Most freelance designers are used to ebb and flow in their work schedules. Sometimes, 10 clients are beating down your door with projects due right away. And then there are the other times, when getting up and having your morning coffee counts as an official activity that day. There's no guaranteed way for keeping work coming through your door—even full-time workers have busy and slow times—but you can take some steps to help make your downtime more productive.
Market your talents. If you're like many independent contractors, you don't often have the time to promote yourself on a broad scale, so you instead rely on word of mouth and personal contacts. If you have some downtime, it's an opportunity to remind people of your expertise and availability. You might send a client an industry article you know they'd like along with a note, or create a short newsletter that includes useful design tips along with your contact information.
Revamp your resume/portfolio. A slow work period is a great time to update your resume and refresh your portfolio with stand-out projects from the last few months. If you've upgraded your skill set in the last year—maybe you've gained more Web experience—this is the time to add those skills to your resume. If you don't already have one, you could also create a website highlighting your work.
Check in. The summer can be an incredibly busy time for many companies—it's also the time of year when many employees take vacation time. Touch base with your clients and let them know you're available if they need some help while full-time employees are out. They may not have something for you to work on this minute, but you'll be top of mind should they require extra help in the future.
Update your skills. If work is a little slow, use the downtime to learn a new software package. It's easy to fall behind with the latest applications when you're busy with projects. Updating your skill set will allow you to take on a wider variety of projects and add experience to your resume, making you ultimately more attractive to current and prospective clients.
Sign up. If you're not already registered with an employment agency, now is the time to do so. As mentioned above, many employees take vacation time over the summer and companies need extra help. Additionally, signing on with a placement agency can fill in some downtime throughout the year and provide an introduction to new clients. If you're already registered with an agency, it's a good time to check in and let them know you're ready to roll should an opportunity arise.
Go public. Spread the word about yourself by becoming a resource and being active in professional organizations. You might, for instance, build a relationship with a reporter who could use you as a resource for an upcoming story. Whenever you come across articles dealing with your industry or area of expertise, take note of the writer's name and look for opportunities to contact him or her. You also may want to join a professional organization—reporters often contact them when they're working on stories, and you could become a quoted expert.
A slowdown in projects is a challenge for any freelance professional. But by taking some of these suggestions into consideration and using your downtime strategically, you may find that it becomes your busiest time of year.
This article has been reprinted with permission from HOWdesign.com and The Creative Group.
The Creative Group
is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.
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