Ebb and flow is a natural part of freelancing. If you’re like me, you have a few steady, ongoing clients, and the rest of the work is project-based. It often seems that you’ll start a few one-off projects around the same time. You’ll complete them in a few weeks or months and realize you’ve been so busy working that you’ve failed to pitch or apply to new clients. For a week (or two or three), you’ll coast along with your long-term clients in one of those inevitable ebbs.
Having freelanced full-time for over two years, I’m no stranger to the ebbs. In my earlier freelancing days, my initial reaction was to panic, desperately start pitching and applying to any opportunity I could find, and beat myself up for my lack of forethought. It took me a (very) long time to use the inevitable ebbs effectively and allow myself to actually take advantage of the downtime.
Next time you’re in between freelance projects, remember that it’s the nature of the industry. Don’t panic! Set aside time each day to continue your ongoing work and pitch and apply to those clients and projects (and only those clients and projects) that align with your brand and expertise. During your next lull, don’t forget to take time to focus your business and yourself. Below are 20 things to work on when work is slow:
10 Ways to Work on Your Business
- Make updates to your portfolio or website
- Catch up on writing case studies for past and current clients
- Gather testimonials from past and current clients
- Make sure your contract and policies are up to date
- Implement something new, like a newsletter, blog, or social channel
- Check in with your long-term clients
- Amp up your social media presence
- Develop a new offering, product, or service
- Brainstorm how to grow your existing clients
- Revisit your business plan and long-term goals
10 Ways to Work on Yourself (and Your Creativity)
- Spend more time outside
- Try something new – learn a new hobby or skill
- Amp up your workout routine
- Read a book
- Spend time with others – try a breakfast, lunch, or coffee date
- Explore your city like a tourist
- Travel to another city
- Do something spontaneous
- Cook dinner, bake something, or try a new recipe
- Get back to you and do what you love
Many of us chose to freelance full-time, yet we forget to embrace that flexibility and power to shape our own schedules. We look at our roommates, partners, or friends, and we tell ourselves we should be working nine to five, Monday through Friday. We must remember why we’ve taken the road less traveled in our careers: for the opportunity to pave our own way and build unconventional businesses.
Today I’m kicking off a monthly series, the Creative Habit, inspired by Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit (which I highly recommend reading). The focus of the book and this new monthly series is best summarized in a passage from Tharp’s practical guide:
“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone. Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for new ways to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way… Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Since leaving college and the cushion of being surrounded by countless peers, professors, and mentors all of whom were writers or dancers or artists, I’ve struggled to maintain my creative self. In my experience, the older you get, the more you lose that youthful abandonment and in turn, begin to lose your creativity. In addition to outside forces impacting our creative selves, we’re at greater risk of inhibiting our own creativity as adults. We allow the left brain to kick in with logic, analysis, and judgement, and we become quick to extinguish or abandon our natural creative impulses. Slowly but surely, over the past five years, I’ve fought to maintain my creative self. It’s challenging, and that’s why I believe in forming a creative habit.
For this Creative Habit series, I’ll present you with a creative assignment toward the end of each month. Then, for the thirty days that follow, I challenge you to incorporate the creative habit into your routine. The tasks will start out very basic so that you can discover what creative habit works best for your lifestyle and your creative self. September’s challenge is to simply embrace the last several weeks of summer weather and go outside every day. I don’t just mean walk from your car to your office or step in the backyard to let out your dog – really go outside! When was the last time you sprawled out in the grass and gazed at the sky? Do you ever go on a walk or run without your headphones and let your surroundings speak to you?
So many of us are confined indoors for 80-90% of the day. As a freelance writer who typically works from a home office, there have been periods where I didn’t leave my apartment for three to four days at a time! This is an extremely unhealthy work practice, and I can definitely say my creativity was at an all-time low during these stints. Now, living in New York City without a car, I’m forced to spend time outside almost anytime I need to go somewhere, but that doesn’t always mean I’m engaged with my surroundings. Most people who are going from Point A to Point B on the streets of NYC are in their own worlds – talking on the phone, listening to their headphones, or even reading a book or newspaper. Remove the extraneous technology, noise, and distractions! Don’t just go outside, be present in the outdoors and appreciate your natural surroundings.
Over the next month please share your experience making a habit of going outside with the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit
There are numerous reasons to get portraits throughout your lifetime: graduation, engagement, pregnancy, holiday cards, or maybe just a new image for your website or LinkedIn profile. Portraits are an investment for your family and your business, so it’s important to style yourself accordingly.
Rachel Zoe couldn’t have said it better. Whether you consider yourself a fashion fanatic or not, what you wear says something about you. When it comes to styling for portraits, there are three key things to consider: simplicity, timelessness, and individuality.
I partnered with a recent graduate to style three looks illustrating the three basic components of styling for portraits.
No matter what your size, shape, color, or age, it’s always best to keep your style simple in a portrait. Busy prints and over-accessorizing are too distracting for portraits, particularly if you’re taking a family or office portrait with multiple people.
Simplicity is embodied in your favorite jeans and a basic white tee. Pairing these go-to items in your closet is sure to make you feel good and look good in any portrait. Make the look your own with a simple, statement accessory like a fedora!
FULL OUTFIT DETAILS:
Denim: Aero Boyfriend Jean (similar)
Top: American Rag (similar)
Fedora: Charlotte Russe (similar)
Because portraits are an investment, you want them to stand the test of time. Avoid trendy apparel and accessories when styling an outfit for a portrait. You don’t want to look back at your photo in a year and feel it’s outdated!
What’s more timeless than the little black dress? The LBD is perfect for any portrait. Pair it with pumps for a corporate look or a bold accessory for an artistic aesthetic. No matter how you style the LBD, it’s sure to make a portrait that will stand the test of time.
FULL OUTFIT DETAILS:
LBD: Forever 21 (exact)
Shoes: Alfani (exact)
Simple and timeless doesn’t mean bland and boring. It’s important to let your individual style shine through in your portrait. Think back to Rachel Zoe’s quote and ask yourself what you want your style to say about you. If you’re taking a milestone portrait, choose an outfit that’s age appropriate and fun. If you’re getting a professional portrait, dress for the industry and job you want, such as business attire for corporate settings or artistic apparel for a more creative field.
When styling the third and final outfit for this recent graduate, I wanted a playful look to reflect her youthful spirit. Since the first two looks are very clean, crisp, and neutral, incorporating a pop of color was key. We completed the look with a classic camel cowboy boot to add a touch of personality and contrast the first two ensembles.
FULL OUTFIT DETAILS
Dress: Flying Tomato (similar)
Boots: Wet Seal (similar)
Photographed by Meghann Miller of Memories by Meghann
Whether you’ve got a timeless style or whether you like a little edge, I’ve got 2 deals today to refresh your work-wear wardrobe for Fall. Today, take 40% off your entire purchase at Ann Taylor and take 30% off your entire order at Rachel Roy. No code needed to cash in on either offer – both deals are applied at checkout! Below are my picks for a classic look from Ann Taylor or a more modern look from Rachel Roy:
Both of these colorblocked dresses are perfectly on point. Ann Taylor takes a classic spin on the trend with neutral colors, and Rachel Roy adds a modern twist to the trend with a pop of color and zipper detail.
Each of these dresses embrace the metallic trend. Ann Taylor keeps it classic with a timeless jacquard print, and Rachel Roy makes it modern with a mix of prints and textures.
Tweeds and knits are essential for your Fall work-wear wardrobe. Ann Taylor’s dress stays classic with piping detail, and Rachel Roy’s dress remains modern with a zipper to add a little slit in your step.