How to survive slow months as a freelancer

This article was first shared in my newsletter

Slow months are a scary thing when you're a freelancer.
You've been working nonstop for months and when you're starting to think freelancing is finally starting to work out for you, you stop receiving emails with new work proposals.
At first, you almost don't even notice it as you're really busy. When it's been two weeks you start considering that something may be wrong with your email provider... 
Summer months tend to be slower months when it comes to freelance (depending on your area of work, obviously). But it's hard not to freak out and think you're the worst and you'll never get a new project again.
Here are some ideas of things to do when no new work is coming your way:

Work on your brand
This is something a lot of freelancers neglect especially when they have a lot of work in their hands. But if you're being paid to work on someone else's brand you can understand how important that is. So making time to work on your own is important.
This summer I'm thinking of creating a terms & conditions document to send out to future clients. I don't have anything like that and I can really benefit from being able to communicate clearly with my clients.
I also want to make time to create more videos for my youtube channel as I believe it's an awesome way to reach new people who wouldn't normally come across my work.
I believe that presenting yourself as a consistent brand will help people remember you when they need someone with your skillset.

Create new products
I love creating new products! It's awesome to change things up and to create freely without having to follow a briefing while still having your audience in mind. These products you create in your slower months can later be used as passive income streams to balance your finances when you're busier again.

Update your portfolio
If you find it hard (and boring) to update your portfolio on a regular basis, trust me, you are not alone (I am here with you...). But you also know how important it is, right? Use this time to upload the best projects you did in the last months. I'll be taking the time to write case studies for some of my client projects as I think it's something my portfolio needs.

Create a side project
You probably know I really believe in the power of side projects. It's a great way to create the kind of work you want to be hired for in the future.
I'd really love to have some more editorial illustration opportunities next year so I could create a project to showcase my skills in that area.

Send out promotional mail
 I believe this is still a powerful way to find new clients and keep in touch with old ones when you're an illustrator. But I have to confess I'm terrible at it. This summer I'd like to take the time to do it. But I'll probably wait until September to actually send them out.

Relax and enjoy
We're never satisfied. When you're working nonstop you wish you had more time for your projects and when you have the time you freak out and refresh your email waiting for a new client. This time I will try to stop and enjoy the time I have without feeling guilty about it. I'll binge watch a new tv series and I'm even taking a two-week vacation where I'm considering not taking my laptop with me. Can you believe that?

It's not always easy to stay positive when you're going through this but honestly what other choice do you have?
If everything goes well I won't even have the time to do all these things before new work comes my way. But at least I'll have a plan when it happens again.
I'll keep you posted.

how can cafe working help you be more productive

photo from  Tania carvalho

photo from Tania carvalho

When I started working from home I realized I’m not as focused as I thought I was.
I get distracted quite easily and if I didn’t seem like much of a problem when I was only doing it on the weekends, it sure is when all your income depends on it.
Add that to the fact that working from home can feel quite lonely sometimes and you get the reasons why I added working from cafes to my weekly routine.

What kind of work can you do?

As an illustrator, I usually need a lot of space and tools to work. That's not ideal when you want to work from a coffee shop. But, if you're a freelancer you know that there's a lot more going on behind the scenes, other than the actual work you're usually hired for.
What I find works for me is doing the tasks that I find myself procrastinating the most when I’m at home and that doesn't take much space. I usually do all my written work from cafes. Everything from blog posts, emails, budget requests are usually done in the morning while drinking a nice cappuccino at a coffee shop.
I find that my writing is slowly getting better because I now take specific time to work on it. Sometimes I can also do some initial sketches that don’t require the computer. It depends on what I need to do that week.

Reasons to work from cafes when you’re a freelancer

It's inexpensive
Co-working spaces are a nice option for freelancers but depending on the places, locations, and commodities it can get quite expensive. If you can’t afford it right, cafes can be a cheaper alternative and with a delicious breakfast.
Less distractions
It may seem weird but I find it less distracting to work from a coffee shop where everyone is doing their thing than from home where there’s always something to do or something to clean.
Getting out of the house
Ever since I started working from home I need to find reasons to get out of the house. I never really spend my day working in my pajamas (I have to walk my dog everyday) but there are days where I don’t do more than that. Adding the cafe work to my routine gives me a reason to get dressed and out of the house, new people and different sceneries are good for the mind.
Helps to socialize
I haven’t met anyone while working from a cafe yet but I know people who have. But sometimes, instead of working alone I get together with a friend and instead of being alone we make each other company.

Tips for cafe working

Create a routine
Cafe working is now part of my weekly routine. The number of times I do it each week depends on the kind of work I have to do. But I’ll do it at least once. Having that as part of my weekly routine gives me something different to look forward to.
Have a topic in mind
When I head to a cafe I usually already have in mind what I need to get done. This helps me stay focused and I know that when that’s done, the “cafe work” part of my day is done.
Charge your laptop
I know this isn’t the same for everyone but I find it works perfectly for me. If my laptop is fully charged I won’t have to worry about sitting next to a power plug and I also know exactly how many time I have which makes me get focused easily.
Choose accordingly
Some cafes are busier than others. Some have bigger tables, others don’t have wifi. So if you have some research to do, maybe good WIFI is important but if the internet will get you distracted, not having wifi is probably a better option.
Try to think of what you need before choosing your spot and try to used a few different places and switch between them so you never get bored.