15 Tips for Freelancers: What to Do in Slow Days and Dry Times


If you work as a freelancer you will most likely have quiet periods sometimes. During holidays or just occasionally there will be a dry period where the projects are fewer. But do not fret! Here is a collection of useful things you can do to take advantage of the extra time and get more things to do!

Do you have days where the work just isn’t there? Maybe your clients require you to work more in some periods and hardly have anything for you to do during summer or holidays. Optimally you would want a steady supply of projects during the year. Once you’ve worked freelancing for a while there’s a good chance you will succeed on just that. But it takes some practice and long-term planning to be able to adjust this. Once you’re there you will be having things to work with on a steady basis.

You probably won’t be lucky enough to have it like that for quite some time though. Building up a steady, healthy pool of clients and projects takes time. Succeeding as a freelancer takes a lot from anyone and you need the ability to adapt.

If you just sit around feeling like a failure or worrying about the future once you have some days without work, you will ruin a lot for yourself. Instead you should have a list of things you can do to take advantage of the time to get things done. Here are 15 tips on what you can do on slow days and in dry times. I hope these are useful to you!

1. Work on long-time projects

Picture by Richard Dudley

Not having any short-term deadlines coming up doesn’t necessarily mean that you have nothing to do. Using this time when things are going slow to work on more longterm projects you have engaged in will save you time later on.

If you have any long-term projects going on you should work on them if possible. I’ve done this several times in the past, thinking that I had “nothing to do” for a few days just to realize that I had tons and tons of work that had to be done later on that month or a few months later. Having a deadline does definitely not mean that you have to wait until you close up on the deadline. It sounds so logic but can be easily forgotten.

2. Clean up

You computer, office space and more. Backup and clean up. If you have time and interest for doing a whole spring cleaning you should check out my post “Spring cleaning for Freelancers and Creatives” for some useful tips that can and should be used regularly all year round.

3. Look at your marketing efforts

Picture bySvilen Milev

Find new ways to promote yourself. Try to think a bit different from what you’ve done before. Make sure you are represented in social media, make special offers, try new ways of advertising. Have a look at the money you’ve spent marketing yourself and decide if you think this is enough. Maybe you can do some adjustments here for the future that will help you get more paid projects throughout the whole year.

4. Look for potential “side-niches”

Picture by John Nyberg

Read other peoples blogs and websites and find out what they do. Maybe you realise that there are other things that can be part of what you offer. Don’t let your mindset stop you in thinking of new ways of adding to your assortment of services. The brainstorming process around this can be very rewarding in many ways.

Examples of side-niches can be if you are a photographer experiencing slower times in the summer realizing that you do have the skills to do wedding photography or take pictures for newspapers and magazines. If you’re a web designer maybe there are classes at a local school where they need a guest lecturer? The options are many, it just takes some efficient brainstorming and the ability to adapt to new ideas.

5. Selling “leftovers”

I keep coming back to this often in my articles, and will also make an own article on where you can submit these. Told in short, there are tons of stock-sites and similar where people can earn money from snippets, illustrations, flash-files, photos, logo designs and more. iStockphoto is an example is probably the best known site. Not only can you upload pictures there but also videos, illustrations, sounds and logo designs.

This isn’t a guaranteed source of income in any way as people actually have to find what you’ve uploaded useful and be willing to pay for it. On the other hand though, if you have lots of files of good quality just collecting dust in your system, this option is better than just deleting them or leaving them there without getting to use.

There are people who make good money from these things and every dollar you make will be a nice bonus income. If you choose the right websites this is also great marketing for yourself and you can even get new clients this way sometimes. Another good thing about this is that once you’ve uploaded and tagged the files they will live their own life and be a source to possible “passive” income. Other pieces of work you can earn money from this way can be WordPress themes, articles, lyrics and backgrounds/wallpapers.

A tip within this tip is to also look at the option of selling some of these from your own blog/website. If you have good traffic on your site you can upload and sell some of these things from there. Could be worth a try.

6. Update your portfolio

Picture by Svend Damsgaard

Make sure your portfolio is updated with your best and recent projects. It’s always a good idea to show that you are versatile aswell. This point is also a part of the earlier mentioned “Spring cleaning article” but you should aim to always keep your portfolio up to date, no matter what time of year it is. It can be a bit of work though, so use dry times to get the actual updating done if possible. It’s an investment in your future.

7. Have a look at your overall efficiency

Look at past goals and see if you have reached them or not. Find new programs and routines to work even more efficient. Read up on freelancer related blogs and write down new tips to things you haven’t tried before.

8. Make plans for the future

Picture by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Set goals for the future, preferably in numbers. That way it’s easier to see if
you meet them or not later on. If your goal is 25 000 $ a year for example, break it down to months, weeks or days for easier evaluation. Set plans for looking into other things mentioned in this article, like side-niches, the possibility to sell stocks and so on.

9. Enhance Your Skills

In most markets the evolution is at high pace. It’s always a good thing to take some time researching what’s out there plus reading up on new trends and related topics. Online resources are endless but don’t forget to read books and magazines as well. I spend a lot of time watching video tutorials related to programs I use, followed by practising what I just saw being done. It’s never a bad thing to devote some time into getting better at what you do.

You will never come to the point where you are perfect but you can always get better than what you are. So don’t let the lack of projects stop you from working with the programs you have.

10. Go through your Finances

Picture by Kriss Szkurlatowski

Make sure everything is up to date regarding invoices, plans, savings and bills. This also means making decisions related to your current slow period. Do an overall evaluation of the current situation to see if you have to put more into savings to cover up for times like these. And as little as you may want to it can at times be necessary to look at the possibility of getting a part-time job if these dry periods are long and/or occur often.

