know it happens every year, and every year, it still scares me. But I think it’s just part of freelancing. You get a little bit of nervous sweaty palms. “Okay, where’s the next check coming from?” It happens every year. Then again this year, it’s like, “Okay, it’s coming. Take a breath.”

How to Prepare for Seasonal Slow Periods

Kelsey: To combat the slow season, are there any strategies you use to prepare? For instance, do you have a savings account that when you’re making a lot of money, you put some money in for the dry times, or do you just ride it out? What do you usually do?

Danielle: I do save more when things are going better, but right now, a lot of that saving more actually means paying more towards my student loans to get those paid off. It’ll happen. It might be a decade, but it’s going to happen.

I do save up a little bit more money when I can, but also, I think there’s a lot to be said for having those anchor clients. I think SEJ is an anchor client for both of us. It’s a set amount of money you know you’re going to have every month no matter what.

It’s something I highly recommend freelancers to look for. It can be hard to find, but an anchor client that gives you a baseline for your income every month is really important. That way when the smaller stuff falls away in the slower seasons, you can just cut things out, like, “Do I really need to spend $200 a month on Amazon? Probably not.” If you’ve got those anchor clients and you’ve saved up a little bit of money, when those slow seasons hit, you’ve got that leeway.

You’ve also got to think about how you’ve got more time, right? There’s so much during the beginning of the year, which does tend to be busy for me as well. You get caught up, and so maybe your personal website falls behind, your personal Twitter profile that you’ve been trying to build falls behind, so thinking of it not so much that you’re losing money, but that you’re gaining time you can use to focus on building your brand, which I think is really important, as well.

Kelsey: Yes. I like that. I think that’s a good way to think of it. Think of it as time to focus on projects you’ve been putting off. For instance, I have a white paper that I had someone help me write for my Story Shout company, and it’s sitting there.

It’s in my inbox. I just need to edit it. So, when I have a slow week, that’s the first thing I’m going to do because its not a client that’s paying me, but it’s something for my personal branding, so in a way, and I don’t want to get off topic, but you should think of your own company as a client, as well.

And whenever I have slow times, I have a savings account I put money in every month, but I don’t want to have to use it, so usually what I try to do is anticipate big purchases, and I’ll pay those ahead of time if I can. For instance, a lot of times I’ll pay my car registration really early because usually the month that it’s actually due is when it starts getting slow, things like that, I’ll anticipate that I know come around every year.

Another thing I do is I start buying Christmas presents in October because it gets slow usually in November and December, and that’s when you need extra money for Christmas presents, so I have three or four Christmas presents I’ve already bought for people sitting in my guest bedroom closet.

So if you have expenses that you know are going to come up, like maybe your kids register for school in August or whatever, things like that, set aside money when you can, or pay it way ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it when you don’t have the money actually when it’s due.

On Budgeting as A Freelancer

Kelsey: Do you have a budget? For me, I use a spreadsheet, so I put in all my incoming work, and then all my expenses for each month on every tab of my spreadsheet. Do you have a budget that helps you anticipate those changes in income?

Danielle: I probably should. I spend way too much money on Amazon, and lately, Lularoe. It’s ridiculous. What I do use for business side is Fresh Books. I love them. It’s super easy. I have an app on my phone. I have it saved on my browser. Like I just spent $100 to boost a Facebook page for the parenting publication I created, and immediately, as soon as I spend the money, I go and put it in there to get that tax write-off.

I have a set amount I spend on groceries. We do a lot of meal planning, which is great. My husband and I both work from home, so I usually plan out six meals at the beginning of the week, and then we shop specifically for those meals. That helps a lot to avoid the last-minute going out to eat.

Final Tips

Danielle: My biggest tip I think was to take that extra time during the slow season and either invest it in your business or invest it in your family. The whole reason we become freelancers is to have that flexibility. Try to enjoy it. Try to enjoy the extra time, the flexibility, and things are going to pick up. It happens every year, I promise.

Kelsey: Yes. I think I would say I like your idea of embracing the free time to have time for your personal life or projects that get put by the wayside, and I would say my other good tip is to have a savings account. I do an automatic withdrawal, so it’s just part of my bills, and then to pay off your debt when you can.

 

To listen to this Marketing Nerds Podcast with Kelsey Jones:

Think you have what it takes to be a Marketing Nerd? If so, message Danielle Antosz on Twitter, or email her at danielle [at] searchenginejournal.com.

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

 

Image Credits: 

Featured Image: Created by Paulo Bobita 

In Post Image: Deposit Photos 

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Danielle Antosz

Danielle Antosz

Danielle is the former Features Editor for Search Engine Journal and the producer of SEJ Marketing Nerds podcast. She lives ... [Read full bio]

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