The ebb and flow
It's something that no one particularly wants to articulate, for fear of admitting that work has run dry (the implication being that there is something wrong with us and our business model), but I doubt there is a single freelancer (in any field) that has not at some time experienced the terrifying (and exciting?) ebb and flow of self-employment.
I'm going to put my hand right up at this point and admit that I had an enforced week off last week and, although initially it terrified me (and, yes, it has happened before), ultimately it was just what I needed. You see freelancers (well, this one anyway) are notoriously bad at planning time off. We don't want to miss out on any work and we're never quite sure when the busy periods will crop up, so we tend to conveniently 'forget' to book holidays. And this is why an ebb (when it appears) should be embraced, not just for its ability to force us to take time out, but also because it allows time for reflection, growth, self-development and new opportunities, both business-related and personal.
Let's take this latest ebb for Perfect Words as an example. After initially plunging into short-lived despair, hair-pulling and self-doubt, I slowly readjusted my mindset and saw this time as an opportunity and not a curse. In a short space of time I went from moping and fretting (How will I pay the bills? Why does no one want to hire me?) to celebrating the chance to catch up on long put-off household tasks, to meet with old friends, but moreover to look (really look) at my little business critically and determine areas for self-development, progression and growth.
I re-read my trusted copy of How to Succeed as a Freelancer in Publishing (by Emma Murray & Charlie Wilson), I jazzed up and copy-edited (yes, we all need to do this from time to time) my website and entries on various directories, and I identified an area for further training (Introduction to Editing Fiction, by the SfEP) to formalise and develop a skill that I have been really enjoying recently. I realise I have focused too singularly on proofreading and copy-editing academic work, to the exclusion of embracing works of fiction (perhaps from fear of trying something new). I've also identified that I haven't made enough effort to network with other freelancers – something I plan to address through various means. Reading Murray & Wilson's excellent book (above) and trawling through other freelancers' websites and blogs for inspiration has made me realise the value of the freelance network, working together rather than against one another. Oh yes, and I've started a blog...
Finally, one of the most precious aspects of this particular ebb (occurring in mid-May) has been the opportunity to listen to the hauntingly beautiful song of the male nightingales at the local nature reserve. I count my blessings at times like this, and when I'm fully booked again I'll be looking back to this whimsical and productive ebb with longing... Carpe diem!