Ladies & Gents:
Today I want to talk briefly about a tricky issue with freelancing, no matter how long you've been doing it, how good you are at it, or whether or not you think this is the best career for you possible: the roller coaster pace of work.
I sometimes joke that all of my editors have a secret shared spreadsheet, and they'll also pick one date and assign me all of the things to be due on the same day. Or, on the flip side, they'll block out a week or two (or three) where they figured I needed a break and all decided to not assign me anything.
What's a guy or gal to do? A few things:
1. Know how much you can handle. Despite most people thinking freelancers have a flexible schedule, I have a very set one. I start and end around the same time I generally write in the mornings, and do interviews in the afternoon. When I find myself straying out of those confines, like agreeing to interview West Coast experts at 6pm my time, or writing a story on a Sunday, I've taken on too much. I know it's a thing to brag about working nights and weekends, but I've never found this to be helpful. Working too many hours tires and stresses me out, and when that happens, I make mistakes. My work suffers, at the same time that I'm a personal mess.
You'll find your balance over time. I know writers who love to work 60 hours a week; others get by on 20. It all depends on you, your goals, and what works best for you.
2. Ask for a different deadline, or say no if you need too. One of my clients was pressing me to take on two features a week. As much as I want to save every penny given I can right now because of [waves hands], I pushed back and said no. Not only would it add too much work to my already busy schedule, but taking on too much would have affected the quality of my work, for this client and others. Of course she understood. I recommended a writer to her for that piece, and it hasn't stopped her from assigning me what I can handle. It's also perfectly fine to ask if there's wiggle room with a deadline when an editor hands down an assignment. Many are flexible. I've gotten an extra month in some cases because the assignment wasn't timely (but I got that change up front. I do as much as I can to not ask for extensions once a deadline has been agreed upon).
3. Market, always. Of course, market, market market if you don't have enough work. But don't stop, even when you're busy, because it'll help alleviate future dips. My March and April were jammed, but I still set aside time to market. It wasn't as much as normal, but I still did something each week. That's because marketing is like planting seeds. Those pitches and letters of introductions and follow ups didn't all turn into work right then, but they may when things are slowing down in other areas.
Of course, the roller coaster also applies to income. For that, I highly recommend The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers and the Self Employed. It lays out an easy plan to handle inconsistent income. Their system stops you from splurging when a big check or five comes in, and helps you set aside extra funds for when your mailbox is empty and direct deposit silent. It's not an exaggeration to say that book saved my financial life.
"So You Had a Bad Day…" for The New York Times
"Wearables Could Be the Key for Worker Safety as Warehouses, Manufacturers Eager to Reopen" for Supply Chain Dive
"What Should You Do in a Non-COVID-19 Medical Emergency?" for Sharecare
"Preparing for Hurricane Season During a Pandemic" for Transport Dive
"More Employers Deploy AI in Their Hiring Practices" for BizTech
"Running Down a Dream" for The New York Times
What I'm Reading
- Running the Dream by Matt Fitzgerald. I wrote about it! See last clip above.
- My Life as a Goddess by Guy Branum. I listened to this as an audiobook and loved it.
- First Comes a Scandal by Julia Quinn. As romance novels go, a good one. I immediately ordered more books in the series.
What I'm Watching
- A Royal Night Out This is cute,and based on a real thing: when then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were allowed out on the night of V-E Day.
- Castles in the Sky. A historical drama about the invention of radar. I liked it.
- The Lincoln Lawyer. I've read the book, so I sort of knew what was going on. Too bad it didn't become a franchise. Maybe it'll get a series a la Bosch (but also Bosch can't use the Lincoln Lawyer himself because of a rights issue, which my dad says is weird. I haven't watched the full series yet).
- Frozen II. It was fine! I can see why my nephews are obsessed with it in the way kids can get about movies.
Until Next Time
Jen A. Miller