Surviving the Lean Season

When I started looking into freelancing, one of the most frequent reactions I got from family and friends was “How are you going to cope when no work is coming in?”

I understand why they asked that question. No work for a long spell is every freelancer’s nightmare. Each bill that thuds onto the doormat brings more anxiety, particularly when accompanied by bank statements that make for grim reading. Although money is the most obvious worry, I’m going to leave that subject here as I’m a firm believer that some subjects, financial management being one of them, are best dealt with by professionals with the necessary training and experience.

My greatest struggle during my first prolonged dry spell was with the emotional roller coaster. With too much time on my hands, it didn’t take long before anxiety metamorphosed into questioning, “What am I doing wrong?” Such self-doubt eroded my self-confidence to the point where I realized I had only two options: quit or stay the course.

One thing I noticed was the negative language I was using to describe this slow period, compared with the far more positive language I used to describe busy periods. Finding the positives when work is cascading in is much easier than finding them when the inbox is empty. But does that mean there aren’t any positives?

Busy times leave me with no time to stop, take stock, and clear the detritus from my schedule. They become all about surviving the moment and getting through the next deadline. It’s only during slack periods that I have the head space to be able to ask important questions about what I’m doing and how I’m doing. Is my business going the way I want it—or, more importantly, the way God wants it to go? Where is my business going? Is my work-life balance right? Once I’d figured out the answer to some of these questions, looking for avenues for work became much easier and more fruitful simply because I was more focused.

Besides being a golden opportunity to evaluate and reset the compass, this dry period presented me with time to look at my skill set. Finally, I had time to undertake that training course I knew I needed to do. I could revise grammatical points I was hazy on. I had time and space to develop other skills, writing being a prime example, that have been of enormous pleasure and benefit to me, both personally and professionally.

On a more mundane level, I finally had time to get my “housekeeping” done. From a business point of view, it’s so easy to let the inbox get into a muddle and forget to do basic things like order pens. Here was my chance to get on top of such things. The same applied to the house: How many months had I put off decluttering the hall? It was so rewarding to know that job was finally done.

Perhaps most valuable blessing in the dry spell was time for myself. Time to rest. Time to be. Time to spend with friends and family. These are so precious, but so easily lost during busy times.

Without question, slack times are stressful and difficult. But I found they can also be a time of opportunity and renewal. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the writer says, “To every thing there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV). Harvests come only after the ground is broken, the weeds are cleared, the seeds are sown, and enough time has passed for the crops to grow. This is a remarkably accurate description of what my lean season became. I am now grateful for that time because both my business and I are so much stronger through what I gained and learned during this season.

Contributed by CES Proofreader Katherine Kane

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