No Freelance Writing Gigs? Here are 7 Ways to Stay Productive

Freelance writer moving forwardIf you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ve found yourself with a lull in your freelance writing career at some point.

It’s easy to feel defeated and give up altogether, but as unlikely as it may sound, there is a silver lining to this cloud.

What could be great about being out of a job?

Time. You have time on your side. You just need to make good use of it.

And by good use, I don’t mean looking at Craigslist ads to find freelance writing gigs, either. Here are seven things to do instead:

1. Market yourself more

When you don’t have to write for clients, you have more time for marketing — which is exactly what you need to do when you don’t have writing gigs.

Discover new ways to get clients and start doing them.

2. Learn a new skill

Whether it’s using Photoshop or WordPress, invest in learning a skill you can add to your resume.

Websites such as Udemy, Tuts+ and Lynda can provide you with free or paid online courses that range from coding to business management.

Practice these skills and learn how you can leverage them to get higher rates for your future writing projects.

3. Get a side job

A side job is an instant solution to paying the bills. Look for something you can do to earn income at night so you can focus on getting clients during the day.

If you’d rather stay at home, you can try getting one-off gigs like consulting, typing, voice-over jobs, or web design — provided you know how to do it and that it pays well.

4. Write guest posts

Whether paid or not, you now have the time to guest post for publications of your niche.

Focus on topics or angles that you haven’t written before so you’ll have a more diverse portfolio, and blogs where you’ll get great visibility — the kind your ideal client reads.

5. Improve your writer website

There’s always room for improvement, especially when it comes to your writer website.

Look at it from a prospective client’s point of view and see which parts need more work. In general, you just want your writer website to not suck.

6. Join a writer community

Being a jobless freelance writer can be a huge blow to your confidence and motivation.

Joining a writer community like Carol’s Freelance Writer’s Den can help you get guidance and inspiration from other writers who’ve been between freelance writing gigs.

7. Launch a product or service online

If you have an expertise along with your writing talent, then you are more than ready to launch a product or service online.

You can write an e-book or offer a coaching program.

More than just making money, selling something online should always come from genuinely wanting to help people do better in life.

Whatever you do, don’t give up or get stuck. Use the time you have to write better, market better, and get better clients.

Keep moving.

Remember: A lull is not the end of the road. I’ll bet you’re better off right now than when you first started.

What do you do when you’re out of writing gigs? Tell us in the comments.

Kim Barloso is a freelance technology writer who shares freelance writing advice for beginners on her blog, Kim The Writer.

Tagged with: , , , ,
34 comments on “No Freelance Writing Gigs? Here are 7 Ways to Stay Productive
  1. I’d like to add one. Seek out local writing prospects. It gets you out of the house and helps stave off pessimism that sometimes accompanies lulls in your work load. Visit the businesses you regularly patronize and let them know what you do. They may need a little help with something.

  2. dojo says:

    My main specialty is graphic/web design, so I just started getting interested in freelance writing in the past weeks. In my case the best think was to work on my blog and try to create some interesting articles, that would show my potential clients what I can do. I need to start promoting now, but already got a gig invitation, so it’s good.
    dojo recently posted…Underwater Mortgage: What Should You Do?My Profile

  3. Kim Barloso says:

    Best of luck, CJ! I guess your fire is back. 😉

  4. I like the tips, especially learning a new skill. You could also take time to read up on social media strategies, write ebooks, or anything else that can be seen as complementary to writing. I’d just like to add networking to the list. Attending networking events and working your existing network are great ways to find new clients and practice talking about what you do.
    Peggy Carouthers recently posted…6 Ways to Revitalize Your Blogging PassionMy Profile

  5. Sam Edge says:

    I’ve been freelancing and blogging since 2012 and it;s been harder than I imagined – I’ve not really found my grove and work has been hit and miss. This article is very helpful – turning my down time into an opportunity. Thanks 🙂
    Sam Edge recently posted…Sep 26, 5 Steps to Planning SuccessMy Profile

