Why This Freelancer Never Takes Vacations

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on August 2, 2012 in Work at Home Parents
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After many years, I went on a vacation last week. The trip was great, of course, except for one small detail. About two days before we left for Colorado and the cool mountain breezes, my largest client "changed direction" overnight. My primary contact was laid off and my regular blogging commitments stopped effective immediately.

Not exactly the sort of send off I was hoping for, but not too much out of the norm in the world of freelance.

In this case a new CEO chose to change things up in the company I was working with. In the past I've had clients stop projects when Google updated and hurt their rankings, when they hired someone in-house for content or when they simply changed their mind about a project. It's a tough world sometimes when you're working freelance, and if you haven't been hit dramatically yet - just wait. Your time is coming.

But it's not all doom and gloom. This sort of surprise is simply one you take in stride and weather. After seven or eight years bouncing along with Google updates and the economy, I'm reasonably sure I'll pull out ahead again. How? By doing what works best. Here's what I've done so far:

Took My Trip

The first thing I did is finish up the work I had to finish before I left, and then I went on my trip as planned. Since we're not big spenders and most of the trip was already paid for, I didn't see any reason to cancel it in a panic. The time away also gave me a chance to process the changes and develop a plan. Playing with the kids and hiking in the woods was nice, too.

Send Some Emails

As soon as I got back into town and settled down to work again, I shot off a few emails. I touched base with my remaining contacts at the company that "changed direction" to be sure that my final invoices had arrived and would be paid normally.


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I also followed up on some other projects I'd finished recently. Sending these emails has a few purposes. First, I'm helping my client by being sure they don't have any questions or revisions for me on past projects.

At the same time I'm helping myself by letting clients know I have some time opening in my schedule if there are projects I might be able to help with. At the very least, I'm sending a legitimate message that will help me stay near the top of the client's mind for any future projects that come up - hopefully sooner rather than later.

Get Back in Touch

If I've turned down any projects recently, normally due to time constraints, I catch up with that client to see if they have found another writer or if they are still interested in discussing the project since my time has opened up unexpectedly. I didn’t have any of these at the moment, but it’s a good next step.

I also follow up with those clients who talk about a project and then don't follow through. Often they just need a nudge to remember what they had been brainstorming about and get you started with a nice fat deposit and work to keep you busy as you build things back up.

Head Back to the Tried and True Methods

Everyone has different favorites for how to get work. Some people reply to every Craigslist ad. Some hang out on particular webmaster forums. My tried and true methods involve a particular forum and usually a special offer of some kind. I might offer a deal on press releases or blog post packages on the forum.

Because I'm well-known on the forum and have plenty of time and experience there, my deals are usually a good gateway to get some new clients in the door and start some fruitful conversations. I haven't started a new special yet, but it's probably in the works for later this week once I've spent some time there. The trick with forums is to be an active, respected member - not just a lowly service provider.

Rely on Steady Marketing

Finally, I'll just keep my chin up and rely on my own version of steady marketing. Through old posts on forums and blogs, clients tend to find me at times. I had an inquiry the day I got back into town as a matter of fact and that may lead to something productive as well.

Front Load Regular Work

While I've lost a big client (for now, but not forever, hopefully - I did let them know about other types of writing I offer), I still have quite a few other regular obligations. So for now I'm front loading them. I'm not taking time off to pout or feel sorry for myself. I'm simply filling the empty spaces in my week with the things I need to do anyway.

By front loading, I'm getting those regular obligations out of the way early in the month. With any luck at all, my efforts in marketing over the course of the next week or two will return some new projects that will fill those last weeks of the month and I'll be off and running again.

While I still feel nauseous every time I lose a big client, I've done this enough times to be rather steady moving forward. Often these dips in the road are a great chance to clarify your direction, clean up your business and office and move forward with more determination than ever.

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Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

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9 Comments

  1. Kimberly August 2, 2012 Reply

    Good for you taking your trip anyway. As you said, that’s just the way it is for freelancers; clients are always coming and going.

    I second your tip on following up with current and past clients. It’s a great way of maintaining relationships and making sure they keep you in mind for their next project. Good “forum marketing” tips.

  2. Jennifer Mattern August 2, 2012 Reply

    I’m sorry to hear that you lost that client Rebecca. But it sounds like you have a great plan for pulling through and getting ahead again. :)

  3. Author
    Rebecca Garland August 2, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Jenn – it’s all in the nature of the freelance game. The way it usually works is I fill up my schedule with all sorts of new projects and then the client comes back and realizes that there is something I can help with and I wind up with too much to do. It’s a roller coaster career. LOL

    • Jennifer Mattern August 3, 2012 Reply

      It’s like they can sense our schedules filling up, isn’t it? Work overloads. Vacations coming up. Clients always seem to know and pile on at those very moments.

  4. Amandah August 3, 2012 Reply

    Sorry to hear you lost a client. The good news is there are plenty of businesses that need freelance writers. Of course, some of them don’t know it. :)

    I think taking a vacation is important. If you don’t, you could burn out and lose ALL of your clients because you won’t be motivated to work and your writing could become sub-par. Taking a mini vacation is better than nothing. Getaway for the weekend, kick back and relax.

  5. Peter Bowerman August 3, 2012 Reply

    Hey Rebecca,

    Echoing others’ sentiments here, sorry you lost a client, but as we all know, nothing is forever in the freelance world. The sorts of things that happened with your client and your contact happen every day in business. And anyone who’s been freelancing for any length of time has gone through it!

    One thing to make sure you do is keep in touch with the client contact who lost their job, whether directly by email or through LinkedIn. You never know where they’ll land, and when they do get situated, there’s a good chance they’ll need your help again.

    One comment – and not trying to be a smarta–. After reading the title of the piece (and, sorry, but it should read “takes”), I was looking for your explanation for why you won’t take vacations, and it was never revisited. What happened to you, while definitely unfortunate, is de rigeur in our world, and, as such, shouldn’t discourage you from taking vacations.

    Seconding Amandah’s comment, vacations are critical to refresh, recharge your batteries and just get away from normal routines for a while. I totally understand in the early years of business-building (and I’m not saying you ARE in your early years – I don’t know if you are), that we’re running scared, and that’s not a bad way to think – to make sure we build something enduring. I sure was that way.

    But, I always got away, and if you let clients know you’ll be unavailable from ___ to ___, and have some trusted backup resources who can cover for you when you’re gone, and you can do the same for them when they get away, you’re in good shape.

    I did a blog post on this very subject a few years back, and have been thinking of running it again, because I think the message is that important….

    http://www.wellfedwriter.com/blog/the-joys-of-unplugging/

    Good luck landing a replacement client – I know you will!

    PB

  6. Author
    Rebecca Garland August 3, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the catch, Peter. It’s always so sad when a typo slips into a title! I was being sarcastic about not taking vacations. The one time I actually do plan to leave town, I lose a major client. It’s just the sort of luck that I typically have. I don’t get to leave town often because of the kids, the two jobs and the trouble that having fish and pets cause, but I do unplug quite a bit – even if I have to do it at home.

  7. Thanks for a great source of info , as a freelance Web designer & SEO consultant i’m happy to see a blog utilized properly

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