Freelancing: what to do when it all goes quiet

Mary Whitehouse

Word Service | Copywriter for reports, websites and case studies

Freelancing as a copywriter is nothing if not a rollercoaster.

There are some huge highs. The thrill of winning a new client. The realisation that the more you work, the more you can earn. The freedom of being able to control your own calendar.

But it also comes with a few lows. Working long hours when you’ve taken on a lot of work (although this would probably equal more money, so usually worth it.) Clients ghosting you. Slow payers.

And the biggest challenge of all?

WTF to do when the feast turns to famine and there’s nothing on the horizon?

It happens to us all. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t. I don’t know anyone – even those who are the very best at what they do – who doesn’t have the occasional dry spell.

Logically, you know that it will be temporary, and in a few weeks you’ll be busy again.

But at the time, it doesn’t feel like that.

Imposter syndrome kicks in, big time. Your clients have finally worked out that you don’t really know what you’re doing. You’ll have to sell the car/cancel your holiday/get a loan. And worst of all, you start thinking about getting a full-time salaried job.

So what do you do?

Don’t panic!

Easier said than done, I know. But this WILL pass. (And it WILL happen again, unfortunately.)

Email existing and recent clients

You don’t have to sound desperate (even if you feel it). Just a quick note to people you’ve worked with in the recent past saying, Hi client, just thought I’d let you know I have some short-term availability if you have anything you need doing quickly? Let me know. Thanks!

This has worked for me in the past.

Cold email people

If you have a niche (i.e. you work with fintech clients, or healthcare or whatever), track down the relevant contact at companies like the ones you’ve worked with and get in touch. You’ll know their market and you’ll have relevant work you can show them.

Check your website is up to date

When you’re busy it’s easy to ignore your website, but it won’t hurt to put some time aside to make sure it’s doing what it needs to do to attract and retain the people you want to reach.

You may have changed your offer slightly, for example, so make sure your SEO titles, meta description, headings and copy are optimised for the new target audience.

Check that your website’s external links are still working, too. You can’t control what people decide to do with the content on other websites. They sometimes move it or remove it altogether without telling you. (Cheeky, eh?)

Create some new content

If you’re anything like me you have a long list of topics for LinkedIn posts, blog posts, lead magnets or emails. Mine are all on Trello to give the impression that I’m a bit organised. (Hint: I’m not.)

Now’s the time to activate the ones that are still a good idea. Then share the hell out of them on your website and social channels.

Make sure you’re on the list

You’ve probably listed yourself on a few directories and then forgotten all about it. You’d be surprised how many people do search them, though.

If you’re a member of professional bodies like ProCopywriters, the CIPR, PRCA and CIEP, make sure you’re listed in their member directory. Updating your member profile and adding new info often means you’ll move to the front page of the featured members.

Free directories like Creativepool and Upwork are also worth looking at.

Brush up your skills

Downtime is always a good time to learn some new skills. You don’t always have to splash out a lot of money. There are lots of useful courses on online learning platform Udemy, many of them free. 42courses has some high quality online creative courses, although they can be pricey. And government-funded skills bootcamps can provide some valuable new strings for your bow.

Network, network, network!

Don’t worry, you don’t need to dress up and leave the house. Whether it’s informal WhatsApp or Slack groups, organised networks like the Female Copywriters’ Alliance or virtual coworking from ProCopywriters or Freelancer Magazine, making that connection can help you feel less alone.

I’m a big fan of getting out of the house too. If you’re a copywriter, check #Copywritersunite on LinkedIn or X/Twitter for details of a copywriter social near you. There’s a growing list of regular get togethers in locations around the UK and globally, run by copywriters for the sole purpose of having a good natter. No selling and no work – but chatting to other people experiencing the same ups and downs as you can be a lifesaver.

Referrals from other writers

If you’d told me 20 years ago that most of my new work would originate from people I then saw as competitors, I’d have laughed in your face.

But it’s true. Most of my new clients over the last few years have been referred by other copywriters who have a lead they can’t take themselves, whether it’s because they’re too busy, it’s not their type of writing or whatever.

I was amazed to realise the other day that around £30,000 of my income over the past three years has come from one referral on the Female Copywriters’ Alliance Discord channel. And I’ve passed on referrals I can’t handle which have produced income for other writers.

Be open minded

If you see a social media post or are sent a referral that isn’t a 100% match for your skills and experience, don’t write it off.

Firstly, you can probably do most of it. And secondly, the person asking probably doesn’t need you to be an expert on everything in their project or job spec.
Looking for a project that ticks all of your boxes means you could be missing out on some amazing – and lucrative – work. Push yourself a little out of your comfort zone and give it a go.

Ask for testimonials

Testimonials from clients are a great way of building credibility and trust in you and your brand. If a recent project went well, ask your client if they could provide a short testimonial you could use on Google, LinkedIn and your website.

If you are working under an NDA and can’t name the client, a testimonial from ‘client in the construction industry’ will still work.

Apply for jobs

How many times do you see full-time jobs advertised by companies you’d love to work for – but you don’t consider because you want to stay freelance?

There’s no harm reaching out and asking if they’d consider working with you on a long-term retainer. I did this once with a lovely organisation who were looking for someone for an 18 month full time contract. I had some great conversations with them but didn’t take the job (they really needed someone full time). However, they use me for ad hoc freelance work to this day.

Go deep on LinkedIn

LinkedIn may be an annoying platform but it’s a great way of making new contacts.

You can use LinkedIn search to set up a curated feed just for contacts that you want to target. Type a phrase into the LinkedIn search bar that you know they will probably have in their job titles or will be posting about regularly, like ‘stakeholder communications’ or ‘content management’. Then click on ‘people’ and check 2nd degree connections. You can refine the search by location, the company they work for and several other filters.

Create a separate feed for the ones who look like they may be interested in what you have to offer and save it in your bookmarks. This way, you’ll be able to bypass a lot of the usual LinkedIn fluff and focus on potential new clients.

And don’t forget to post on LinkedIn yourself. A quiet time is a good time to get over the ick factor of saying you’re looking for work. Create a post outlining what you do and who you do it for, and say you have availability coming up.


There’s a lot you can do to put yourself out there. But try and make some space for yourself and take advantage of having time to spend doing stuff you love – like reading a book, walking the dog, going for a bike ride or whatever it is that makes you feel good.

Before you know it, your inbox will be pinging with enquiries and you’ll be busy again.

Thanks to my freelance copywriter friends Cat Roberts-Young, Sarah Townsend, Dee Primett and Catherine Jones for their tips for inclusion in this post.


What do you think?

Your email will not be published. ProCopywriters members: log in before commenting so your comment links to your profile.

Become a member

Join ProCopywriters

Connect with peers, develop your skills and extend your reach on our blog.

Become a member
Learn online

Online workshops

Every month we get an expert, an author or a professional trainer to deliver a one-hour presentation on copywriting, marketing or digital media.

Browse events