  6. Suggested activities:
    1. Content audit. What do you have – published or not – that has scope for developing into completely new pieces of work?
    2. Subject review. What subjects do you know ‘something’ about. You may surprise yourself, and you can always do further research if a topic interests you.
    3. Write some outlines. Just high level – headline, subhead and bullets. These can become your skeletons if you need material at short notice.
    4. Create free / cheap ebooks for promotion. (Man Up! is one I created out of 100 or so themed gags, using free software.) They’re a great way to engage clients and also to use as a giveaway in conjunction with an eNewsletter.
    5. Volunteer. yes, really! Contact a local school (will require a safeguarding check) to look at reading or writing groups. Tap into that raw creativity children have.
    Derek Thompson recently posted…The Value of ValueMy Profile

  7. logan mathis says:

    This is all very good information. I just started online and freelancing and I use your site to help me out 🙂 It’s hard in the beginning because you’re competing with people who did it longer than you and have more experience but I love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Thank you for these tips. I will use them immediately 🙂
    logan mathis recently posted…Two Huge Mistakes Authors Are Making On Their Facebook PageMy Profile

  8. Shernette says:

    This is great Carol! I’m rounding up on a ghostwriting job and I’ve been very concerned what to do when it’s done.

    Ordinarily, I would apply for more writing jobs on different websites. These tips are more than helpful and I will definitely be implementing them when I do have time on my hands.

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, I think that’s what *most* freelance writers seem to do…when one website pays pennies, they apply to be on more websites just like them. Or answer more mass job ads that don’t tend to pay much.

      When you start proactively marketing — identifying your own prospects, guest posting on highly visible blogs — then you can get into a whole different class of client.

  9. cj_callen says:

    Marcie, Kim,

    For me, at first this post was simply a distraction from doing what I was supposed to…instead, I solved a problem, learned a few things, and had some great conversation. Not a bad way to end procrastination.

    If anyone sees me posting anything more on here today, kick me! I’ll be back tomorrow with hopefully, good news about a completed article (still no idea of the title, but so it goes).

    Ta!
    cj_callen recently posted…I was Freelance, when Freelance wasn’t CoolMy Profile

  10. Hi Kim,

    Great advice you have given here!

    I think marketing yourself more is definitely a great idea as is learning a new skill to offer a wider variety of clients.

    For example, a freelance blogger can read more about email marketing and social media strategies which both relate to what clients will need.

    There’s definitely also something to be said for reaching out and connecting with fellow freelancers (perhaps in a graphic design or website building niche) and the experts in your field.

    Being in a bit of a freelancing lull offers the perfect time to make new contacts, who may turn out to be work partners later down the line.

    Wonderful ideas Kim. I need to get going on some of these myself.

    Edward
    Edward Beaman recently posted…10 Benefits of Encouraging Your Employees to BlogMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Edward, I’m with you — what I often do with any scrap of downtime I have is LEARN. I keep stashes of newsletters, free podcasts and handouts, on my desktop and just pop into one if I’ve got a moment.

  11. cj_callen says:

    Carol,

    Thanks a whole-bunches-a-lot! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. And, by the way, your surety bonds just trumped my Carlsbad, Ca Real Estate blog right out of the game! I feel a lot better writing “San Diego County Property Taxes: What you Need to Know about the Upcoming Tax Season”.

    You article is SPOT ON and I actually feel inspired now. You are an ANGEL sent directly from Heaven!
    Now all I have to do is come up with a good idea/angle for an article. I want to have one finished and posted by days end (it’s 2 PM here in Jersey).

    Biggest of Hugs to YOU. 🙂
    cj_callen recently posted…New Business cardMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks CJ! Are you running Google alerts on your topic? Great way to see what others are blogging about, and to find news you might use as a focal point for a post.

  12. Cherese Cobb says:

    Marketing is my favorite thing to do when I don’t have work. I regularly add my guest posts to Pinterest, Google+, Linkedin, etc. I also find writing free guest posts helpful. It keeps your writing skills sharp and helps build your portfolio.
    Of course, being jobless also means you can research and write pitches for better paying publications!
    Cherese Cobb recently posted…A Cookie to Die ForMy Profile

  13. Marcie says:

    Kim, I am so with you on learning a new skill. I feel like I should be getting better at photography and learning Photoshop, so these are my focuses for now.

