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Carry on freelancing...

27 October 2016 14:00

It's a tough one, isn't it? You've been working your socks off building your small business. You've read the right books and created a not unimpressive-looking business plan. You've done the training and are keeping up to date with your industry through CPD, not to mention marketing your services pretty efficiently (you feel). You've been on the up – busy with clients, really busy. Over-committed if truth be told, but, hey, give yourself a pat on the back: better the feast than the famine…


And then it happens. Or rather, it doesn't. It stops. The phone doesn't ring. The inbox sits empty. The work dries up.


What is this? Two weeks ago, you were screaming for space. Now – all of a sudden – you have enough room in your schedule to swing an elephant, let alone a cat. A new month looms with its host of fresh bills to pay, and there you are, glued tensely to your computer, twiddling your thumbs.


I used to think it was just me. 'Everyone else, all those other freelance proofreaders and copy editors, those amazingly successful editorial small business owners – this won't be happening to them. I'll bet this never happens to them…'


But, do you know what? Yes, it does. Like the rise and fall of the tide, it seems there's an inevitable ebb and flow to editorial small business workloads. There may be variously a trickle, a steady influx, an absolute abundance, or an overwhelming torrent. On the other hand, there may be nothing. Not just for me, no. However well established you are, this seems to be reality for the many.


If this conjures up images of much inactivity (and thumb-twiddling) among freelance editorial professionals whilst hanging around for a nice little earner to ping into their inboxes, nothing could be further from the truth. I asked the question in The Society for Editors and Proofreaders Forums recently: 'Is it just me…?' And what came back, apart from the resounding, 'No!', was the busyness. Not paid busyness (no current projects, no billing potential obviously), but the bursts of energy directed into other aspects of the business – things to get stuck into that don't get a look-in when the deadlines are bearing down.


There's sorting out accounts (maybe even getting to grips with that tax return); tidying whatever makes up your office space so that it remains efficiently functional for the next torrent when it arrives (got to stay positive); exploring automating your systems as much as possible with email templates for quotes, for example; undertaking some training, either through courses, or simply getting to grips better with the software you use to save yourself time on jobs in a busy patch; reassessing your marketing strategy; creating and scheduling blog posts; revisiting your social media profiles and your website to make sure everything is up to date, that you're showcasing yourself and your skills in the best possible way. Even when you're quiet, your business still needs your attention.


And I'm told it's all right to give yourself a break, too. A day or so to walk in a wood, or sit in a park, or enjoy a creamy latte (none of this 'skinny' nonsense) in a coffee shop you've been meaning to try for ages. Or how about whipping out a paint brush and re-vamping a neglected corner of your home?


Clear the decks and clear your head. Certainly you need to keep up the drive for more work, but a little bit of breathing space in the lull? It's allowed.


Working from home, running a small business, being a consultant, being freelance – however you like to phrase it – requires determination and tenacity. It means throwing yourself into the lean times as wholeheartedly as into the abundance. That positive mental attitude is key. Easy to say, I know, as yet another bill slips through the letterbox while your inbox remains obstinately empty, but those who've been in this business for longer than I assure me there's a cycle to this and the work will surface again. So, if you can, keep at it. If you can, keep believing you will turn this stubborn corner eventually.


If you can, carry on freelancing…


With lots of thanks to helpful and supportive editorial professionals John Espirian, Beth Hamer, Margaret Aherne, Graham Hughes, Sue Browning, Melanie Thompson, Sara Donaldson, Caroline Petherick and Paul Beverley.


And with the 'lurgy' season on our doorsteps and posing yet another challenge to small business owners, Sara Donaldson's recent blog post has some great tips too. Read it here: