Blame the Election for the Freelance Slump
In July I started noticing that things were slowing down.
I’d planned a week of travel, and then another week to stay-cation and get the kids ready for school, so I almost didn’t notice. In my vacationing mindset, I (not the economy) was the one who was slacking a bit.
My excitement to manage my freelance business from the road for a week, took me off my game — my marketing game, that is.
For about a month, I was just riding the jobs I had and feeling content.
Double-whammy mistake, right there. During a month when I should have been marketing, calling, hunting, and hustling for new business, I was on island time.
I’m sure you’ve never rested on your laurels, have you, fellow freelancer?
When I returned in full force in September, small businesses were starting to express their uncertainty of the economic future in their spending habits. One client cancelled blogging services, another scaled back on social media updates, my emailed inquiries tapered down and still I didn’t exactly sense what was happening.
I get a little nervous when “looking for jobs” becomes my predominant activity over actually writing. At the same time, I believe that the Universe clears a path for what must be done. Bring it on.
In his book “The Obstacle Is The Way,” Ryan Holiday attests that things that look like barriers may actually prevent you from wasting time on the wrong thing, and point you toward your true path… Indeed, sometimes pushing through them delivers the answers.
But I’m open to a new direction, come what may, I still blame this freelance slump partly on the election.
A lot of people — especially small businesses people — are just not spending money right now. Scarcity, worry, and dread seem to be hanging in the air.
Unfortunately, marketing is usually the first expenditure to get crossed off the list of discretionary spending. Keeping the lights on, writing payroll checks and delivering on promises to current customers take precedence. That marketing campaign, not so much.
Here’s what I’m doing to turn things around.
Just in case you’re going through the same slip of jobs and income, either now or sometime in the future, I’m sharing my strategy and mindset. You can’t have a plan without a healthy realization that the plan could go sideways. That’s where a truckload of faith comes in.
Make a decision to weather this pre-election slump and take action.
Be the Client You Want To Have.
The #1 take away here is that it’s time to step up your marketing efforts. Yes, you, a freelancer.
Not only is this the best time to find your way into the hearts and minds of your next client or niche, but it’s also the easiest. I am no economist, but there are murmurings that some kind of economic calamity looms on the horizon. This spells opportunity for those freelancers who have a savvy marketing plan in place. Fortunes are made in recessions, as they say.
Take advantage of the downtime (or downturn) and step up your game.
Get your resume in order.
Talk to past clients for some testimonials and recommendations, spruce up your resume and portfolio. Here’s a great article on writing a freelance resume with tips on what to include and how to use your social media channels to get noticed by hiring managers.
Is there a re direction you’d like to take your business that you’ve not had time (nor maybe the confidence) to go? While companies are scaling back, there will be a lull. Start now to collect all the information possible, and foray into that niche with a small job or even a personal project of your own. Maybe you could contribute to a relevant volunteer effort, or compile resources to educate yourself in a new industry. Learning new skills is a positive way to use your downtime wisely.
Just because you’re not working as much as you’d like, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be networking as much as you can. Spend a lunch hour attending a Freelance or Business Meet Up. Attend a local chamber meeting and strike up some conversations with colleagues and possible clients. You never know who you might meet who could introduce you to your next client.
Speaking of networking, if you haven’t created a profile on LinkedIn Profinder, now’s the time. It’s a useful new tool connecting freelancers and those who hire them. Besides your usual social networking online, take some time to explore the ProFinder website and showcase a few of your top-level, frequently recommended skills.
I’ve been approached at least six times since creating my page there a couple of weeks ago. The hiring party who placed the search for a freelancer may only receive up to ten resumes from ProFinder members, so when you see a job in your email inbox, jump on it.
Pursue a personal or professional pet project.
Getting in better shape, writing your book, working on a nagging health issue, pursuing a hobby you’ve been delaying for “someday…” These are all on the table now. You have some wiggle room to make some magic happen. You may even be called to patch a relationship, or spend more time with someone in your life who could use your influence right now. Maybe that’s what this whole “slowdown” is all about.
