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.

Tips for Naming Your Blog

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Last week, in my post Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business Blog, I wrote about how to determine whether a blog is right for your business. The next step is coming up with a name that best captures the focus of your blog business.

But coming up with a name for your blog or website can be an arduous task. So many names to choose from, so many URLs available.

But I found as I went through this process, that not every name available was suitable for my business, and the names I really wanted had already been taken. I had to get creative to generate a blog name that best reflected who I was and what I offered to the business community. I also had to keep in mind my own personal brand. How did I want clients and colleagues to see me?

For many business owners and entrepreneurs, their full name is their brand, like J.K Rowling or Derrick Rose. In most cases, the full given birth name works because it’s short, snappy and memorable.

But other names are not. I did not think my given name was memorable or snappy enough to use for my blog. I also had a potential dilemma with my last name – Ludes – which has alternative connotations that I did not want associated with my writing business. (Ludes is the nickname for a drug called Quaaludes, a sedative and hypnotic drug. Its official name is Methaqualone.) Naturally, I did not want my writing business associated with a drug. It is not how I want clients and colleagues to remember me.

An alternative is to use initials or a different form of your name. It’s a way of personalizing your blog without revealing your full name. For example, Regal is an abbreviated version of my full name – Regina Ann Ludes. It made sense to use an abbreviated version to create my brand identity. It captures the essence of my personality and matches my ability to communicate with tact, diplomacy and integrity in the business world, just as any member of royalty might.

This naming process also helped me define the focus of my blog – to write stories identifying situations that demonstrate proper use of communication tools and strategies, to show what works and what doesn’t. How you and I communicate is an extension of our personal brand. When you communicate well, you present yourself well. How I write also speaks about my personal brand.

A third option is to create a name that defines the purpose of your blog or website business. For example, writer Carol Tice created a blog devoted to sharing tips and advice for writers called Make a Living Writing (www.makealivingwriting.com). Although she also has her personal website that promotes her own writing business too (www.CarolTice.com).

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating a name for your blog or business.

Determine your brand identity. How do you want people to remember you? Is there a quality about you that stands out – a phrase you use, a piece of clothing, a unique name? Ask friends, colleagues and family members what they think of when thinking of you or talking about you. They are in the best position to know how you stand out. Their responses can help you pinpoint the strengths that you want to emphasize in your blog name.

For example, perhaps they see you as a passionate person, someone who cares deeply about certain issues, like animals, women’s rights or the environment. Consider using the word ‘passion’ as part of your brand identity, then use it as your blog title.

Make a list of possible names. Play around with variations of your key word or phrase, and make a list of them. Then do a Googe search of these names and variations to see which ones have been used already. Check out the availability of the URL on sites like Go Daddy or Register.com. Test out different names with your family and friends and get feedback from them. Which one works best for your blog or website? Does the name accurately reflect what you do and who you are?

Be clear about your business focus. Choose a name that matches that focus. I almost chose Regal Ink as a blog name. But when I searched URLs, Register.com offered an alternative name, Regal Tattoo. Apparently, my initial desire to use Ink as a symbol for my writing business may be better suited for a tattoo parlor – not the impression I wanted to give. So I scrapped that idea.

Consider the cost of the URL. Most URLs are inexpensive, less than $10. But some words are determined to be more popular and sought-after. The word Regal fell into that category. For some URLs, I’d have to pay nearly $2,500 to use it for my business. No name is worth that much money. So I was forced to find another alternative, like hyphenating the URL or adding the word “the” before my blog name.

However you go about identifying your blog name, remember that it should be unique and easy to remember. A well-crafted blog or website name is key to marketing your services to others. Make sure the name you choose accurately reflects who you are and what you have to offer clients.