Downtime in Freelance-land

What downtime for freelances looks like

Goals for downtimes

It’s a cliché, but it’s true – freelancing is a rollercoaster. It’s taken a while for me to accept that reality and go with it. When I’m busy, my projects can start to feel like a relentless avalanche. When I’m not, I start to feel a little lost. When I’m busy, I remind myself that the avalanche does have an end, the projects do have deadlines. And when I reach a relatively quiet period after the dust has settled, I take a moment, take a breath, catch up on the things that were pushed aside, and plan for the next weeks and months and year as a freelance.

So this is my downtime retrospective blog post. Welcome.

I’ve almost reached 6 years of full-time freelancing – every year, I think, “Well, that was fun, I wonder how long I can pull this off.” And then that year is better than the last. I’m nothing if not determined, but I am always a little surprised that I am still going strong.

While having a steady stream of projects is fantastic, I do wish I had more time to try new things in my business—new ways of writing, new experiences, new ways to reach out to potential customers (aka, new revenue streams) and colleagues—but most of the time I am just working away, project by project, focusing on building relationships, my portfolio, and my reputation.

I was able to try a few new things this year. I taught graduate students in a biomedical master’s program about communication in the sciences. It was nice to get out of the office and interact with real people! Seriously, though, I found it to be incredibly gratifying to be able to share my experience and knowledge, helping future researchers communicate the story behind their science – skills that are now more important than ever. A colleague suggested I turn my lessons into webinars – this is where having more time would come in handy!

I also recently took on a summer intern through a healthcare communications graduate program. We’ve just started on some projects, and I hope that both of us can benefit from the experience!

I tried journalism-type writing, complete with interviewing sources. I’m still not sure of myself in this area, but I’m willing to learn.

I traveled for clients. Once of the best experiences I had this year was attending the US launch of the Gender in the Global Research Landscape report and meeting some amazing women and men who are working for gender equality in research – not just among those doing the research, but also in research itself – pushing for study designs that include both sexes, research that considers issues facing both sexes, and innovation that is only be possible with inclusion of diverse viewpoints.

This year I expect to do a little more traveling and I’d like to try and go to more professional conferences – the AMWA annual meeting and maybe even the Be a Better Freelancer® conference. We’ll see. I make grand plans during these downtimes, and then the avalanche gears back up.

So I had a good year in freelance – diversified my business, added clients, lost clients, traveled more, and gained new experiences in teaching and journalism. Here’s to year 7 on the freelance rollercoaster!

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