This Simple Habit Helped me Fight The Feast and Famine Cycle
Stop crying in the middle of a ‘Freelance Famine’
Another fruitful month came to an end and I was busy invoicing my clients for the ‘help’ I extended. But this time, there was something amiss.
It was as if I had a sudden premonition that this will be the last time in a while that I would be billing my clients.
The year doesn’t matter. I am sure we all have been there at some point in our professional lives. Despite our best efforts, we end up losing good clients without getting new ones. And before you know, a famine kicks in.
Just the other day, I was talking to a fellow professional who told me how he hated the cycle of ‘feast & famine’ as a freelancer. (By the way, he evolved into an agency owner now).
The conversation brought these scary memories back. If you’re in a job, most probably you won’t relate to this article altogether. But if you had a business in the past, are a freelancer or a consultant, you should read further.
The Good Days & The Not So Good Ones
I can’t say that I didn’t know freelancing comes with its own perks and demerits. In fact, I knew it all along.
The first project I completed on Freelancer.com was not paid for. The second was rescinded and I was left with a negative balance account. But I didn’t give it up then.
Slowly, I found clients who appreciated my honesty, even when I didn’t have much experience. And things started rolling.
I even worked in full-time roles and came back to freelancing when I started missing the freedom. All these were good days, knowledge-vise, if not money-vise. I was still a lowly-paid writer back then.
But never in my entire career, I have felt the dire and desperate need to make a cold pitch. Work was always there and I was happy being busy with whatever was on my plate.
With every client I billed, I learned something new and realized how valuable I am to the startups and businesses wanting more. In a way, I related to that hunger — of getting all that’s in this world.
But, just like all good things in this world, one day, I suddenly lost interest. My appetite vanished and I lost sight of the purpose — the ‘WHY’ in my story.
It is often said that clarity in your work comes when you’re calm within. All the years of penning out words had left me with a lot of commotion. And I needed out.
So, one day, I bid adieu to my existing clients (I already had given everyone a heads-up months in advance) and began a journey of self-realization.
Naturally, I couldn’t keep invoicing clients during that time. And that’s why it was bad (when you start eating your savings)
The Journey Within Began with Writing for The World… Again!
What would a person who has written all his adult life do in his free time? The obvious answer is, he would write.
But you would ask, that’s something you were running from when you stopped working. Right?
I thought so too in the beginning. But the more I sat with myself, the more I realized, I didn’t hate writing. I hated writing without purpose.
The realization gave me something I was missing for a few months — a sense of purpose and belonging.
I had to start writing for myself to fight off the dissatisfaction of being a mere ghostwriter. I would have to fall in love with words again to be a better person and professional.
And I did exactly that. But with a twist. Instead of working for clients, I started working for myself. Now, you would question me, who would pay your bills then?
Well, I was not worried about that because I had savings in place to support this ‘twist’.
Now, more than six months after I took a break, I realize that I am worth much more, and I am powerful to fight the horrors of freelancing.
During these months, the most I did was to interact with maximum people I can reach out to through my content- to understand their journeys, ambitions and purpose. The more I heard others, the more I felt I am on the right track.
Why am I sharing all this?
Because you have to interact with others if you want to introspect and improve. And when you observe others, you realize why you started in the first place.
Sit Tight and Chin Up because You Can’t Give Up Yet
What does a freelancer say to himself when he faces rejection and is about to give up? Not today!
Just like Syrio Forel asked Arya about what to say to the God of Death, we also should say this line time and again.
Maybe, it’s a client not liking our work, or an editor rejecting us, piece after piece. Or a sudden breakdown of our senses leading to a ‘writer’s block’. But the thing is, we as writers can’t give up — not today.
Instead, we have to improvise our way of working. When writing is not working, maybe you can do some reading to rekindle your imagination. Maybe when you are not winning at getting featured, you can reach out to more publications.
The thing is, you can’t just give up because one person chose to write off your writing. True writers fight for their creation.
Think of any famous writer in this world, or for that case any creator. First, they were laughed at, they were mocked, even rejected, before people understood their value.
The best way to fight the ‘feast and famine’ cycle is to never say never and stay prepared for the worst.
It’s Not Something You can Control, But Fight Off Elegantly
The first time I heard the term, feast and famine, I laughed it off. Because to be honest, even when I didn’t have any paid gigs, I definitely had a lot to take care of. And that ‘lot’ even paid me, maybe not in monetary terms.
And for that specifically, you need to have an emergency fund of your own. As a freelancer, you can’t just enjoy ‘hand to mouth’ living. You are more than just a professional, you are a manager in your own way.
From clients to work, personal life to your passion, you need to plan and similar is the case with finances. In one of my old stories, I shared how I stayed sane during remote work. There I talked about having an emergency fund with at least six months of expenses.
How I Remained Sane Even After Working from Home for the Last 3 Years
For me, adapting to the ‘new normal’ wasn’t that hard.
If you manage to follow this simple habit of building an emergency fund, you won’t be bothered by the ‘famine’ everyone’s so afraid of.
Freelancing is not just a working style, it’s a lifestyle. If you can’t understand this simple difference between a full-time job, entrepreneurship and freelancing, then maybe you’re on the wrong side.
So, the next time people see you with pity on being a freelancer with no income for months and ask if you are planning to give up, chin up and reply elegantly, “Not today!”