I am a freelance graphic designer (web/print/anything else you can think of). As with a lot of freelancers, I have busy periods and I have quiet periods when the incoming work slows down. Some of this is consistent and expected (some months/quarters are usually busier than others), but other times, it isn't. This leaves me with 2 problems:

  1. Financial. I don't have as much money coming in, meaning I'm either living off of savings or I go without. With a wife and three kids, that isn't always easy. How can I best plan ahead for this?

  2. Productivity. With less work coming in, I have less paid work to do. Should I use the time to get on with some personal projects (that may or may not benefit me financially)? Should I spend the time looking for more clients? Take some time off and get on with the endless list is of DIY that needs doing to my house?


3 Answers 3


I would say that your rate is low.

If you remember, freelancers rates are higher than normal rates because with our work we have to save money for rainy periods. So for example, if $20/h is enough for you to live through the whole year and annual average of your work is 50% (50% of all your time), then your rate must not be lower than $40/h. This way, you will have money for rainy periods.

Do set your salary!!!

If you earn $10k in one month, it does not mean you can spend it. No way. You can spend only your salary each month. This way, you will have salary from money accumulated in the previous months.

If you earned so much this year, you can reward yourself and take a large bonus at the end of a year. But you still have to have enough money for you salary in the forthcoming months.

I hope this helped.

PS. Many people like to live reckless life and like the idea that they can spend with no limits. At the end, this hits you back in rainy period. Freelancing is about freedom, not about being reckless and irresponsible. For that, it's better you stick to the job in some company.


If you're having trouble getting work to come in maybe consider finding some type of marketing consultant that could direct you in the right path or give you new ideas on how to reach your potential customers. Also consider, if you haven't already, creating accounts on various social sites specific to your business. Social media is a great way to make your business presence known. You could take it a step further and create a blog with topics related to what you do, get people engaged and show that you know your industry.

But.... As a parent, remember that your kids are only young once and you'll never get those years back, so make your time count. This is where spending a little extra money now for help and off loading work on a consultant can get you some time back with your children and set you on a good path for your freelancing in the future.


Putting the social aspects of your life to one side this is my advice having been through the same thing.

  1. Forget your personal projects. They are a luxury you cannot afford.

  2. Set aside at least one day a week for marketing yourself and getting new business. Even when you are 100% booked, you still observe this day. This will help to put an end to the ups and downs of busy/quiet periods. When not busy market yourself more than this day of course, but this one day always do even when busy.

  3. You do not make more money by spending more. Use, and do well, every free marketing opportunity you can first. Social media, Blogs, Knock on doors, go to networking events, etc.

  4. Over an annual cycle there will be a natural ebb and flow of work. Perhaps you are busy in the winter, perhaps your industry is quiet. Get to know this cycle. It is very easy. On a simple graph (52 weeks) start plotting the number of queries/jobs you get, the amount of sales you made etc. This is a five minute job once a week on a single Excel file.

  5. Finally, DIY, time with children etc - great. Do all these. It's called life. What do you think people do that work 40-50 hours a week in an office. Just because you are self employed do not imagine it is not hard work. But you must also get a break. Pick one day that you will never do work. Usually Sunday is good. On Sunday, do not even read an email, preferably do not even turn on a computer. Spend it just being alive.

  6. Save. This is the single most important thing. Build up some wealth. You should save at least 5% of everything that is paid to you, and if you can, more. This is not for christmas or a holiday, it is for the security of your family and future investment. It will build up quicker than you imagine, but 5% of every invoice you send, goes into a savings account.

Children are expensive, and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. Finally remember this:

  1. Speed
  2. Quality
  3. Price

A customer can have two, but not all three. They can have a speedy quality service but it will not be cheap. They can have a cheap quality service but it will not be quick. They can have a quick, cheap service but it will not be high quality. We kill ourselves as freelancers when we offer all three. That should never be offered.

When you are busy, put your prices up, get less work but more profitable. This is how you move up the ladder towards charging significant amounts of money per hour. When you are quiet, lower your prices.

I wish you luck, we have all been there, and will probably be there again in the future.

Best wishes,


  • Points 2, 4, & 6 are great, but I'd have to disagree with point three. I've made more money in the long run by spending a little more up front. Sometimes it "Takes money to make money". But... If you are always spending money before exhausting your free options then PaulD is correct.
    – Fütemire
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 19:43
  • 1
    Yes of course I agree entirely. The 'FREE' options soon get done and then you get to printing, subscriptions, advertising, supporting, placements etc etc. I was just concerned because an advertising spend does not bring in work alone, although it quickly becomes part of any ongoing marketing strategy. When you don't have a mature and proven methodology though, there are a lot of dead ends and failed attempts. Like all things it takes time to work out what works for you and what does not. But you are quite correct in your comment.
    – PaulD
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 21:13

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