If you’re a freelancer, you’ve been in this situation. A project got canceled or ended early. A proposal you were sure would close fell through. Either way, you have open availability on your calendar and no immediate project to fill it.
As freelancers, this can be scary. With only so much billing hours in a week, idle time means no money coming in. And sourcing out a new client or project often takes time. So what can you do today to try to fill that open availability with a new paid client project?
One of the best sources of new revenue is past clients. These are the people who know you, have worked with you, and are happy with your services (hopefully). Often times we forget to nurture this group. Just because a project ended with a client doesn’t mean our relationship should end.
First, look for ways to expand on your previous work. Find where your last project left off, and come up with ways to add some value on to the tail end. Most projects are never finished. There is always room for improvement. A chance to iterate, optimize or systematize the work you created for them. Or do cleanup and maintenance. These add-ons might not be your ideal project, but it can help fill the time.
Second, consider other creative ways you can serve them. They hired you for one thing—what other service do they need? Have you added new services or skills since you worked with them? They might not know that.
Be specific about where you think you can add value and pitch it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
You can easily share on social media that you have availability. Don’t be shy. Everyone has times when they are looking for more work. This is one of those times. Despite your hesitation, most people are willing to help, and you may get some re-posts of your request. You just have to ask.
Here are a few example posts:
👋Hey! I have some open availability for the month of [month]. If you are looking for [specific services] I'd love to chat. Send me a DM or email me at [email]
If anyone is looking for [services] I've had some immediate availability open up. I'd love to connect! Send a DM or email me at [email]
🎉 I just wrapped a project helping a client [benefit you provided to past client]. If you're looking for help with [problem clients are facing] I'd love to help you do the same. I actually have open availability right now, but it fills fast. Send me a message and let's talk
Go through your network and do more targeted outreach. Think of specific projects or collaborations. The goal is to cause a spark or light bulb to go off for someone. If you can spark interest, there is a good chance you can turn that in to a project. Look at what your client is doing—what initiatives or avenues are they posting about— and come up with an idea. Pitch them your idea highlighting the specific benefit and value you can add. Additionally, providing an exact timeline and budget can enable a quick purchase decision.
The worst thing that could happen is they say, “Hey, thanks for thinking of us for that project. We're not interested right now but we’ll keep you in mind.”
You may need to get over your fear of cold pitching, but if you don’t you’ll be sitting around with no work to do. Here are some examples:
Hey [first name],
I looked at your blog and see you've been creating some great content. Your posts on [x] topic of are really good.
Have you considered bundling several posts in to a small PDF e-book and offering it in exchange for an email signup? I think it would be really valuable to your audience and a great lead generation tool for you.
I'm a designer and I'd love put together the PDF e-book for you. Here are a few examples of similar work I've done: [link] [link]
I could design the PDF and landing page next week for you and it would cost about $500.
Are you interested?
Here's the format broken down:
[something specific about their work or business]
[creative project idea with key value or benefit to them]
[example, data points, or social proof]
[specific timeline and budget]
When looking to spin up work, we will often hear the word “no.” That’s OK. The no doesn’t mean that they didn’t like you, your offering, or your work. It might not be right for them right now. No problem. With every interaction, we get a new opportunity. Assume they do like you and your work and ask this question:
Do you know anyone else who might be a good fit for my services?
Often times they do. It may be another colleague in a different department. Or maybe a friend with a similar business. If you don’t ask for a referral, you won’t get one.
Just the simple task of asking can spark a few things: other ways to use you, extra needs they might have, or more connections they can make for you. They may not know someone immediately. But, you've put out a line, and the next time someone crosses their mind they'll think of you. The most common response is “I can’t think of anyone right now, but I’ll let you know”
Perfect. That’s another reason to reach back out in 1-2 weeks and follow up again. At that point, they might have someone in mind or things have changed and they need your services. Here’s an example:
I wanted to circle back and see if you had thought of anyone else who would be a good fit for me. I really enjoyed working with you and thought you might have some good connections.
Anyone come to mind?
If you find yourself in the situation where work has dried up and your calendar empty, don't worry. Things will turn around. The most important thing is to move forward. Start doing the hard work of reaching out. Put yourself out there. You can't sit and wait for a project to come to you. You have to go get it.
And then, stay top of mind. Once you’ve broken the barrier and done the outreach, stay persistent. Keep connecting and following up. Things change often, and what a client needs today is different than what they needed two weeks ago. Position yourself to be the one they call when they're ready for the service you offer.
Ok. It’s time to stop reading this article and go find that next project. Good luck! 🍀