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How To Break the Feast-and-Famine Cycle as a Freelancer

Say goodbye to months with no income.

By Alexis ChateauPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
How To Break the Feast-and-Famine Cycle as a Freelancer
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In 2015, I quit my job in finance to travel and write full-time. That’s when I first heard about the feast-and-famine cycle—and experienced it, firsthand.

I found myself constantly feeling anxious about money, even when I had more work than I needed.

Fast-forward to just six years later and I now have a steady income that pays me and pays the bills. In fact, even though dozens of my clients’ businesses didn’t make it through the pandemic, mine did.

So, how did I finally kick the famine out of my business and my income? And, how can you replicate it?

1. Spend Feast Money Wisely

When you’re finally making good money, it’s easy to feel like you’ve finally made it. You won’t ever need to worry about having another month where no money comes in!

But, the truth is, famine can hit at any time. If you spend your feast money wisely, however, you won’t be counting pennies when famine comes around. Here’s what I did:

  • After two years, I had enough data to determine which months were fast and famine.
  • After two years, I had enough data to determine my average annual income and, therefore, my average monthly income across all months.
  • I could then create a monthly budget based on that average, so my expenses spread out across all months.

2. Spend Famine Time Wisely

During fasting periods, I felt simultaneously discouraged and motivated. Maybe the right word is desperate? In any case, I didn’t spend that time counting my pennies and neither should you. Instead, I focused on these tasks:

  • Looking for new clients
  • Looking for new sources of income
  • Checking in with existing clients for work
  • Building my portfolio with guest blogging
  • Working on my websites and blogs
  • Growing my audience on social media
  • Marketing my work on social media

3. Have More Clients Than You Need

When I first went from side-gig-freelancer to business owner, I read a book on starting a PR firm. In the book, the author advised contractors to always have one more client than they need.

This advice stuck with me more than anything else she said. Whether she literally meant one or not, it was a reminder that complacency is a bad idea. Consequently, I am always looking for new clients.

The trick is to have more clients than you need. But to also never have more clients than you can manage. After all, one of the top reasons my clients love working with me is because my work is not just always on-time—it’s early!

4. Find Your Niche and Monetize It

I started writing for hire at sixteen and mostly worked on boring documents that spanned a wide range of topics. It wasn’t until I started taking my business seriously in 2016 that I focused on travel and other lifestyle topics.

This served me well for a while. But, then my clients started looking for writers with specialized knowledge for higher-paying projects. I have an associate’s in the humanities, a bachelor’s degree in business, and a payroll certification.

Consequently, my clients started shipping all the finance, law, insurance, SEO, and human resources projects my way. I now primarily handle content for clients in the law, finance, tech, and real estate fields.

Would I rather be writing about what to do on your next trip to Paris? Yes, but it doesn’t pay as well. So, instead, I write about how to boost your credit score or market your business—so you can pay for that trip to Paris!

And, I make enough to work for only three days per week. Yes, you read that right. Three days.

5. Set Yourself Apart

The first day back from vacation is always hectic. Even though my clients could easily shop technical assignments around to other contractors, I have seen them reserve it for me for as long as 21 days. So, technical writing is a big part of what sets me apart.

And, as I said earlier, I also tend to get assignments in early. Ironically, this has led to my clients giving me twice or thrice the time to complete projects as other contractors. Often because they know I might turn the assignment in within a few hours, but they want to make sure I can fit it into my schedule.

“Is it witchcraft?” one client asked me before I took off on vacation to Mexico for my birthday. He had assigned me a last-minute piece on immigration. I happen to be an immigrant, so I had it in within the hour.

So, what is it that your clients will look to you for? What is it that will let them withhold available projects from other contractors while you frolic on the beach? Once you figure that out and prove it with actions—not words—you’re all set.

6. Diversify Your Income

No matter what your business or monetized skill is, find something else to do. Until the pandemic, I continued to take one or two shifts per week at local security companies.

At the time, they paid me half the hourly income I earned from my business. But, the diversified income kept me afloat through business income famines before I broke the cycle.

I currently diversify my income by co-managing two Airbnbs. I also earn some income here and there from Vocal, Instagram, Patreon, my published novel, guest blogging, and Amazon affiliate links.

Not only do these give me a little cushion for slower months, should I ever have them at a later date. But, they also supplement my income, so I can work fewer days per week.

To be clear, I don’t make a lot of money. I probably make less than you do! I just learned to live on as little as possible. That’s easy enough when my home is only 160 SF!

But, it’s nice to know that if I was ever in a financial bind, I have additional methods to turn to before maxing out credit cards.

So, is it easy to break the feast-and-famine cycle of the freelance, independent contractor, and business-owner life? Absolutely not. But, I bet if you apply these tips, you’ll conquer it sooner than you think.

Want to see more articles like this from me? Help me make time for them! Pledges and tips go a long way. Thanks for reading!


About the Creator

Alexis Chateau

I like cats, camping and FJ Cruisers. Follow my adventures at

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