11. Contact recent clients

Picture byAyhan Yildiz

This tip is one of the tips that many freelancers forget, but those who remember it often succeed. Contact clients you’ve worked for in the past and hear how they are. Many times this contact from you reminds them of things they have that need to be done.

They will also most likely love the fact that you remember them and keep in touch. As long as you don’t cross the line of seeming desperate and annoying this tip can be what gets you that extra project you need right now.

12. Update your own blog/website

Picture by Ilco

If you have your own website/blog it can in busier periods be hard to get the time to keep it updated. If you want new clients and readers it’s important that they see you update your website occasionally. Write up a post or more related to what you do.

Schedule the ones you don’t publish right away for later and you have done something that definitely isn’t a waste of time. I do this occasionally myself and it feels great to be on top of things this way.

13. Write !

Write about subjects that interest you. Being a freelancer there’s a good chance that maybe some website might be interesting in publishing you as a guest blogger. Competition is usually hard but don’t give up. If you write well and have a passion for what you write about it will shine through.

There are many websites that offer payment for guest blogs and/or a link back to you in the article so you can both get paid and get some valuable marketing at the same time. There are also websites like Constant Content where you can upload articles you’ve written on various topics and potential buyers can browse through them and hopefully buy them aswell.

You set the price and usual ranges go from $7 to 100$. Clearly worth a try in my opinion :)
Also there’s always the option of making tutorials related to your trade. Several places pay for these aswell if they’re well done. Remember that the more things you have out on the internet, the more chances you have of making new connections, getting new ideas or even making money directly from it.

14. Work on personal projects

Picture by Luca Baroncini

Most of us have various open personal projects that we never get the required time to work on. It being your wedding website, some logos, cartoons, artwork, articles or other things. If you’re having a slow week at work this is definitely something you should consider working on. Not only can it turn into something you can make money on and put in your portfolio but it will also inspire you. And the feeling of doing something you love is just priceless anyway.

15. Forums/Message boards

There are hundreds and thousands of forums and message boards related to freelancing, design, art, finances and so on. By registering to these and reading up on things you can find tips from others who are or have been in the same situation as you. You can also some places submit your work for reviews, ask questions and socialize with other members. You can get help, find new tips, connect with new people, get inspired and maybe find new clients. There are many advantages to get from this.

Those were my 15 tips for slow days and dry times.

I hope you found some of them useful and as always I would love to hear your feedback and your own tips in the comment section below.
Thank you for reading and good luck! :)



  1. Bredford

    Your website is great! As an article writer, I can appreciate all the hard work you put into your posts. Keep up the good work!

  2. Harvey

    There are some really good tips here, thanks. It can be quite tough when there is no work to go around. Looking at sites like freelance.com can sometimes find you a job.

  3. steve

    Whenever it gets slow here the first thing that clicks in my head is to build links and traffic. If you have a site you are trying to get out there, this is the way to go. The other 15 suggestions are also great valid points… Thanks for the article!

  4. This is a great set of tips. When I have times of low workloads I tend to conentrate on the things I haven’t had time for such as learning a new program or working on a specific skill that could be useful.

  5. vincent Gatiba

    hi thanks for this 15 tips…i think the marketing effort ,hw u sell uaself is very vital.

  6. Jay Kaushal

    Very solid tips I must say. Generally I keep busy in my freelancing work but whenver I get time I always learn new techniques and read best magazines and books in this field. I was working as a flash guy for last six years and moved to jquery, wordpress and Flex and that increased my client base too. I will work on my own blog too after learning tricks of wordpress.

    I have so many ideas in my mind to share with new comers in this field and that led to my first article at http://graphicdesignblender.com/7-golden-rules-of-finding-freelance-design-work. So I dived into article writing field this year and found it so relaxing.

    To sum up, time is money so make best use of your time. So be proactive, then learn, understand and earn :)

  7. Albert Lie

    It’s best to update portfolio regularly, as the world moves so fast than we know.

    • Hilde

      Hi! And thanks for the comment :)
      I agree, updating your portfolio is always important to do on a regular basis!

  8. ESN

    Great tips. I usually have a lot of ideas I want to implement when I am extremely busy, but as soon as I have a bit of downtime, all my ideas disappear. I must remember to come back to this blog post next time I have some downtime. :)

    • Hilde

      Thank you for the comment. Its great to hear that you like the article! I am also very good at thinking of things when I am extremely busy to then forget them when I have the slower days. This was one of the reasons why I wrote this article :)
      Good luck in the future and I hope to see you in here again ;)

  9. Matt

    Excellent tips. Although quite a few of those pop up during times when I should be doing more productive things, such as blog posting and working on personal projects :p

    • Hilde

      Hi Matt! :)
      Happy to hear you like the tips.
      And yes I know what you mean ;) hehe. I have that same “problem”.
      Living by these tips 100% is probably close to impossible for any normal creative person, but hopefully it can be a good guideline :)

    • Hilde

      Yeah I know it’s not easy to follow all these tips, depending on what you work with and your personality as a freelancer/creative. But hopefully with some practice it can atleast improve some of our creativity on the slower days :)

    • Hilde

      Thanks Jeff! Im happy to hear you like my article.
      I hope things get a little more busy in Tennessee for you soon!
      Good luck :)

  10. Good post with some really solid tips in here. I’m passing the link along. I like articles like this, because there’s substance that all freelancers can find use out of – designers, coders, writers, photographers, ect.

    • Hilde

      Thank you so much for the kind words Mike :)
      Warms my freelancer heart when people say things like that :)
      Its great to hear that you found the article so useful!