When I started as a freelancer, I didn't know how to make the most of the space between clients. I was either "on" and happily working on client projects or "off" and being a sloth or stressing about not having client projects. It took me a long time to really learn how to effectively use my "off" time so that it became "on" time, even if it happened in long stretches.
If you're finding yourself in the middle of an "off-client-project" time, here are 10 things you could be doing to stay "on" in your creative business:
1. Trying Out A New Skill or Software
Testing a new skill or software is far easier and less frustrating when you aren't trying to meet a deadline. If you've put off learning something new, but know it might help your workflow, it's best to catch up on your skills in between clients rather than in the middle of projects.
2. Building Your Portfolio With Personal Creative Work
The work that gets the most buzz is rarely work that created for a client. It's often an extreme or highly artistic vision, fully cultivated by an artist that creates the most buzz and award-winning creative work. Pushing your creative limits helps keep you feeling creative, even when client requests demand that you stay inside the box more than you'd like.
3. Attending Workshops / Watching Educational Videos
People who have been creatives for decades know that there's always more to learn, always another perspective to try, and always more knowledge to learn from. If you're ever feeling stale or out of date, ramp up your awareness about what else is going on by tuning into the latest educational offerings.
4. Meeting With Colleagues & Previous Clients
It's often said that your "network is your net worth" and the way to cultivate that network is through regularly staying in touch with the people you've enjoyed working and interacting with in the past. Who doesn't love receiving an invitation to hang out, especially when someone else is willing to pick up the tab?
5. Attending Networking Events
It may be impossible to ask a new client or connection out to lunch if they don't know you yet, but it's not impossible to get to know them during a networking event and create a connection that last beyond one event. Search Eventbrite, MeetUp, and Facebook for events on topics that you're passionate about to find people who might be interesting to collaborate with.
6. Getting Healthy
If you're a freelancer who tends to sacrifice your health while working for clients during intensive projects, than you really need to bring back more healthy-time into your down-time, so that you can return to each future project with more health and resilience than you had before.
7. Portfolio Organization
Have you ever had a new client ask for examples of a project you know you've done in the past, but couldn't find easily due to a lack of organization or a need to update your portfolio? The more you can streamline access to your work for future inquiries, the more likely you are to land the next prospect.
8. Seek Publicity Opportunities
Have you wanted to be featured in a favorite website, blog, or magazine? Spend time pulling together the required materials and developing a pitch for a feature that will drive the traffic of your target market back to your work.
Some amazing connections and opportunities can come from volunteering for something that you care about. Pick an organization that is aligned with your values and find ways to donate your time or talent during your down-time. When done with an open heart and desire for something greater than yourself, volunteering feels good in a way that goes beyond a simple working relationship.
10. Spend Time With Loved Ones
Freelancers may often sacrifice time with loved ones in order to serve clients or get projects done on deadline, so it's important to take time to fuel the relationships that are there for you no matter what your work load looks like. We have precious little time to nurture the closest relationships in our lives, and every little bit of positive guilt-free time together helps strengthen our spirit and ground us in ways that client and colleague relationships cannot.
Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.