I’ve noticed something about my freelance work and writing income. It often goes to crap in January.
Does this happen to you?
One day you’ve got a steady stream of freelance work. And the next, you’re focused on making the holiday meal, hosting a party, buying gifts, or making travel plans.
But that’s not the real reason the first month of the year is often a loser.
My theory: Income sucks in January because marketing tends to slack off in December.
After all, it’s the holidays! Everyone’s on vacation. Editors are out. You’re busy with family. The next thing you know, it’s January 3. And there you are in the office, looking at an empty assignment calendar.
When you’re trying to earn big from freelance work, having a “down” month is a problem.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you do it right, you can still enjoy the holidays and take time off. Here’s how to keep freelance work and income flowing well into January:
Two ways to beat the January low-income blues
If you don’t have a marketing strategy to find freelance work between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, you might start 2019 sad, depressed, frustrated and singing the low-income blues.
For a lot of writers, there’s an ebb and flow to freelance work and income with good months, bad months, and mediocre months. And it can almost always be traced back to marketing, whether that’s in the middle of a summer heatwave or during the holidays.
If you’re ultra-busy (who isn’t during the holidays), you might think you don’t have time for marketing to line up freelance work in January. But it’s just not true. Here are two easy ways to avoid a January slump:
1. Call existing clients to drum up freelance work
I was talking to my longtime Seattle writer-friend Sharon Baker, and we got to discussing the January-revenue problem. She shared a great strategy to make sure she has plenty of freelance work in January.
Call your existing clients, and ask a few questions like:
- What content needs are you going to have in January?
- Can I help you plan out your editorial calendar for Q1?
- My January schedule is filling up. What are your priority projects for the first of the year?
- How about another batch of blog posts? (And pitch some ideas)
- Is there a case study or white paper you want to kick off your 2019 marketing strategy?
It’s worth the effort
Sharon’s been calling around to her clients to put a bug in their ear about what they might want from her next year. This is a great way to start the year with assignments.
It didn’t take long for Sharon to find an assignment or two for January this way. (After she reminded me about this, I placed a couple calls to existing clients of mine about work for next year!)
This freelance marketing strategy also helps you:
- Tap into freelance budgets. Many companies set their marketing budgets for 2019 now, so it’s the perfect moment to check in. It doesn’t have to be anything pushy, just, “Hi, I’m starting to look at my plans for January, and I’m wondering what I can learn about your needs for next year.”
- Develop client relationships. This is also a good move because if you’ve been fantasizing that an ongoing client is going to keep rolling into 2019, but in reality they’re done with you, now’s the time to find that out. Getting the word early gives you more time to market and find a replacement gig if one of your clients is headed into the sunset.
2. Push freelance work for clients into next month
It’s a strategy I’ve been using to fill up my calendar ever since I worked a crazy amount of hours on an e-book for a client over the summer.
Here’s how it works:
- You stick with your current marketing strategy to find freelance work
- Query letters, letters of introduction, LinkedIn prospecting, social media marketing, in-person networking, etc.
- When a client contacts you about a project, avoid the knee-jerk reaction to say, “Yes. I’ll get that done as soon as possible.”
- Say this instead: “Wow, your project sounds interesting and I’d love to work on it, but we’re kind of headed into the holidays. Could I start your project first thing in January?”
I’ve gotten several calls from new prospects in the past couple weeks. Since my December is already as full as I want it (because I’m taking about two weeks off), I’ve used this approach. And you know what? I’ve already lined up two projects this way.
It’s a pretty easy pitch to make. December is a fairly unproductive month for many people, who want to head out on vacations. Just ask if you can can have a quick phone meeting this month to firm up details, and then start after New Year’s.
Kick off the New Year booked with freelance work
If you want to enjoy the holidays and start 2019 booked with freelance work, carve out some time for these easy marketing tasks. When other writers start singing the January low-income blues, you’ll be glad you did.