12 Ways to Spend Downtime between Freelance Assignments

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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.

What Are the ‘Silver Linings’ of Your Writing Life in 2020?

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Check out the new weekly writing prompt in the sidebar menu.

“Every cloud has a silver lining.” You might have heard that proverb at one time or another. It means that there’s something good or hopeful to be found in every bad situation.

Dictionary.com has its own definition: “A sign of hope or a positive aspect in an otherwise negative situation.”

The year 2020 has shown us an overabundance of negative situations, from a pandemic of a highly contagious and dangerous disease and social isolation from loved ones to social injustice, civic unrest and political and economic uncertainty. It’s been a difficult year, but somehow we’ve made it to the end with the hope that 2021 will be better. It has to be better, right? We can only go up from here.

Yet despite the turmoil in our world, there is reason to hope. There are silver linings in the year that was. It’s called “counting your blessings.” We all have them if we look close enough.

So what silver linings have I noticed in my world? For one thing, I was highly productive with my writing projects.

* Consistent blogging. I recommitted to my blog, posting stories at least once a week, sometimes two. With this renewed commitment, I am now considering expanding my offerings to include a weekly writing prompt, white papers and e-books.

* Experimentation with writing styles. Without clients to write for, I’ve used my free time to experiment with different writing styles, most notably e-books and novellas. At 30,000 to 50,000 words, novellas are shorter than novels and tend to have only one plot line, but they are longer than short stories.

* Reading challenge. I kept up with my reading challenge throughout the year. Reading provided the needed escape from the darkest moments of the year.

* Professional development. I took advantage of discounted webinars, online workshops and virtual conferences that were offered, which I would not have participated in otherwise. I studied everything from building a freelance business to content marketing and writing holiday romances.

* New technologies. Like many people, I participated in more online meetings than ever before which meant learning new technologies, such as Zoom and Google Duo.

* Expanded offerings. I completed and posted a white paper on my website and plan to do another one in 2021. I also have two e-books in the works.

* Networking. I launched an email networking campaign to one group of contacts to search for new clients. The second phase of that campaign will begin in the New Year.

A writer’s work is never done and it goes beyond just writing stories. There’s the business of running a writing business and all that it entails – accounting, networking, marketing, etc. Despite it all, I feel hopeful and optimistic about the future.

I realize that in the midst of darkness, there is light too, like a rainbow after a storm. We must all learn to adapt to this new reality of ours, because frankly, it’s not going away anytime soon and our lives will be changed. Things won’t be the same as they used to be, even though we may wish them to be  “back to normal.” Each of us will have to redefine what that new normal means for us, and more important, what it looks like for us.

So how has your writing life changed – for better or for worse – because of the upheavals of 2020? What are the silver linings in your year?