Seven Ways to Fight the Freelance Funk

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Guest blogger: Susan Valot 

Every once in a while, you may find yourself in a freelance funk.

Maybe your personal life just imploded and work seems secondary.

Maybe you just lost a regular client and you’re not sure what to do, so you cool your heels for a bit.

Maybe you have too many looming deadlines, which sends you into a deer-in-the-headlights procrastination mode, where you end up cleaning your bathroom and your kitchen and your neighbor’s yard — anything but working on what needs to be done.

So what can you do to pull yourself out of the freelance funk?  Here are seven possibilities:

1) Use the kitchen timer method. Set a timer for 45 minutes and use that time to work on what you need to get done.  No Facebook.  No Twitter.  No house-cleaning distractions.  Simply put your head down and work.  When the 45 minutes is up, set the timer for 15 minutes and do whatever you want.  Then back to 45 minutes of working.

2) If procrastination is your fiend, then try stepping away from your house. Go work someplace else.  Try a coffee shop or even a local park.  Sometimes changing locations can help you focus.

3) If you’ve lost a client, set aside time each day to pitch new clients. Come up with ideas and then focus on finding new outlets that you can work for.  The Writer’s Market has always been a great resource for looking up outlets, what they take freelance-wise and whom to contact.  A Google search can also turn up potential outlets.  But the key is setting aside the time and actually doing the pitching.

4) Diversification has always been the key to being a successful freelancer. If you’re looking to build your freelance business, do some research and find some outlets you’d like to work for.  Look at what kinds of stories they publish.  Try to find out how much they pay.  Then narrow in your pitches on stories they might like.

5) If you are REALLY in a freelance funk and you don’t have regular gigs, then make sure you set work times. Maybe you like an 8am to 5pm schedule.  Maybe you’re a night owl and 12pm to 8pm is a better fit.  Whatever you choose, try to stick to a schedule.  If you want to go for a run or finish some errands in the afternoon, schedule it into your day but add on the time at the end of your work day so you can somewhat keep your schedule, in a freelancer kind of way.

6) Find freelance support. You can find the SPJ Freelance community on Facebook, where you can online “mingle” with other freelancers, asking questions and getting involved in conversations.  There are other freelance groups around, as well.  Maybe your local SPJ chapter is having a meet-up.  Go mingle and find other freelance folks.  We can help each other to stay on track.  If you are looking for more tips on freelancing, follow the @SPJFreelance on Twitter for a curated feed.

7) Remember that freelancing has ups and downs. As freelancers, we all experience times when we say, “This is great!  I love my life!” and then other times when we say, “There is no way you can live and survive as a freelancer.”  Remember why you came to freelancing.  It gives you the freedom to be your own boss.  It gives you the freedom to schedule your work around your life.  It gives you the freedom to play every single position on a journalism team.  When times are tough, remember it’s only temporary and with a little bit of determination, you can make it through.

Susan Valot is a public radio reporter and an adjunct professor in the Los Angeles area.  Valot has been freelancing full-time for the past five years.  She regularly contributes to KQED’s “The California Report,” NPR’s “Only A Game” and other outlets.  You can reach her via Twitter @susanvalot.

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