freelance client famine


On the face of it, freelancing is a no-brainer.

You work the hours you choose, you get to decide who you work with, and there’s no boss to answer to.

Sounds perfect.

The problem is it’s not quite that easy.

When you freelance there’s no sales team around you delivering work – you have to do that.

There’s no IT department to sort out your tech glitches – you have to do that.

There’s no finance department to chase your unpaid invoices – you have to do that.

Plus, the term ‘feast or famine’ usually sums up your workflow.

One minute you’re stressing because you’re not sure how you’re going to hit your deadlines. The next, you’re stressing because you’re twiddling your thumbs and watching tumbleweed blow across your office floor.

It’s this inconsistent level of work that most freelancers find the most frustrating aspect of their business.

So what can be done about it?

Can anything be done about it?

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a bank of retainer clients, sooner or later you’re going to hit a dry patch.

Client churn is a natural part of business, so you can never rest on your laurels just because, at the moment, you have a healthy monthly income.

Where do you find clients?

If you’re like me, you’ll have a favourite way of attracting clients:

  • Through website traffic
  • By blogging and article marketing
  • Through social media
  • Face-to-face networking (this one is not my bag at all)

A lot of freelancers will put all their eggs in one basket. They either solely rely on Google to bring them clients, or just keep hitting all their local networking events to drum up trade.

Some have given up on organic search and are instead pouring cash into an AdWords campaign. Others hope word-of-mouth will keep their bank balance in the black.

All of these are legitimate courses of action, but they shouldn’t be relied on in isolation.

What about your existing clients?

Finding new clients always seems to take priority over keeping old ones.

Not every business that approaches you for help will need regular work doing; for most, it’s the odd one-off project now and again. But the fact that you have a database of past happy clients shouldn’t be ignored.

Keeping in touch with them (even those that asked for a quote but didn’t take you up on it) will help you keep that door open and, hopefully, lead to repeat work.

Don’t go mad though (you’ll only come across as being desperate). Drop them a line once a month to tell them what you’ve been up to and perhaps offer a handy hint – something they will value.

There should be no sales pressure; this is just a ‘staying in touch’ email.

Keep searching for the Holy Grail

Achieving a constant flow of work is the Holy Grail every freelancer is looking for.

Admittedly, it’s unlikely you’ll achieve it 100% of the time, but by getting organised and trying different approaches, you will maximise your chances of avoiding a complete famine.


Sally Ormond is a freelance copywriter who works with clients around the world. Ten years into freelancing and she’s not starved yet.