How to Break the Freelancer Feast or Famine Cycle 

By Dana Oliver, Photos via Pexels


It’s one of the biggest problems facing the freelance community as a whole: the feast or famine cycle. Newbie freelancers often think this a mythical term, only to be unexpectedly hit with famine some months down the line. Smart freelancers are always prepared for this inevitable lull in work and finances, as they are just a factor of freelance life. 

With that in mind, how exactly can you go about breaking the torturous feast or famine lifestyle of a freelancer? 


1) Don’t Forget Marketing

Marketing is the essential way that you will be able to make money as a freelancer. Struggles in a freelancing career can often be solved by the much more frequent marketing of yourself and your services. Now, you may avoid this in an effort to avoid being salesy. Or, god forbid, pushy. But it really is unavoidable if you want to be a successful freelancer. 

Here are some of the best ways to keep continuously marketing yourself, even if you can only devote a small amount of time to it: 

  • Tweet, post on Facebook and even Instagram about your services. Social media is a key marketing tool, so don’t be afraid to use it! 
  • Know what your USP (unique selling point) is and wield it wisely, it could win you a lot of clientele! 
  • Blog about yourself, your services and why you can bring a unique thing to your clients. 
  • Network, network and network some more. Meeting people is great. Meeting people who can introduce you to potential work is even better, so always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. 
  • Ask clients for reviews or referrals! The right words in someone’s ear can build you a network of client’s to suit any feast or famine cycle, so don’t be afraid to ask. 


2) Space Out Deadlines

This method can help both your sanity and your bank balance, so it is one to consider. During your feast cycle, the temptation is to give yourself short deadlines, do the work quickly and then you find yourself with little else to do afterwards. Which can both be a blessing and a curse. 

Learning to space out work helps with this issue. It means you always have some sort of work and payment on the horizon, keeping you afloat over a longer period of time rather than all at once. 


3) Time Management for Dummies

Honestly, the worst sin of a freelancer is spending too much time on low paying gigs. Yes, you want to do a great job. But at the expense of making better money elsewhere? In a feast or famine economy, it’s not wise nor sensible to spend too much of your time trying to please the low paying clients of the world. 

“Hang on, but all of my clients are quite low paying,” come the cries of the starving freelancer. If that’s the case, then the less time you spend on them the better. Space them out on your calendar to ensure you get the work done in quick chunks, this way it gives you a wider schedule for other pursuits. More importantly, it will give you much more time and freedom to hunt out better-paying jobs and long-term prospects that will help you break the cycle. 


4) Make a Backup List

If push comes to shove, do you have a reliable backup to ensure there’s still food on the table? If your answer is no then this is a priority for you moving forward. 

A good freelancer is talented in whatever your niche may be; writing, graphic design or even translation. And the very best freelancers are good salespeople as well. Part of this is always having a list of low-hanging fruit, potential prospects and even collaboration opportunities on the horizon. This means being able to follow up dropped off client’s, asking one-time opportunities if they need further work, or simple cold pitching to find yourself some work. 

Not every freelancer feels comfortable creating a backup list. In which case, turning to job boards and other quick wins may be a better alternative. Whatever your method, it is vital that you have some sort of backup plan in place to come to the rescue during the famine time of the month. 


5) Don’t Wait to Starve

Look carefully at your schedule, is there a period coming up where you’re not really sure if you will be making money? If that’s the case, then it is not something that you should ignore or put off thinking about. If you see it coming, then you should be able to do something about it. 

Start upping your marketing efforts when you see a problem on the horizon. Chase up unpaid invoices. Ask past clients if they have any more work for you to complete. Work to make sure that a famine period doesn’t have to happen, as much as it is possible for you to do so. 

At the end of the day, the feast or famine cycle is a monster of your own creation. And so it is up to you to make efforts to tame it. Put in a little more effort to your marketing efforts, ask around for more work and keep a reliable list of backups to help support you during a famine. That way, you are sure to survive as a freelancer.