How to Avoid the “Feast or Famine” Trap

It’s Mindy again, back with another morsel about how to succeed as a freelance writer.

To continue our discussion on food and writing, I want to share a well-known challenge from the freelancing world, commonly referred to as Feast or Famine.

Loads of freelancers experience this.

The “feast” side happens when things go well, and you have plenty of work. Paychecks come in regularly … your fingers fly over the keyboard as you tackle one project after another … life is good.

Then, it all stops. That’s the “famine.” You complete your projects, cash your checks, and there’s nothing left to do. No new projects, no new clients, and no income. Life gets hard.

There’s only one tried-and-true key to overcoming the feast-or-famine cycle, and that’s regular self-marketing.

Whoa — did I lose you there? Because if I were reading this four years ago (when I was new to freelance writing) and saw the frightening words “self-marketing,” I might have tucked tail and ran.

Back then, I had the misperception that self-marketing was all about putting myself in front of strangers, talking about how great I am, and then crossing my fingers in hopes they agreed.

Truthfully, self-marketing is more about getting in front of the people who need, want, and respect your skills. There’s no awkward hard sell when you’re with the right crowd. It’s more of a conversation about options.

The first step is being comfortable with what you offer. That way, you can be at ease around the people who need your copy. That takes us back to yesterday’s lesson — specialize to maximize.

Specialize in an area you enjoy and where you feel confident, and then maximize your opportunities by linking up with people who appreciate your field.

And, that’s where the self-marketing comes in.

There are loads of ways to market your services, from researching businesses online to meeting folks through your local Chamber of Commerce office to mailing your own self-promotional sales letter campaign.

But, the bottom line is that you should do what you’re comfortable with. When I first started out, I wasn’t comfortable approaching local businesses or anybody I’d potentially have a face-to-face conversation with. I didn’t like cold-calling, and I didn’t want to search for prospects.

I took a much more passive approach to self-marketing. I started by searching AWAI’s site for companies in my niche. I reasoned that anybody posting a project there already needed and wanted writing services, so all I had to do was convince them to choose me. That’s how I landed three of my first clients.

Once I was “in” with those clients, I occasionally asked for referrals, and I fired off ideas for new projects when they came to mind. Things like, “Hey, since we’re already doing this together, why don’t we do a little of this other thing?”

It worked, and my project load steadily increased.

Since then, the two things I’ve learned when it comes to self-marketing are:

  1. Strike while the iron is hot. If you have an idea or see a way to improve somebody’s marketing, tell them about it! Don’t think you have to put together a fancy proposal with business-speak and letterhead. Be professional and neat in all correspondence, but get your message out while it’s relevant.
  2. It gets easier. These days, I’d be fine cold-calling somebody. I’m more confident in my skills, and I understand the industry better. You’ll experience the same build-up in self-assurance, as long as you continue to improve your copywriting skills and increase your knowledge-base one day at a time.

What do you say, are you fired up about self-marketing now or do you still have reservations? Please tell me below.

Then, read an article I wrote on managing a balanced freelance writing career. It’s easier than you think, and it all but guarantees you’ll never fall into the feast-or-famine cycle.

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Published: November 29, 2011

2 Responses to “How to Avoid the “Feast or Famine” Trap”

  1. Mindy you give me hope. Self marketing sounds doable and not so fearful. Completely going blank of mind, is my biggest fear. This is one of the reasons I like writing.
    Write it down.
    Edit it.
    One morning a week set aside for self marketing sounds satisfactory to keep me out of famine. Right?
    Thank you for this article and making marketing myself sound less fearful. I like your ideas.


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