    I would also like to add journaling to activities to stay productive. It is helping me to generate ideas and see my goals more clearly. It’s also a good way of scolding myself for not doing what I’m supposed to do.
    Marcie recently posted…8 Things that Make Me Different as a WriterMy Profile

  14. Kim Barloso says:

    Good question, Hunbbel. I think it’s up to you which new skill you are most interested in. I guess copywriting and SEO is more writing-related, so if a writer is more comfortable transitioning to that then it’s probably going to work better than learning something more technical (like coding, web design). I think we learn better when we have a genuine interest in a subject matter.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think it’s challenging when you start learning design or photography…because it would take a *lot* of learning to bring that to a level where you could earn well from it. I think learning related skills like well-paid writing niches is a better route.

  15. cj_callen says:

    Yes Kim,

    I think you’re right. I’ve been thinking hard about it since I posted my reply…kinda in my face when I saw my problem spelled out before me.

    I’ve been working for this client for about a year now, and I really think I know why I never became a Real Estate agent…I could care less about the industry! But she pays me well, and you couldn’t ask for a better client.

    So…
    It’s turned me into the “curmudgeon” who trudges into work – day in and day out – silently wishing her boss would vaporize and daydreams about being anywhere but THERE.

    I think I’m resentful because I love writing and this long-term gig has sucked the ever-lovin’ life right out of me. Like, if I was a lawyer, I wouldn’t be a Real Estate lawyer…I hate it THAT much!

    Has this ever happened to you, or anybody else you know out there? It’s kind of a tricky situation. Great client, good money, freedom, or too much freedom, burned bridge, and no money.

    OY!
    cj_callen recently posted…New Business cardMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      CJ, this post might help you — The Secret to Writing Brilliantly About a Boring Business. It’s possible there are other types of stories you could tell within this niche that you’d be more interested to tackle. And you said she lets you write whatever you want, right?

      The thing is, if you don’t find stronger topics to do, eventually your client will probably drop you because they’ll feel the posts are lackluster…that lack of passion will show in the work. So see what you can do to find new angles that interest you! I speak as someone who blogged for a year for one client about surety bonds — if you can make that sexy and newsworthy, you can do it with any kind of business.

  16. Hunbbel Meer says:

    Excellent post; lots of great tips!

    I believe “learning a new skill” and “guest posting” are the two things that yield the most benefits. Moreover, another tip could be to expand your niches.

    It would be especially helpful if the writer goes out of work too early, too often. This may be an indicator that her niche probably isn’t wide enough. Expanding to different niches would certainly help in avoiding such a lull.

    By the way, what is your opinion on learning a completely different skill (like coding and web-designing) instead of a more relative skill (like copywriting or SEO)?

    Thanks.

  17. Williesha says:

    Great suggestions in the comments *and* the post! Will about to be down to 1 recurring client. Definitely need to focus on my marketing and guest posting.

    Also, I think it’s important to focus on self-care – take a break, pamper yourself, spend time in the outdoors. Basically recharge.

  18. Kim Barloso says:

    Hi Daryl,

    I used to ignore guest blogging too for two reasons: I *thought* I didn’t have the time and I didn’t think any blog would be interested in what I had to say.

    Like so many writers out there, I just needed to see the benefits of guest blogging and get over my fear of rejection. For writers who are without writing gigs, I can understand why guest blogging may be the last on their list — but it shouldn’t be the case.

    Guest blogging not only makes a writer more visible to his/her niche — but also to clients who might be looking for writers on that niche.
    Kim Barloso recently posted…How To Build A Writer Website For $20 Or LessMy Profile

  19. Kim Barloso says:

    Hi cj,

    I think you’re in a slump, and it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s causing it.

    The fire you need might just be to sit down and start writing. That’s all there really is to it. I’m afraid there is no magic formula or secret answer.

    If the topic is too boring or tedious for you, then maybe it’s time to find other topics you are passionate about and hopefully get paid writing gigs there.
    Kim Barloso recently posted…How To Build A Writer Website For $20 Or LessMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I agree with Kim — only one client, a topic you don’t love…you don’t have enough diversity in your client base, and you’re probably at the point where you need to move on from this client. Time to get marketing!

      Also want to apologize for the failure of my comments to thread for many writers — we’re aware of the glitch and we’re working on it.

  20. Daryl says:

    GUEST POST

    Getting a decent guest posting gig is relatively easy if you’re a *decent* writer and should be an important part of your marketing strategy! I wonder how so many freelance writers seem to overlook this key marketing tool.
    Daryl recently posted…August 2014 Freelance Writing Income ReportMy Profile

  21. cj_callen says:

    I am down to one long-time client at the moment. I write fro her Real Estate blog. I’m authorized 10 hours per week to do as I wish. Whatever content I feel relevant or engaging is great with her. She loves my work and gives me full reign (Lucky, huh?).

    Right now I am (actually for 2 weeks) committing (avoiding) a writer’s biggest transgression! Although I really need the money, I haven’t written anything for her in 2 weeks (maybe more). She doesn’t mind if I take long periods off.

    I just can’t seem to find the motivation to research an article for her, and I don’t know why. I’m in Jersey, she in California…I’m no Real Estate expert, so I have to not only research her area, I have to educate myself about her industry along the way. Can you say, “brain ache”?

    Instead, I have been doing all (most) the things you’ve been talking about in your post and replies. which is good, but I still need money!

    What is my problem? How do I light the fire under my a**?
    cj_callen recently posted…New Business cardMy Profile

    • Ingrid Zacharias says:

      Hi CJ,

      When I get stuck like that, I pick up an old fashioned pen and writing pad and just write, it doesn’t have to be on topic, as long as it is near topic. Just write from your knowledge in your head and let flow. Eventually something will click and you will be back into professional mode, because you will be saying to yourself, “I need to google that, because I’m not sure how it really works” But in the meantime, somewhere in all that writing is the makings of a blog post and you know what you need to research and then you can carry on and blog away, because you broke through the blogging barrier.

      Best of Luck,
      Ingrid 🙂

      • Sam says:

        Ingrid, you hit one out of the park. Following your advice, I sat down to free-flow something somewhat relevant, certainly not fit for publication. I realized that if something interested me enough to research it, it probably would interest others. It seems writers block is not a dearth of ideas, but just a boulder in your way to success. We just need to find the path around it, without beating ourselves up about it (or panicking).

  22. Kim Barloso says:

    Thanks for adding to the list, Katherine!

    I absolutely agree with building relationships on social media in the professional sense. This is one thing I overlook when I’m busy writing for clients, and I always thought I didn’t have the time.

    Self-pampering sounds really good, provided it’s not that expensive and you can afford it. 😉
    Kim Barloso recently posted…How To Build A Writer Website For $20 Or LessMy Profile

  23. Additional possibilities:

    -Write a full-length book
    -Write a better business plan and/or mission statement and/or goals list–or make a vision board!
    -Build up your social media platform (but keep it focused–beware of using the networks for recreational reading, small-talk schmoozing, or sharing things far outside your professional niche)
    -If you can’t get guest-posting gigs, contribute comments to existing blog posts

    Today’s article was well-timed for me: I lost two longtime steady clients this past year and am struggling to build a new list (like many, I let “sure-thing” work time push out marketing work time). #s 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are already on my regular to-do list.

    (Which, given the amount of emotional energy that can go into changing gears, reminds me of one more thing underemployed writers should do: engage in regular low-cost self-pampering!)
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Getting Into the Right MindMy Profile

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "No Freelance Writing Gigs? Here are 7 Ways to Stay Productive"
  1. […] Listed here are a number of ideas that will help you set up your self as a profitable freelance writer. […]

  2. […] rules apply for when you’re worrying about not having enough money or gigs coming in. Check out Carol Tice’s post about staying productive when you have no freelance writing gigs for some useful tips and ideas on how to keep going without pausing to […]