About a month ago, my boyfriend and I traveled to the U.S. to visit my family. It was awesome. In three weeks, we traveled to Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. If you’re thinking, “Woah, that’s a lot of time to take off work,” it is! But luckily, being a freelancer allows for that flexibility.
I have to be honest, though — The flexibility wasn’t enough to keep me from being my regular psycho self. I was just as manic as I was at home (think Mindy Lahiri meets Ilana Wexler meets Shoshanah Shapiro, and that’s me. I know, it’s a nightmare.)
Like many “digital nomads”, I was expected to work remotely for my clients while away. Freelancing doesn’t give you paid vacations; you’ve gotta get your shit done. And I always get my shit done, but it’s a bit harder when you’re driving from Atlanta to Nashville with no WiFi.
(And to all of you roadside cafe owners who say “No, we don’t have WiFi. Talk to each other, communicate!” that’s not a cool, hipster thing to say anymore, dude. It just means that you don’t want to pay for it and/or are too lazy to install it. You know who you are.)
Just when I thought I had succeeded at the whole working-and-traveling thing, I got an email from a client: They couldn’t afford to keep me on board anymore. This wasn’t just any client, either — it was my first, my favorite, and my biggest. They were my ride or die.
So, like any girl who was just dumped by her first love, I ate six muffins and proceeded to panic. I analyzed the situation for the entire 15-hour plane ride back to Israel. I tried to plan my next steps financially, but my brain was racing too fast and my heart was exhausted. As I said almost everyday of my entire teenage life, “This is the f**king worst thing that could ever possibly happen to me.”
Okay, so I lost a client. This is the kind of stuff that happens when you freelance, but you don’t fully understand it until it happens.
You assume that the instability is manageable, and maybe it is, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like that the first time around.
If this happens to you, it’s okay to freak out. But while you’re freaking out, consider taking these steps to help you temporarily:
Increase your hours with other clients
Believe it or not, a lot of clients are open to increasing their hours with freelancers. Just explain to them that there were some changes in your schedule, and if they need the help, you’d be happy to increase your hours. If they like the work that you do and they need it, there’s no reason that they’ll say no. This extra money can help close the gap a bit and help you cover the basics. Even if they do decline your proposal, they’ll appreciate that you asked, and it will demonstrate that you enjoy your working relationship.
Send three proposals everyday
Depending on what you do as a freelancer, you can try to pick up short-term projects on websites like Upwork. For minimal work, you can get enough cash to cover your rent, and spend the rest of your time focusing on acquiring anchor clients. To get these short-term projects, I send out three proposals everyday. Out of 21 weekly proposals, you’re sure to get responses and offers. Just don’t get stuck in that dangerous place that ruins your work momentum — continue reaching out to potential new clients, and the proactive attitude will satisfy you.
Again, depending on what you specialize in, you might have other long-term goals besides your immediate freelancing work. Maybe it’s to open your own agency or become a thought leader within your industry. Whatever it is, continue getting your name out there by creating content that benefits like-minded people. Don’t drop out of the conversation just because you encountered a minor speed bump. Continue sharing and connecting, because this is how you build relationships that can lead you to further opportunities.
This might sound dumb, but seriously, I cannot emphasize enough how many times I’ve been sick due to work anxiety. This self-induced illness doesn’t help me move forward or improve; it simply disables me and makes me even more stressed. So, when/if this happens to you, stay calm. Write it all out. Sleep. Exercise a bit more. Cook more meals at home. Just make sure you’re being kind to yourself during this time of internal upheaval, because if you’re physically and mentally a mess, that shit will kill you.