Freelance Business Slow? It Happens. Here’s What to Do.

There are two times of year that are notoriously slow for freelancers: winter and summer. In the spring, you’re likely to pick up a few new clients. And in the fall, even if you don’t have new work coming in you’re likely stressed to the max with your existing clients’ marketing campaigns.

So what do you do when business is slow? Every freelancer should have an “arsenal” of long-term, year-round clients. But when the new work isn’t coming in, you can still use your time productively. Here are a few ideas.

Learn a new skill

What better time than when business is slow to pick up a new skill, or improve the skills you have? There are oodles of ways you can become better at what you do.

  • Try an Udemy course, which are frequently priced at a discount to new learners.
  • Network with other freelancers and simply share industry advice (and some good stories)!
  • Check your community college. Business development courses are sometimes priced as low as $50, allowing you to brush up on your skills for cheap.
  • Look for webinars. Buyer beware, though: many are “teaser” courses which are designed to tempt you into buying a “full course.”

Remember that what you learn doesn’t have to be directly related to your trade. For instance, if you’re a freelance writer, you can always check out a small business accounting course.

Market, market, market

You should be doing this every day, anyway. But when business is slow, marketing and promoting your service is a great way to pass your working hours. The slow months are also an excellent time to try a new marketing venue. Need ideas? Here are a few:

  • Take advantage of Google Ads – Google and your hosting company often give you an initial credit – say $150 – to get your PPC up and running.
  • List your business on sites like Google Business (if applicable), Yelp!, Alignable and others to soak up all that free SEO.
  • Start a social media account. Again, you should have already done this. But if you haven’t, chose a platform and get posting. Remember to make sure you keep the “social” in social media.
  • Try a new venue like Moonlighting, Letgo or Craigslist. Watch out for icky scams, though.
  • I never recommend cold calling, but if you’ve noticed a local business needs new graphics, pictures, copy or whatever it is you provide, go ahead and reach out. Nicely.

Hey, remember me?

Probably best not to burn bridges.

When freelancing business is slow, it’s a great time to reconnect with previous clients. Of course, this only applies to those you had a good relationship with. Shoot an email, send a PM or write a text to your past clients to let them know you’re thinking about them – and are available for any needs that may have arisen.

When freelancing business is slow, it’s a great time to reconnect with previous clients.

Join a group

No matter your industry, there’s a group of individuals out there who do similar work to you. You’ll find them everywhere. I covered this a bit in a previous post, but there are quite a few ways to connect with these people.

You can try:

  • Meetup groups
  • Social media
  • Co-working spaces
  • Your local university

Joining a group serves a million purposes, not least of which is your ability to kill the freelancing loneliness.

Update your portfolio

You should regularly update your portfolio. Your clients want to see fresh references, testimonials and samples of work. Of course, you’ll want to ensure your contact information is up to date as well.

When work is busy, you may not give your portfolio a second thought. You’ll just link or share with prospective clients without consciously remembering what, exactly, is on the thing. Take a day and update your portfolio. Do the same with your resume if you have one.

Start a blog

If you don’t already have a business blog, now’s a great time to start! When your business is slow, it’ll offer you a little more time to focus on your own stuff. That means pounding out a few articles on your niche, your industry or, honestly, anything else you want to cover.

The best blogs are focused on one topic. Choose what you like. Food, fashion, finance – whatever floats your boat. Enlist a reputable company to host your site. I’ve had success with for years now, but there are definitely others.

Install WordPress – it’s super easy to work with. Choose a theme then get writing!

Take a day off


Don’t take a week off, unless you can definitely afford to. But taking a day off will give you a chance to do the things you’ve been meaning to catch up on. You know, the non-work related ones.

What would you do with your day off?

  • Clean out your closets and list your old crap on eBay? (One man’s crap is another man’s new Kindle.)
  • Rent a carpet cleaner and finally get that coffee stain out of the rug?
  • Take a horseback riding lesson?
  • Binge-watch Spanish melodramas on Netflix?
  • Do absolutely nothing, opting instead to swing in a hammock and read chick lit all day?

If you’re me, it’s pretty much all of the above. But whatever you decide, there’s something to be said for a day off. Just one day of mental relaxation can refresh your mind, getting you back into the marketing game.

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