The freelance summer

The famous song ‘Summertime’ released by George Gershwin in 1934 is the most covered in the world. Right now, there are more than 25,000 versions of this jazz classic that was originally created for the musical Porgy and Bess as an operatic piece and sung by Abbie Mitchell. Since then, the song has been recreated by artists that include Billie Holiday, Mahaila Jackson, Ella Fitzerald and Louis Armstrong, Janis Joplin, Paul McCartney, and Lana Del Ray, just to name a few.

The song’s success lies in its lilting melody and how it effortlessly captures the feeling of the start of summer. Warmer sun, soft breezes, long and lazy summer days – these are all parts of this melody and the reason why singers and listeners return time and again to its lyrics.

However, while summer is long, lazy and delightful, it can also be a time of stress for freelancers. The summer months are often associated with a dip in earnings for freelancers, which can be very stressful. Often, so stressful that the joy of summer is overshadowed by the anxiety of quiet inboxes and slow income.

It’s very easy to panic, fill time with bad clients or toxic projects or low-income earners. To stay awake at night worrying about income and bills and responsibilities.

But…these quiet summer months can be a massive benefit for freelancers, especially if you plan ahead and get yourself mentally and fiscally ready.

Step 01: Focus on your client pipeline

Whether you’ve got an established client pool or if you jump from client to client, you will soon pick up trends in their behaviour and recognise when they’re likely to speed up or slow down. Your best bet is to use this current quiet period to look for new clients or to connect with old clients that may have gone quiet. You can use freelance platforms, LinkedIn, online searches, social media, and your network to explore new opportunities or send your portfolio to different companies and clients.

While this may not yield immediate results, you will be surprised at how successful it can be – companies can come back to you months after you’ve sent in an application or a reminder.

Step 02: Focus on your social presence

This is a fine line. You can use the time you currently have available to promote your skills on multiple social platforms, but you need to do this in a way that doesn’t come across as

desperate or too self-promotional. Clever ways of using social media or networking platforms include:

  • Creating an educational series of posts that unpack concepts or provide insights into your line of work, thereby highlighting your expertise without pushing a strong sales narrative.
  • Engage with other posts, newsletters, articles and research papers and share these on different platforms with a nugget of your own insight or advice. This shows how you’re invested in your career and the trends that shape it.
  • Undertake creative work for yourself and then showcase this on different social platforms. Remember the fine line and you’ll be fine.
  • Consider building a dedicated website with a blog or gallery that you can use to showcase your skills development, discuss trends, share work you’ve done across different clients, and that has customer testimonials. Then, share different posts and testimonials across social media – again, not in a tsunami of self-promotion – to build your presence and reputation.

Step 03: Focus on professional growth

A quiet patch can also mean an opportunity to undertake professional development. Want to learn a new skill that complements your existing skillset? Had clients ask for something you’re not completely comfortable doing? Do an accredited course, share your completion of this course across your networks and social media, and then showcase what you have learned. When you walk out of this quiet patch, you’ll be able to walk into new jobs and explore new opportunities with different clients because of the time you’ve invested into yourself and your business.

Step 04: Focus on your worth

This is a hard one. When times are tough, it’s easy to allow clients to walk over you or for toxic client relationships to evolve. You know you need to do whatever it takes to pay the bills and make ends meet. However, this can potentially burn you out and affect the quality of your work for non-toxic clients. If you don’t have a choice, remember to distance yourself emotionally from a bad client and be ready to replace them with a client that treats you with respect. You are worth more than poor pay from an unpleasant customer.

Step 05: Focus on financials

When you first start out in freelance, you’re not sure when the work will ebb and when it will flow, but as you become more entrenched, you will soon notice a pattern. The first and best plan is to set aside funds every month until you have enough money to cover your business and life expenses for a minimum of six months. If times get tough, you will then have a buffer to get you through the month(s).

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of this type of savings account is the peace of mind it offers you as a freelancer. You may never need to touch those savings, but you know that if

anything goes wrong, you have a plan in place. Add onto this freelance insurance that covers you if you get sick or something happens to you in the line of work.

Step 06: Focus on the rest

You have worked hard, given your creative and intelligent soul to your clients, and now you’re looking at a quiet patch. Great! Instead of stressing, remember that you deserve a break and that this downtime can be hugely beneficial for you as a freelancer. Use it to recharge and reconnect with why you chose this career in the first place and to recognise how far you’ve come. Lie in, go for a midday run, do yoga at 10am, take the dog for a walk whenever you want, go out for lunch with a friend. Life is for living and working, so take the summer for yourself.

As the song Summertime says, “One of these mornings you’re going to rise up singing.” So rise up singing and remember that ‘Summertime, and the living is easy” is advice as much as it is music.

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