Are you prepared if work slows down?

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Growing up I had a friend that saved all his money with serious vigor. I mean he was TIGHT. He would wear down the bearings in his skateboard trucks until they were literally locking up before buying new ones.

If you’ve ever ridden a skateboard and had wheel bite you know similar pain.

I don’t think he ever really knew why he saved his money so well, other than his grandfather always told him to save his money for a rainy day.

Rainy Weeks

About 2-3 times a year my email goes eerily silent for about 2 weeks, then theres a downpour of projects after that 2 weeks.

It’s really strange and I can’t actually explain why that happens. Perhaps its just coincidental fluctuations I’m reading too much into it.

Regardless, it probably happens to you in some form or another. But how do you handle it?

I used to stress out pretty bad when I first started freelancing.

I didn’t have a savings to fall back onto, so I made sure to piss off everyone enough that they knew when work was slow or the next project was a month or more away from kickoff.

Do you have a savings?

Let me ask you a very important question:

If your email just stopped dinging for the next 3 months, would you be ok?

Ok and 6 months?

How about a year?

I know I’ve said in the past that if you do good work you’ll always be busy. And that’s mostly true. But I’m not so arrogant to think slow phases can’t happen to everyone.

I see a whole slew of different recommended levels of safety net for freelancers. I generally carry about 6-8 months of livable money in savings.

How much you have or decide to set aside is entirely up to your comfort level and saving goals, but whatever you do…

Don’t forget ALL THE THINGS!

When I say livable money I don’t mean just paying the bills. You’re already slow why make it extra miserable by feeling broke?

If you go out every Friday night for an expensive dinner and then out for a few drinks, budget for that in your savings.


Do not break your normal routine just because work is slow. That’s just going to cause you to take misery work.

Misery work is when you take a project because you think you don’t have a choice. You’ll probably end up taking it at half price or something equally as stupid, too.

Oh and that friend I mentioned? Yeah, he paid cash for a house at 24.

Take a page from his book and spend a bit less until you have a hefty savings to fall back on. You never know.. you might wake up one rainy morning and just decide to take a year off.

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  1. Matthew Snider says

    Great stuff Drew.

    Do you have a threshold at which you say no, as in a monetary threshold or do you take all of your jobs no matter the money?

    Budgeting is huge for me right now starting up this small side business in hopes of it becoming a full time gig one day.

    Thanks for a savable post!

    • Drew Poland says

      Thanks Matthew!

      I do have a minimum I generally don’t dip below. Sometimes people just need some minor changes or a plugin installed/configured so I bill hourly for those types of meal-piece projects.

      Occasionally I will cut a price down to work with someone because either:

      a) I want to offset a purchase (like a new laptop or xmas gifts since thats coming soon)

      b) They legitimately don’t have much of a budget but it might be a great portfolio piece or they have sent me large projects in the past.

      But honestly for all those things to align they have to be awesome to work with. If I get the feeling they are difficult to deal with or don’t quite know what they want (unintentional scope creep) then the price is firm.

      If you have any questions let me know. I could always use post ideas. :)

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