Busy periods pay the bills, keep your mind active and your skills fresh. That can only be a good thing right? It can be unless it reaches a point where you’re buried in work and haven’t seen the light of day in a while.
Sometimes you’ll feel overwhelmed and find you’re just not getting anything done. While some freelancers would be filled with envy at the thought of being fully booked and having a steady stream of income, the reality can be that these periods are just as stressful as the quieter ones.
When you have too much going on, it becomes harder and harder to put your full concentration into any one task. This can lead to poorer performance and more mistakes which will then lead to unhappy clients who don’t come back.
How to survive busy periods
Ideally you should have contacts in the freelance world. You may have a mentor or you may have friends who also freelance that you can look to for advice and tips. When things get too busy, you might think about outsourcing your work to another freelancer you trust to do a good job. If you choose to do this you will need to write up a contract explaining what’s expected and when it will be delivered because it’s your reputation on the line. It may seem unnecessary to write up a contract for your friend, but it’s best to avoid confusion and possible conflict.
You don’t have to take on absolutely everything you’re offered. A client would generally prefer a solid no at the start than for you to take the job and then later hand in poor or unfinished work. Ideally you don’t want to turn clients down because they will go elsewhere but this is better than them going elsewhere because of a bad experience. Being busy can actually work in your favour as you will look highly sought after and clients may come back to you another time.
Make working hours clearer
Some clients may believe that because you are a freelancer, you’re on-call for them. Some clients believe that they’re your only one and that you should drop everything for them. Even if they are your only current client, you still have a life outside work. One way to address this, should clients call up in the middle of the night or get angry when you don’t immediately reply to their emails, is to make it clear what your working hours are and stick to them.
Learn from your mistakes
If you’re new to freelancing, treat everything like a learning experience. You will make mistakes. One mistake you may make is taking on too much work at one time. Rather than beating yourself up over it, use it to inform your choices later on. Eventually you should reach an optimal balance between too much and too little work. Once you know what that point is for you, you are less likely to make the same mistake again and you can turn down work if you need to.
Find your niche
Maybe you are trying to offer too many different things at once. Offering a selection of services is great but don’t go overboard. If you haven’t already, choose a niche to work in. You will find that a lot of your work and research bleeds from one project into the next meaning you can spend less time on each piece of work.
Take a break
Freelancers need holidays too. It may seem counter-productive but then so is stress. If you are feeling truly overwhelmed, sometimes the only cure for that is to take a step back and make some breathing room. If you do choose to take a break, give your clients notice, don’t just disappear otherwise they will too. Finish projects and schedule new ones for when you come back to work.
How do you deal with busy periods? What advice would you give to others? Tell us your experiences below.