What to do with your spare time as a freelancer?

5 min readMay 4, 2020
Photo by rawpixel

It doesn’t matter if you’re self-employed or not, there will always be a downtime. When you’re working for a company or business this might end up in more or less useless work and chatting with your colleagues more often. Luckily you won’t panic that much because you should receive your paycheck at the end of the month. On the other hand, if you’re an independent freelancer or business owner you might run into some issues. At first one or two days off seem like a nice long welcomed short holiday. But as the downtime gets longer and longer you start to think

Will there be any job/client work by the end of the month or is there enough money left to financially surpass the next months?

As these situations happen to most of us, I made my head around this topic and thought about some ideas to fill your time.

  • personal projects
  • R&D
  • find new clients
  • update your hard and software
  • optimize your workflow
  • go on holidays
  • do something completely different
  • do nothing

Personal Projects

This is the obvious solution. Of course, you work on a project or topic you always wanted to work on. Now you have the time to get it going.

It might come in handy if you think about the project before the downtime comes.

Find a timeline, manage your work and split it into doable tasks. As we all know right at the moment when we start with a personal project and we prepared ourselves to work on it there is this mysterious client call. I personally haven’t figured out why they call right at that moment but often they do.

R&D — Research&Development

Another task you can put your hands on is the research&development area. In some ways it is very similar to the personal project chapter. But in this case you don’t follow a strict rule. It’s more or less finding a difficult task or project you weren’t able to finish or to complete satisfyingly. So you can investigate different possibilities and solutions to get it done smart and clever.

You should think about taking notes and create a “how to do”-list.

So now you have a tutorial you can rely on when the problem appears again. Of course, you can always go back to the list and improve it step by step.

Find New Clients

I could have put this point right at the top, but I believe that most of the time clients find you not you find the clients. Doing cold calls, addressing emails or visiting potential clients can be very frustrating. You do have to find exactly the sweet spot in the potential clients’ timeline. But if you do not have anything to do. Why not search through magazines, websites,… and have an eye on some companies. Maybe you see a new company you haven’t approached yet.

Get in touch, maybe it will lead to future projects.

As long as they are not your clients you shouldn’t be afraid of “loosing” them, because they aren’t your clients and you lived well enough without them.

Update Your Hard And Software

You purchased a new computer or added a software? Well normally you do not have the time to integrate these additions when there’s daily business. Now it the time to get the things running and maybe you find the time to play around a bit with them, too.

Downtimes are very welcome to update and optimize your working environment.

So go to your office and start your computer. There should be something lying around.

Optimize Your Workflow

Now that you’re already at your working space. Well why not start to optimize your workflow. Maybe there is a tool or plugin you thought about integrating into your workflow. Or there are some assets you wanted to upload into an asset management tool for some time. Then go for it. I integrated an asset management tool into my daily working business.

It helped me to save around one day of labour in every project.

I now just have to browse through my material and 3d model library and drag and drop them into my scenes. This was the most effective optimization in the last years.

Go On Holidays

Yes, downtime can also mean go on holidays. You don’t have to travel the world and be away for 6 months. Maybe be a bit more sensible and start travelling to a city you always wanted to see or take a canoe and paddle along a river nearby. There are plenty of possibilities to take some time off and get your head free. For me this means packing the car and drive off on Wednesday and come back on Sunday.

5 days off can be pretty relaxing and satisfying.

Also, there is a big chance that you come back with many new ideas in your mind. Fully recharged you will be happy to start on them again.

Do Something Completely Different

What is an easy way to get your head free beside taking time off? It might be doing something new and completely different. Have you ever thought about repairing your bike or paint an old bench? Or are you interested in helping other people? Why not do charity work? Have you ever wondered how good you are in tennis?

There are plenty of things you can do.

It doesn’t need to be related to the working/job area. It can also mean trying a new hobby or sport you haven’t looked into yet.

Do Nothing

The last chapter is pretty simple. Just do nothing. Don’t be productive at all and just stay on your couch watching Netflix.

You could also go out drink a coffee or meet friends and have a beer.

I’m pretty sure that you won’t be unproductive very long. From my experience this period doesn’t last very long. I’m pretty much fed up doing nothing after a few hours but everyone is different.

Anyway I would love to hear your solutions to downtime. What do you do when there’s nothing special to work on?

Take care and be creative.