There’s a certain amount of ceaseless hustle that comes with being a freelancer. If you’re not working your tail off for your current clients, you’re looking for more clients. You’re taking classes, improving your portfolio, updating your website – from the outside, you may appear to be a never-ceasing blur of activity.
But the dust does occasionally settle, and freelancers find themselves in slow periods. Suddenly, you look around and every project is finished, every invoice is sent out.
If you’re finding yourself in a slow period, it may be tempting to coast for a bit (and yes, downtime is important). But after many many years of freelancing, I’ve learned that these lulls are especially opportune moments to cross one big To Do off of your list…
The best time to find a new, better gig is when you already have a gig.
Now, this may seem vaguely counterintuitive (or even disheartening); why look for more work when you already have work? And indeed, it’s not mandatory – if you’re perfectly happy with the gig you have, or if you’re wayyyyy overcommitted as is, you may want to skip the job search.
But if you’re not terribly satisfied with your current gig – or you’re finding yourself with far too much time on your hands – now is the time to strike. Indeed, even if you suspect there MAY be a better option for you out there, don’t rest on your heels.
Examining your options now (when you’re already gainfully employed) is a great way to do some relatively consequence-free exploration. It’s much less stressful – and much more satisfying – to look for new employment out of curiosity, rather than strict necessity.
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Applying for new gigs when you’re already working allows you to walk into prospective interviews with confidence. You’ve got little to lose, and plenty to gain. It’s like grocery shopping on a nice, full stomach – you’re less likely to make bad, impulsive choices. Instead, you can walk into interviews with a nice smug sense of self-assurance… and you’ll be surprised how often that translates into a job offer.
And if it DOESN’T, you won’t be forced to make any tough choices! You’ll be the same employed freelancer, with a little bit more knowledge and a sense of forward motion.
Applying for gigs when you’re already employed also allows you to make an informal survey of the current state of your freelance industry. Suspect you’re being underpaid? Curious about your prospects? Applying to gigs gives you a sense of perspective and encourages you to keep your materials sharp.
Even the most stable freelance gig isn’t infallible: companies fold, management changes, and freelancers are laid off. Keeping your interview skills sharp is a good way to ensure you’re prepped for any unexpected changes, and it may just result in a much better, more lucrative job.
So if the last thing on your mind is a new gig… consider looking for a new gig!
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.