What’s on the iPod: Running on Empty by Jackson Browne
How was your Thanksgiving? I was able to head home (great weather for it) and visit my parents. My dad is dealing with emphysema and lungs filled with asbestos, so every visit is a gift right now. You don’t realize how quickly time passes until you see a parent at the tail end of their earthly journey.
I never know what song will pop up on my iPod just before I write a post. The Jackson Browne song is appropriate in many ways, but especially for freelance writers. In December, we’re usually running on empty, aren’t we? Empty wallets, an empty desk, empty client pipeline….
If you’ve not planned ahead and are needing to make money right now, it’s often the worst month to do so. Not impossible, but it sure sucks trying to get clients thinking of starting new projects when many are winding down their fiscal year. Not all, but plenty of companies use December 31st as their year end.
But this post is about looking ahead, not behind. You could cruise through December and hope for the heavens to rain down projects on you. Or you could schedule things now that help you come that much closer to starting the new year with a healthy earnings stream.
Here are a few ways to get projects lined up for your new year:
Ask for post-New Year commitments. Especially those clients that have been stringing you along for a while could use a nudge. Now is the time to get on the phone (I’m afraid so — phone calls work) and ask to get some written arrangement signed for. Sweeten the pot with a 10-15 percent discount if they sign before December 20th.
Suggest some additional projects. That client who has been sending steady work your way mentioned a while ago that he wanted a blog. So why not map out about 10 ideas (just ideas — don’t give away everything without a written commitment) and suggest that you could start writing anywhere from one per week to one per month for them. Or maybe your client could benefit from a quarterly newsletter or a website refresh. Put together a healthy-looking brain dump and pass it along. Then follow up with a phone call (in fact, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a call as you send the ideas).
Get article ideas circulating. Many of the magazines I write for expended their annual freelance budgets about a month ago. However, January is so ridiculously close. Why not propose an article for either January or February? I have one I’m working on that’s due Feb. 1. Nothing like knowing February already has a $2K head start.
Look farther ahead. Whether it’s a conference or a particular holiday or event, hit up your clients now with ideas for that trade show or those webinars/podcasts they’ll need. They don’t have to act on them now, but that you’re thinking ahead sure eases their burden.
Continue your usual marketing. Not everyone lets a holiday slow down their production, and you may have clients or prospects who are needing writing help now. Keep marketing and following up, and do so wisely — look for those companies that have a heavy output of communication pieces through past Decembers, or those with ongoing content/proofing/editing needs.
Writers, how do you use the slow periods, be it December or otherwise?
What’s your best marketing method for securing future work?