That may sound a little “woo woo” to you, but I’m serious now…
There Are No Accidents.
I believe in cycles in everything. If the economy is providing you with some obligatory “time off” make good use of it. Even if you dip into savings, this could be the downtime you need to grow. You might find you need to be “bored” awhile for that good idea to emerge, or to hear that inner voice calling your name to rise up to the challenge of whatever it is that’s meant to be your next step.
But you must be open, and listen for it.
Consider Agency Work.
After years of running a small agency, pulling in other freelancers to make projects shine, I’ve decided to pursue jobs within larger agencies. This is new. Instead of seeing them as competition, I’m excited to discover what it will be like to work with other creative marketing agencies.
What’s funny is that as I’m researching available jobs and positions, I’ve been coming across terminology that I’m not familiar with. As soon as I Google the unfamiliar term (e.g. gap analysis), it’s inevitably a marketing concept I’m totally familiar with because I’ve done it or used it. I’ve just never use the agency lingo to describe it. Ha! So I’ve been working on coming up to speed on some marketing terminology. A benefit to a slugging period: You might learn new things!
Search for new clients in new companies.
Other jobs you might pursue are collaborative jobs within corporations. If you’re a small business B2B freelancer, it may be time to cast your nets to companies with extensive resources to invest. Individuals with the ability to hire freelancers at larger companies might not feel the same personal strain of economic jitters as much as small business owners. A larger organization rides out an economic slump with a longer vision and (hopefully) more funds in reserve to attain it.
That said, corporations may also be more inclined to hire freelancers. I’ve been watching some online job boards, and discovering that there are many opportunities available for contract and freelance work lately with larger corporations, including Fortune 500 companies.
While I’ve tended to stay away from large companies in the past, I’m beginning to realize that many organizations are beginning to embrace more agile work environments and have departments that are quick and entrepreneurial leaning, just like small businesses and the small biz culture that I enjoy. Check out this list of Fortune 500 companies that are open to remote, flexible, freelance workers. Do you have any contacts on LinkedIn or in your locale?
Are you worried that the industry you typically serve may be unable to hire your freelancing services? Short-term opportunities are scarce in certain sectors during times of economic uncertainty, while others thrive.
Find a niche that has a bright horizon, and you’ll weather the storm. Some industries, like luxury and vice brands will always need freelance services, and may even experience rapid growth during a recession. Take note of these industries that will probably continue to be able to pay you!
In my ebook, Seven Steps To better Freelance Gigs, I was critical of job boards where bidding is the norm. Too often, you end up bidding against people who are able to bid a lot lower than you can afford to bid for the exact same work. That said, when times are slow, you may find yourself perusing bidding job boards to get some business, just to stay afloat.
You can get the ebook for free. It’s included in the free content library at My Team Connects. Sign up here.
Beware of spending too much time crafting exquisite proposals for hiring parties without the budget to pay you. (With unknown hiring parties, you really don’t know if the job will even get filled.) If a project looks like it could work with your schedule and budget, then go for it, especially if payment is waiting in escrow when you’re selected.
Let’s be honest, when jobs aren’t coming in you’re tempted to accept lower-paying work than you’re used to. Average jobs are better than none at all, both to make ends meet and for your mental drive and confidence. You don’t want to lose your mojo; catch it by its tail any way you can! Just a warning not to get sucked into a mindset where you don’t’ feel like you are growing.
Keep promoting yourself. This is a great time to gear up for something new.
With the craziest campaign season almost behind us, who knows what America will look like six months from now? Be ready for whatever happens! With a good marketing mindset you’ll use your natural freelancing flexibility and agility to ease into the next phase ready for anything.
When you’re hungry for work, a freelance slump isn’t the most comfortable place to find yourself. But if you keep your mind sharp, stay current in your industry, and keep your nose to the ground for the next opportunity, you’ll land that next job.