You’ll hear a lot of times that freelancing is “feast or famine,” and that’s simply not true. Yep, plenty of people buy into that myth, but that still doesn’t mean it’s truth — and it definitely doesn’t mean that you have to buy into it.
Sure, it’s all around you. There are freelancers who say yes to every project that comes along, because who knows where the next one is coming from?
You’ve probably met freelancers who fill up the calendar to bursting and work like mad, ignoring their homes and families, and struggling to stay healthy and sane.
A few weeks later, they’re desperate for work, scrambling to find something, anything they can say yes to, no matter what it means, no matter what it pays.
“That’s freelancing. Feast or famine,” these people say. They shrug their shoulders. “Nothing to be done for it.”
Picture this reality instead:
You book out your calendar with steady work. You get paid up front for projects, schedule them in advance — according to your schedule.
You have a set number of hours per work available for client work, and when those are full, you book work for the next week, or the one after that.
If you enjoy the stress of the feast or famine mentality — hey, more power to you. You can quit reading now, because clearly none of this applies to you. But if you want to do things differently, there IS a different way.
How to Forget About Feast or Famine for Good
If you’re ready to forget about feast or famine and concentrate on booking clients so that you have steady work — and steady earnings, that’s great. You’re going to work through four straightforward steps, and everything is detailed right here in this post. You’ll need to grab the workbook that goes along with this post — so go ahead and download that now if you haven’t already.
You’ll need to:
- Get clear on your offer — you can’t be all things to all people.
- Break down your process so that you can determine how much work it really is — and how long it will take.
- Schedule the work on a real-world calendar.
- Book out your calendar the right way so that you’re never waiting for work.
And no worries — we’re going to go through each step of the process right now.
Get Clear on Your Offer
If your attitude to freelancing is, “I’ll write anything, including nursery rhymes, as long as you pay me,” then you’re going to struggle to book out your calendar. In order to build a real business and earn consistently, you have to offer clients a specific service.
Think of it this way: You can be Target, and offer everything under one roof. You give your customers lots of discounts and constantly slash your prices, because everyone LOVES sales.
On the other hand, you can be Tesla, and offer a high-end product for the kind of clients who are willing to spend money on quality.
Target is awesome when you’re looking for a trendy outfit you can wear this season and throw away.
You are a Tesla or a Tiffany or whatever luxury brand works for you. That’s who you are. You offer something unique and wonderful to your clients — and you charge accordingly.
Put another way, you are guac, baby girl.
If you’ve been freelancing for more than a few months, you should have a good idea of the kind of work you most enjoy doing for clients, so focus on that for your offer.
If you already offer one primary writing service to your clients, great! You're ready to move on to the next section.
Break Down Your Process
Once you know what you offer, you need to determine know how long each piece of your process — the writing work you’re doing for clients — takes you.
Open up your workbook and use the Break Down Your Process page to… well, break down your process.
Let’s say your service is writing show notes for podcasters. Think about what goes into every job you do.
For example, when you meet with a new client, you need to know if you’ll be getting edited episodes in audio format? Raw audio files? Transcripts?
You probably have a set of questions you generally ask, but have you taken the time to collate those questions into a single document so that it’s easy for you to get what you need from the client?
What information do you need to know about your client’s audience? What guidelines do you need the client to give you before you can start working?
If you’re ghost writing magazine articles for corporate clients so that they can be published, how long does your initial conversation with the client normally take? What kind of lead time do you need to have in order to deliver a polished piece?
I write email sequences and sales pages for online course creators and entrepreneurs.
Every project starts with a 2-hour phone call where I get all the information I need to write an 8-email sequence and a detailed sales page.
Over time, I’ve determined that each email takes me about an hour to draft and 30 minutes to finalize.
The sales page takes me about 2 hours to draft and an hour to finalize.
My trusty calculator informs me that a typical project, therefore, is about 15 hours total.
Keep Your Calendar in the Real World
Here’s the part where most people screw up.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, 15 hours. If I met with the client on Monday, that means I could deliver on Thursday.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
We live in the real world. In this world, we have children who get sick, tires that go flat, and husbands who suddenly have to travel for work.
In this world, when you look at your calendar on Monday and see three empty days, you have to remember that the school could inform you of an unexpected lice outbreak, or your son could outgrow the sneakers that fit him perfectly well on Thursday, but now they are decidedly too small, and you must drop everything and get him new sneakers right now and that takes a minimum of 2 hours and 47 minutes if you hit all the green lights and get the parking space on the north side of the mall so that you can get into Payless without having to detour through the area of the toy stores….
Yes. So. In the real world, you must look at your calendar and be realistic and reasonable.
You need your workbook for this part, so make sure you have it ready!
On your best days, you probably have no more than six dedicated hours for work (and if your children are small and at home with you, you probably have less time that that) — and this isn’t the only project you need to work on during that time.
You can reasonably fit in two hours today and tomorrow, plus three hours on Thursday, and then two hours each day next week. so you tell the client that you will deliver next Thursday or even the Monday after that.
Generally speaking, for 15 hours of work, you will want to allow about 10 business days, or two calendar weeks.
Follow the instructions in the workbook to block out your time in your calendar.
Remember, you are guac. You are not Target, jumping to slash prices and worried about Walmart. You deliver high quality work, and clients understand that it takes time to do that work.
Book Out Your Calendar
Let’s say you’ve booked a job with a client and filled in the appropriate slots on your calendar. A second client reaches out, and after careful consideration, you see that you can comfortably add that assignment to your calendar.
The phone rings again. This is the “feast” thing. The OLD YOU would have said, “YES, OF COURSE!” to client number three. Sleep is overrated, sleep is for the weak, sleep is a thing you can do when you’re dead.
Your 4-year-old doesn’t really need clean laundry this week. Your teenager can make his own dinner.
The work is here, and maybe it will NOT be here in a few weeks, so you MUST accept all the assignments and work yourself to the bone.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Instead, what you say to client number three is, “Fantastic! To book you on my calendar I require a deposit of $X. Let’s get your call scheduled for a week from Thursday — your deposit needs to be paid by then — and at the end of that call, I’ll give you the schedule for deliverables.”
You can change the wording a little, but you get the gist.
You take a deposit to hold the time in your calendar. You look busy (you are busy) and in control. You are treating your business like a business. You are treating yourself with respect. Everyone else will follow suit.
Be Booked Out and Forget About Feast or Famine
You can get steady freelance writing work and book out your calendar.
You might need to say NO to crappy, low-paying work that you hate. Yes, that’s scary to do at first.
The thing is, when you say NO to that crappy, low paying work, you’re making time in your schedule to say YES to the clients who will respect you.
You’ll have to do the work and put in the time to deliver quality work that’s worthy of higher prices.
The thing is, you’ll have that time, because you’re using a calendar that’s firmly grounded in reality, instead of pretending that you can do everything simultaneously without breaking a sweat.
If you can get on board with all of that, you can STOP with the feast or famine thing.
It’s completely up to you.
Do you want to focus on creating a great writing service for your clients and book out your schedule?
Or do you want to keep doing what you’re doing wait for some magical change?
What’s your plan? Drop a line in the comments to let me know!