It’s normal to want to fill your schedule with paid client work. But when you’re just working for clients you’ll lose a lot of what makes you a good freelancer. Things like trying out new technologies or tactics. Taking time to work on things that give you pleasure or are useful for other people, like open source or education. There are a few things I’d recommend you do with time between projects, in-case you haven’t thought of them already.
We all use tools and information created by people in their spare time — now is a good opportunity to help out. This isn’t just for tech freelancers either. Many projects could benefit from translation, copywriting, and even marketing.
Contributing isn’t just altruistic, it can benefit your reputation and greatly increase the chances you’ll be hired. By fixing issues or adding features, you’re expanding the knowledge you have about that software. Showing that you not only work with the tools a client needs, but you contribute to the source of it, is the best way to de-risk a decision to hire you.
It can be daunting to get started, so I’d suggest researching it before you jump in. Here is a good place to start… https://opensource.guide/how-to-contribute/
Create digital goods
Do what you do for clients, but make it available to anyone. It’s the scalable way to make money doing what you do. And if you’re not interested in doing it for money, then you can give it away for free and earn a reputation for helping others.
Making digital products is an excellent way to expand your portfolio into industries or services that you want to work in. You can use the case study of creation, and sales to show how successful your work was.
Don’t be fooled, it can take years to develop enough income for it to replace your freelance business. And the people who do this successful usually approach it as a full-time job itself. But it makes sense to fill your free time with things that contribute to growing your freelance business. One of the easiest marketplaces to get started on is Creative Market: https://creativemarket.com/sell
If you decide selling your creations is too much hassle for not enough reward, you can always give them away for free. You’ll be amazed at the attention you and your free resources will get from peers, and potential clients. And it comes with the added warm fuzy feeling from seeing your work used by others. One way I used to enjoy giving back was contributing my photos to https://unsplash.com
One of the best ways I know to reach as many interested people as possible is to write about what you’ve learned, and share what you know. Sharing the information with people in the same place as you is the easiest and quickest way to add value to the world. It comes with the added benefits of showcasing your knowledge to potential customers, or anyone that can help you grow your own business.
Putting your ideas out there is also the best way to formulate them, and receive criticism that can help you learn more. One way to validate your way of doing things, or your values, is to present them in front of people. Even if you don’t think you have anything meaningful to say, try committing to a workshop or presentation of your ideas. That kind of commitment has a way of bringing out the best you have to offer.
Writing educational content is great for teaching yourself new things, as well as others. It can help you cement your own knowledge. When you learn something for the sake of your own work, you’ve probably realised that a lot of the theory is useless until it’s applied. The application of your knowledge can also be achieved by trying to explain it to other people.
There are more upsides to educating others too. You can sell your content as a course and build an audience. Maybe even turn it into other kinds of gigs, like consulting or institutional education and training. There’s also a lot of variety in the medium you can choose to share this kind of content, which keeps things interesting and fun.
Scheduling time for yourself is the most important thing for your skill set, and your moral. But there is one task you should be doing constantly — building relationships with potential business partners or clients. Always be available to talk about new projects or help people flesh out their ideas, and generally make yourself useful to others. Because if you do, you’ll always have incoming work, and time to work on your own things.