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Will You Be Singing the Freelancer’s January Low-Income Blues?

Carol Tice

The Low Income Writer BluesI’ve noticed something about my freelance writing income. It always goes to crap in January.

Does this happen to you?

I’ve developed a theory about why the first month of the year is often a loser, and I’m going to test it out this year.

My theory: Income sucks in January because marketing tends to slack off in December.

After all, it’s the holidays! Everyone’s on vacation, editors are out, you’re busy with family. The next thing you know, it’s January 3, there you are in the office, looking at a kind of empty slate of assignments.

When you’re trying to earn big in freelance writing, having a “down” month is a problem. We need to find ways to keep the income flowing consistently.

Two ways to beat the January low-income blues

I was talking to my longtime Seattle writer-friend Sharon Baker (yeah, the one that saved my butt by recording my Webinar), and we got to discussing the January-revenue problem. She shared a great strategy she’s using to make sure her January schedule is full:

1) Call existing clients and drum up work. Sharon’s been calling around to her clients to put a bug in their ear about what they might want from her next year. This is a great way to start the year with assignments, and Sharon had already found an assignment or two for January this way. (After she reminded me about this, I placed a couple calls to existing clients of mine about work for next year!)

Many companies set their marketing budgets for 2011 now, so it’s the perfect moment to check in. It doesn’t have to be anything pushy, just, “Hi, I’m starting to look at my plans for January, and I’m wondering what I can learn about your needs for next year.”

This is also a good move because if you’ve been fantasizing that an ongoing client is going to keep rolling into 2011, but in reality they’re done with you, now’s the time to find that out. Getting the word early gives you more time to market and find a replacement gig if one of your clients is headed into the sunset.

Personally, I’ve been mostly using another strategy to try to fill up my 2011 calendar:

2) Push projects into January. I’ve gotten several calls from new prospects in the past couple weeks. Since my December is already as full as I want it (because I’m taking the last week of the year off), I made them each this pitch: “Wow, your project sounds interesting and I’d love to work on it, but we’re kind of headed into the holidays. Could I start your project first thing in January?” I’ve already got two projects I lined up this way.

It’s a pretty easy pitch to make — December is a fairly unproductive month for many people, who want to head out on vacations. I ask if we can have a quick phone meeting this month to firm up details, and then start after New Year’s. Seems to be working for me.

How do you plan to beat the January low-income blues? Leave a comment and tell us your strategy. Or beat the blues by subscribing to Make a Living Writing and getting free tips on how to earn more from your writing. Coming up later this week, I’ll be giving readers free feedback on their blogs.

Photo via stock.xchng user hakill