Lately, I’ve been lucky to have a good amount of paid work to keep me busy. I really appreciate my clients’ confidence in my abilities. My cup runneth over.
As any freelancer knows, current work doesn’t mean the freelancer can just sit back and work on paid projects. He or she must still fit in time and effort to hunt down the next gig.
Gig hunting takes hours each day. It’s basically a game of averages, rather like direct mail advertising. If I apply for 100 gigs each week, I hope to get a 2% or 3% positive response rate. Of course, referrals are the best way to acquire work; however, most of projects are “one-off” types of projects and the clients don’t necessarily come back. It’s every freelancer’s goal to build a stable of regular clients. Repeat clients are a treasure and, like good farriers, should be fed lemonade and cookies to keep them happy.
Of course, the type of gig matters, too. Two projects a week at $5 or $25 dollars per gig won’t go far. That’s when I’m especially grateful for my regular part-time job. The bigger projects usually get paid via 50% deposit to begin and 50% upon delivery. That means other projects need to come in between start and delivery to keep cash flow as steady as possible.
One of the things I’ve learned in this first year as a full-time freelancer is estimating how long a project will really take. If, say, a project will take me 40 hours to complete, then it won’t be completed in a week. This ain’t a regular job. I’ll put in a few hours each day on that project and then move on to another project and then move on to the ongoing task of gig-hunting. Spreading the work like that may mean a greater delay between start and delivery payments, but it also prevents me from burning out on any one project. I can remain engaged and enthusiastic, which counts for a lot in this business.
That’s one of the reasons why I won’t bid on RFPs that specify delivery of a 30,000-word or longer manuscript in less than 30 days. Stephen King–yes, that Stephen King–is reputed to have a daily production average of 2,000 words. I can do that, too. Two thousand words a day (excluding weekends and holidays). If I find myself locked into writing more than that on any one project at any one stretch, you can bet I’ll quickly get bored and lose my enthusiasm in the project, even if it’s my own book.
I don’t want my work to become onerous or a chore that must be endured. After all these years, I’m finally happy in my employment–even if it doesn’t have regular hours, regular pay, or benefits–and I’ll do my very best to keep it interesting and varied so I can remain engaged in what I do.