Freelancer Doldrums – Jonathan Wilcock, Freelance Copywriter

How I slapped myself out of the freelancer doldrums

As a little kid, I remember seeing a cartoon that left a deep impression on me. A character had been banished to a fantasy land called ‘The Doldrums’ and given the task of digging a tunnel through a mountain – with a pin.

If you’re a freelancer, you probably know what this feels like.

The phone hasn’t rung for days, the only emails you get are spam-flavoured and it seems like the world’s forgotten you.

Was that my last brief ever?

Will my next job be directing old ladies to aisle 23?

Well, this happened to me a couple of months ago.

After several juicy projects, the well dried up.

Any earmarked briefs had gone AWOL. Half promises were broken, clients went on holiday, Brexit had hit.

That was it, the end of a lovely career as a freelancer.

Or it could have been.

Luckily I had two secret weapons – Everything and Nothing.

I employed the two with equal gusto.

Everything

– Wrote three blog posts and pushed them out into the big wide world.

– Hit LinkedIn mercilessly like Tyson Fury v A Ripe Strawberry.

– Twittered so much it put the dawn chorus to shame.

– Gave myself ear burn chatting to old compadres on the mobile.

– Answered a stupid amount of freelancer job ads and posts.

– Met Art Directors and designers I’d been meaning to catch up with for ages.

– Set myself an imaginary brief.

– Did my year’s accounts.

– Went admin crazy – clean desktop, a squillion old emails deleted, files all ship-shaped…

Nothing

– Went for long walks by the sea.

– Had breakfast out and coffee with the missus.

– Read a couple of cracking books.

– Went to the flicks.

– Lay on the beach daydreaming.

– Raided charity shops and had an 80s/90s DVD blowout.

– Spent time with friends…

Not sure I was conscious of it at the time, but with hindsight I can see how this approach worked for me.

I banged on a load of doors – it’s a numbers game, so theoretically, the more doors, the more chances of someone being in. At the same time, I didn’t let it get me down. I trusted that something would eventually click and gave myself the space to actually enjoy the process.

And the result?

Of course there are no guarantees, but some of those doors opened.

I picked up four new clients, turned project work into a retainer and best of all, those doors have led to other doors seemingly opening themselves. I’ve had two projects come via recommendations from people I’ve never met, never mind worked with.

As Coleman Cox said, “I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.”

So, if you’re struggling to find freelance work, treat yourself to a healthy dollop of Everything and Nothing.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter. You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk