When I first read the bio of today’s guest contributor I thought: Hey, I do that, and that – oh, and that too! Freelance writer Courtney Gahan writes web content, is a journalist, and advises clients on their content strategy. We both find it challenging to cram all of the many things we do into our bios. Although my life is here in the domestic United States, Courtney is living the writer life internationally. No matter where a freelancer resides, we all experience lulls between the crests of client waves. Today Courtney explains the simple way to respond to these quiet times – and it’s already helping her early in her freelance career.
Dreaded Freelance Quiet Periods
By Courtney Gahan
Since making the full-time-to-freelance switch after writing between office walls for a few years, I have found that freelancing fits me like a cozy mitten. The concept of being a freelance writer is an inviting one, but along with the many pros come cons.
I have always been happier and more productive working independently, so being in control of who I work for and how I write is a wonderful thing. I love taking the occasional Tuesday afternoon off, editing articles on rainy Sunday afternoons when I feel like it, or leaving the house in the morning, deciding which coffee shop I’m in the mood for and making that my office for the day.
But there is one thing about working this way that I still struggle with, no matter how many times I experience it. I have had only a handful of quiet weeks since I started freelancing, but they do happen and they don’t feel good.
Often I don’t even notice my mood slowly slipping, then quite suddenly I’m feeling very blue indeed and that’s usually when I realize I haven’t heard from any of my clients for a while. This always causes my confidence to slip a little – I quickly forget any success I have had and begin to question. Am I kidding myself? Am I a terrible writer? Should I start applying for full-time work again?
Sometimes it seems as though everywhere I’m pitching, all my clients and anyone else I might write to have gone on holiday at the same time. My inbox will be silent for a week, aside from the various correspondence from online shopping sites that cunningly appear just when I start to feel the need for some retail therapy. Then, just as suddenly, I’ll receive three emails in one day from different clients and voila I’m busy.
Every time I experience this rollercoaster I try to remind myself to remember it always works out, but each time I end up questioning myself all over again – and it’s not only for financial reasons that this can be scary.
Writing simply makes me happy. When I’m not writing I start to feel more and more anxious. Nowadays I am starting to branch out and pitch to new places all the time, so I am experiencing this lack-of-writing-related stress less, but when I was relying solely on my clients each quiet day would make me increasingly tense. I am actually far more stressed when I don’t have anything booked than when I have a huge workload and tight deadlines.
I’m sure many writers feel this way – it makes sense to me that this natural form of expression invites those are naturally good at and truly enjoy it. Writers have to be so in touch with our thoughts and able to translate them well onto ‘paper’ that I think we grow to be more in our heads, always thinking. When we have nothing to stretch our writing muscle and our brain, we become restless and therefore, more unhappy.
In the end, freelancing is an adventure. There are hectic times, pleasantly busy times, and those dreaded quiet periods, but now that I’m doing it I can hardly imagine going back.
I’m still relatively new to the freelancing world, but I have learned so much in the past year and a half that would have helped me to know earlier. The quiet times (and meltdowns) are part of the freelance writing world, and the best way to deal with it is to find productivity elsewhere and remain calm until it passes – it always does.
Courtney Gahan is a writer, editor and journalist who works with a variety of written online content including web copy and blogs, and as a sports journalist specializing in handball. Courtney has spent the last two years living in London, and is currently taking the long way home to Australia through Asia. Courtney blogs about her travel and expat experiences on gelatiforbreakfast.com. You can find her on Twitter @CourtneyGahan2. View her professional writing portfolio and her writer website.