Skip to main content

The Precarious Balance: Life as a Freelancer


One minute there is no work to be seen…for miles. The next? You have projects and deadlines coming out your ears. In a perfect world, you would have a steady stream of projects flowing in, one after the next at a speed that matches your writing pace exactly.

But, the world isn’t always perfect. And this is how I deal with it when it isn’t:

When I’m not busy with client work…

…I use my time wisely. There is always work to be done, really, in terms of promotion and marketing. And action is key – stay busy with something. Approach a company you’ve been dying to work with, rewrite your website, rework some blog posts as articles, network on Twitter, answer questions on LinkedIn. As you take action and reach out, the work is sure to come. Do not sit, mope and think your world is ending. It’s not (unless you sit around and mope and think your world is ending!)

When I’m happily busy, but not overwhelmed with work…
…I never stop thinking about the future. This means that I continually network, market, pitch to new clients, seize opportunity and write all of my thoughts and ideas down in a place I can find them (very important).

When I’m so busy that I can’t see straight
…When it rains, it pours – cliche, but true. The busier I am, the busier I get – which is why I’m encouraging you to stay busy in the case of scenarios #1 and #2. But you do need to manage your time. If you say yes to every project – make sure that you either give realistic deadlines or that you actually have the time to get everything done.

If someone approaches you for a job, and you simply can’t do it ‘right now’, you will be faced with one of the hardest decisions we face as freelancers (or at least those of us who are not also highly skilled fortune tellers). Do you:

1. Turn down the work not knowing if the next week will bring a freak occurrence of ‘all current projects are now on hold.’

2. Say you can do it, but not for a month (or whenever).

3. Worry that saying #2 will cost you the job.

4. There’s also the ‘law of scarcity’ option where clients love that you’re so busy and will wait because You are the goods.

5. Take the job but siphon it off to a junior/’nother copywriter. In this scenario, you can take a finders/editors/management fee from the project fee and pay the other writer the rest. And you’ve come through for the client, keeping the relationship strong for future projects.

6. Worry that the pinch-writer won’t pull it off like you could, which means you’ll have to scramble to redo the work (one way to avoid this is to find a really good No. 2 writer – and 3 and 4 in case 2 is busy – that you can count on for quality goods).

How about you? What balance issues do you come up against in the non-secure and wild world of freelancing? And how do you handle them?

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • I have problems with balance — always have — in every area of my life. So that means that I take every project and lose my mind trying to do it all.

    I do worry that if I say “no” or “you will have to wait,” I’ll lose the project forever. So I simply don’t refuse anything and am really paying the consequences of having an addled mind and crazy disposition.

    However, I’m quickly finding that my “take it all” approach serves neither me nor the client, so I’m trying to find the balance, which is something I’m completely unfamiliar with…It’s as if freelancing suits my personality creativity-wise, but not so much business-wise.


  • Kevin Boon says:


    Great article with some excellent insights. I go through the same process where it’s not too busy so during those times I’ll tend to focus on keeping organized and staying focused on the work I need to do to move forward.

    When it get’s busy for me (althought I’m not a freelancer) what I try to do is schedule my time and do my best to stay within a flow. My blog is part of my schedule so even though I might not write every day I try to take at least half an hour to write (even if its’ a draft a stream of ideas). Meditation also helps me to stay centered.


  • Cassie Boorn says:

    Since I have just received my first freelance job I see where you are coming from. I am currently trying to fit 20 hours of freelance work in with a school project and my normal job oh yeah and being a mom. I am not sure how you do it! but at the same time Im LOVING it!

  • Anne Mayhew says:

    I find that the busier I am the better I am at what I do! I love to have many projects in the works but do agree that we need to be realistic about how to work the time line! Great post, plan to share it with my agents!

  • I agree that too much work is often a good problem to have. It’s hard to say no, but I find I do better work, and saying no often makes me look more appealing!

  • Anne says:

    I love your tips about keeping busy when work is slow. The more work I have, the better I do, it is when things are a little slow that I lose track of what I am doing.

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    I’m not a freelancer, but balancing the 21st Century life has been on my mind lately. Mark Albion’s The Good Life video ( makes a powerful argument for ignoring rampant ambition to leave time for the things that truly matter.

    The problem that I find is that there is never enough time to do everything I want to do – work, play, family time. I can see where allotting a set amount of time, during feast of famine, is wise. Paradoxically, I tend to work best under the pressure of crisis time deadlines.

Leave a Reply