Join 100 Readers

7 Easy Ways to Control the Infamous Feast or Famine Cycle

by Laura Spencer

on January 23, 2013

in Freelancing Basics

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer - Free Test Drive

Every freelancer dreads it, yet nearly every freelancer has experienced it at least once.

What am I talking about? The feast or famine cycle, of course.

If you’ve not heard of it yet, the feast or famine cycle refers to the tendency of freelancers to sometimes have more work than they can handle and at other times not have enough work to survive.

New freelancers, especially, are often surprised by this cycle. Many just aren’t ready for the unpredictable ups and downs of freelancing.

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps in your freelancing business that will help you to manage the feast or famine cycle. Here’s how.

How to Manage the Freelancing Feast or Famine Cycle

What if you could control the feast or famine cycle, even a little bit? What if you could adjust your schedule so that you rarely have too much work to handle effectively? What if you could arrange it so that you usually have something to do during slow periods?

Wouldn’t that be an improvement? Of course it would.

While the feast or famine cycle may seem inevitable, there are actually some measures you can take to lessen its impact on your freelancing business. Here are seven steps to help you manage the cycle:

  1. Don’t Stop Marketing. Pay attention to how your marketing affects your workload. The biggest mistake that most freelancers make (that leads directly to the famine part of the cycle) is that they stop marketing when they are busy. Don’t let this happen to you. Always be marketing your freelancing business, even if you currently have enough work.
  2. Develop Long-Term Customer Relationships. New freelancers who haven’t built up relationships with long-term customers are particularly vulnerable to the feast or famine cycle. Fortunately, this problem tends to go away over time. In the meantime, work on developing positive relationship with your current customers. Ask them for feedback.
  3. Be Aware of Seasonal Work Variations. Some freelancing specialties are seasonal. It may be that most companies in your industry tend to run out of funds at the end of the year. Or, it could be that summer is your busy time. Learn the trends for your industry and plan around them by building up an emergency fund for the slow periods. You can also consider a secondary specialty to work on during slow periods.
  4. Understand Economic Factors. There’s no question that economic factors do impact freelancers. Follow the news to learn how the economy is doing in your area as well as how your particular specialty is doing. If you suspect that your specialty will be adversely affected by economic changes, you can turn to a back up specialty or develop some products to sell.
  5. Develop Better Negotiating Skills. Another cause of the feast or famine cycle is poor negotiating skills. Many freelancers are afraid to ask a client to adjust their deadline, so they wind up being overbooked (the feast). Then later, when things slow down, the freelancer doesn’t have work enough to do (the famine). Try to negotiate your projects to avoid crunch periods (which will also have the effect of minimizing famine periods).
  6. Improve Your Time Management Skills. Plain old bad time management can also contribute to the feast or famine cycle. If you’re not using your time efficiently, it can seem like you have too much to do. Bad time management can also keep you from spending enough time to market your freelancing business, which can result in a business slowdown.
  7. Keep a Positive Attitude. If you hit the famine part of the feast or famine cycle, it can be hard to stay positive. But having a negative attitude often perpetuates the problem. Clients can sometimes sense that you’re not enthusiastic about your work. To stay positive, maintain an active social life, network with peers who understand, and don’t be afraid to turn to friends and family for encouragement.

If you put these easy steps into action, you will be able to better control your flow of freelancing work.

Your Turn

We’ve shared seven tips to help you overcome the feast or famine cycle. Now it’s your turn.

How do you deal with the feast or famine cycle? Leave a comment below with your tips.

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer - Free Test Drive

About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy LauraĆ¢??s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.