Freelancers of every denomination are all too familiar with feast and famine cycles; from weeks of solid work and long hours, to periods of intense thumb-twiddling, the cycle can challenge even the most stoic self-starter.

For designers, the cycle means going from intense work with a client that needs everything immediately to relatively sparse days with little work.

It’s very logical why this happens, the intense work means unopened emails, LinkedIn connections ignored and neglected marketing efforts – it’s because you didn’t have time to nurture your contacts. Combined with long lead times, you can sometimes end up without work for weeks at a time.

So how do you manage the feast and famine cycle?

Dedicate time to marketing and nurturing contacts

You need to maintain some level of marketing activity, answer your emails and broaden your contact base even when you’re busy. Dedicate some time every day to keep feeding the funnel or your work will inevitably slow.

Take advantage of the crowdsourcing boom

Crowdsourcing has revolutionized the creative industries and websites like DesignBro.com are making life much easier for designers to get new clients. Registering your portfolio with a few quality, reputable sites and monitoring the work you get from each will help put work in the pipeline.    

Retain clients

Seek clients who have lots of continuous work and agree a retainer. Not only can you do the work more efficiently but you can plan your finances and the more repeat business you have, the less time you need to spend on tracking down new clients. This means dropping an email once every couple of weeks to your clients. Showing some genuine interest in their business can work miracles, and at the very least keep you top of mind for their next project.

Schedule your work

Instead of taking every project that comes along and working on it immediately, line projects up, manage your time strictly and schedule your work out. Negotiate timescales and deadlines and make their schedule work with yours. Some freelancers have started working with a ‘paid wait list’ where clients pay in advance to secure a spot on their future schedules.

Build a little buffer

We all know how difficult it is to save a little, but still, in an industry where work can dry up overnight, it’s best to have a little stash to keep you fed during these droughts. General advice is to put aside 20% of everything you earn, best in a different savings account altogether to make sure you are not inclined to tap into it!