Dealing With Those Self-Employed Work Lulls

By Jae (boredom) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
The first couple of weeks of this new financial year has been a little quiet. I’m not empty of work, but I am finding at the moment that my workload is light. A few contracts have been put on hold and applying for new contracts on elance and odesk is not proving very fruitful. I’m not worried, I still have more work than I did this time last year, but it is quiet at the moment. So what do I do when there’s a lull in work?

Work Stuff

Look for More Work

This is pretty straightforward and I do spend some time looking for other work, but there comes a point when you have exhausted all avenues. At the moment, I am working almost exclusively through Odesk and Elance and with those platforms, there is a limit to the number of contracts you can pitch for in a month. Now I am quite well established with a solid portfolio, I feel the time is right to look at some job boards and starting pursuing other avenues.


Tax Return

If you haven’t done it already, that is. In the UK, our tax year runs from 6th April one year to 5th April the following year. We then have until the end of January to file our tax return. This 9 months or so means that many people procrastinate and leave it until the last minute. If it’s warm outside you might want to sit in the garden and drink some cider with a good book but on a day when the weather is rubbish you’ll feel virtuous and relieved that this is out of the way.


Get Organised

There’s lots of “fake work” work you could so. Stuff that doesn’t drive your bottom line and won’t get you new contracts, but stuff that can make your working day easier. Filing, or at least organising your files, paperwork, admin, stationery can make them easier to find and you’ll thank yourself later for having an admin day. I sometimes take to reorganising the files and folders on my computer and backing up stuff to flash drives or Dropbox. I organise my work into two folders: ongoing contracts and finished contracts. This helps me find work easier for current clients without trawling through two years of records.



I hate to baffle you with business speak, but I promise this will make sense. It won’t implore you to “synergise” your “action plan” and be a “self-starter” so you can “take it to the next level”. I won’t tell you to think “outside the box”. All I mean here is that you should probably spend some time thinking about where you want your business to go in the next few months. Take a quiet time as a good opportunity to think about what is and what isn’t going right for you and how you can (sorry, business speak coming up!) take it to the next level.

Non-Work Stuff

Video Games

My ultimate time vampire if I don’t keep an eye on it, I am tempted sometimes to play on the Xbox for the full 9 hrs of the working day, but I think my eyes would go square after about 3 hours. It can be a great stress reliever and I’ve never accepted the very tenuous link between violence in games and violence in real life- it’s just another scare story. One of my guilty pleasures is Assassin’s Creed, it helps me relax and get my mind off of work.


Personal Projects

I have to make time to work on my fiction. At the moment, I have three WIPs – my Romans vs Aliens novel, Dead Lock (the follow up to Dead Heat) and my current serial Dwarf Star. Therefore, when work is quiet there is always a creative project for me to work on; it gives me satisfaction and I feel I am achieving something. When work is quiet, do something you enjoy because you’ll feel more relaxed and refreshed for having done so. Creative stuff broadens the mind and when you work for yourself you have fewer holidays than you would in employment and you don’t really get those Bank Holidays either. It’s important you give yourself a Bank Holiday.



Laze around, do nothing, get a bottle of wine or some beer or cider, get a good book and sit in the garden in the warm weather. I have found this year a distinct lack of time to read and sometimes I really miss it. Now we are having a bout of good weather here in the UK, I’m feeling the urge to do just that in the next couple of days. Just me, my Kindle and an alcoholic beverage of choice would be just what the Doctor ordered. As I said above, sometimes you need a day of doing nothing just to recharge.



Go for a walk, to the gym, a run, whatever. It’ll give you energy and make you feel better and we all know it’s good for your health. People who know me know I took up running several years ago and I am nearly always training for my next 10K. It helps me focus, helps me wind down, helps me recharge. I don’t get out for a walk as often as I should and I’ve been terrible at getting away from the laptop at lunchtime but I expect to go out at some point tomorrow to look for new running shoes.


5 thoughts on “Dealing With Those Self-Employed Work Lulls

  1. Jools

    I couldn’t agree more! In a similar line of work to you, I find myself approaching those periods when work is lighter in exactly the same way – with the one exception being the video games. No longer anxious about where the next client or project is coming from (I’ve been freelance for over 13 years), I enjoy the time I can award to other things. It’s only when I get down to clearing out my archive box in the attic that I know it’s time to get serious and get on the phone. Great post.

    1. The problem for me at the moment is that odesk is going through a transitional phase and everyone on their Facebook page is saying the same thing – work is thin this month.

      I know I need to look away from that platform this year so I can expand my business and my income.

      Thanks, Jules!

      1. Jools

        Are you on LinkedIn? If so, business will likely be found within your sphere of contacts. Happy to share experiences if this is helpful. Feel free to Follow/DM me on Twitter @julielawford.

      2. I am indeed on LinkedIn but I don’t spend as much time looking through it as I ought to. I only have character Twitter accounts where I was writing as characters in Dead Heat so if you get a message from a zombie man or woman, that’ll be me!

      3. Jools

        I’ll keep an eye out and will follow back, so we can DM

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