Busy freelancers don’t always enjoy a lot of downtime between assignments. When those down times do occur, however you may breathe a sigh of relief, then wonder, “What’s next?” It could be a few days or a few weeks before the next assignment drops in your lap. So what do you do in the meantime? Here are a few ideas to keep you busy until the next assignment comes along.
- Research new potential clients. A freelancer’s job is never done, even after you’ve submitted the most recent assignment. You always have to look ahead for the next publication to write for. You can’t always depend on current clients for a steady stream of work. Down time is perfect for exploring your options. Read publications that you’d like to write for, review the editorial guidelines if there are any, find out if they accept submissions or if all writing is done in house. Even if it is, the editor might accept a freelanced submission if it fits their audience.
- Take care of your billing and invoicing. If you’ve fallen behind on invoicing because you were too busy writing, it’s time to play catch up. Those invoices are vital to keeping the money flowing into your bank account. You don’t want to miss a single payment.
- Update your website. Freshen up the content. Add links to the newest articles you’ve written. Update photos. Contribute an article or two to your blog. An updated website can entice visitors keep coming back. Don’t overlook your social media profiles either. As you gain new clients or complete assignments, be sure to add those accomplishments to your sites so readers can appreciate them.
- Practice writing outside your usual style. If all you write are magazine features, use the down time to try your hand at writing poetry, an essay, or a short story. Experimenting with different writing styles can freshen up your own writing.
- Take a day off (or two). If you’ve been working hard to meet deadlines and haven’t taken time for yourself, then you owe it to yourself to take a few days off. Don’t think about work. Instead, hit the beach or spend a day at the museum, or go hiking at a local forest preserve. Time away from the job can give a fresh perspective and renewed energy. Then when the next assignment or client comes calling, you’ll be ready to go.
- Reach out to your network. Down time is perfect for catching up with your network or expanding it. This could be as simple as sending out an email to a friend or client to say hello, or meeting a former colleague for lunch. You never know if any of those casual contacts will produce a hot lead on another assignment.
- Assess your office supply needs. Make sure you have working pens, pads of paper, ink cartridges for your printer and anything else you need to keep your writing business going. It might also be a good idea to assess your computer equipment needs. Is it time to upgrade your laptop or printer? Do you need update your security software? You don’t want to run out of supplies during the next assignment, so make sure you have everything you need.
- Take a quickie online course or webinar. As writers, it’s important to keep up with professional development. There’s always something new to learn about the industry. There are plenty of self-study courses at Writer’s Digest University, Media Bistro, or try a more general business c course on Udemy or Coursera. Even learning one new thing can help you serve clients better.
- Catch up on housekeeping chores. If writing has taken you away from household chores and the dishes are piling up in the sink, then down time gives you a chance to clear the space. Clear out a closet, declutter your bookshelf of books you’ve already read, or clear out old client files, whether in file drawers or in your digital work space. Unloading stuff somehow makes you feel lighter and freer.
- Spend time with family and friends. Make time for the people who mean the most to you. Enjoy a picnic lunch, go see a movie with them, or just hang out over coffee. Sometimes writers can get so caught up in the day-to-day obligations of their writing business that we forget we have friends. When downtime hits, spending time with them can make you feel grounded again.
- Catch up on sleep. In my opinion, you can never get enough sleep. Sleep is what gives you energy to get you through the day, especially the rough ones with difficult assignments and demanding clients. Without proper sleep, you can’t always do your best creative work. So indulge yourself. Sleep in.
- Immerse yourself in a good book. There’s nothing like a novel from a favorite author to make you forget your work problems – at least for a while. Books are the perfect escape, no matter if it is cloaked in romance, mystery or fantasy. On the other hand, reading up on writing craft, marketing or social media can be just as beneficial.
If all you have is a few days between freelance projects, there’s always something else you can do to stay busy and stay motivated with your writing career.