How to Break Out of the “Feast or Famine” Cycle

Ever been stuck in a feast-or-famine cycle?

It’s no fun, is it?

The well dries out, so you work like crazy to market yourself. You tap your network, send out some warm emails, engage with people on LinkedIn, attend networking events…

Basically, you do everything you’re supposed to do. And you work night and day to make things happen while eating Hamburger Helper without the hamburger.

Eventually, you start to see the results of your hard work. Then, seemingly all at once, you’re at maximum capacity!

You’re so busy, in fact, that you push marketing and prospecting to the side. You don’t have time to work on it—and you certainly don’t have the capacity to take on new projects.

No more Hamburger Helper. It’s grilled steak and Bordeaux, baby!

But then, things shift. You finish up a big project. A good client decides to go in a different direction. A project you’d lined up falls through.

Before you know it, you’ve got the opposite problem. And you continue in this cycle of feast or famine. Back to the Hamburger Helper.

So what can you do to break out?

Unfortunately, most writers think about this problem only when business is slow.  But ironically, it’s what you do during busier periods that makes all the difference.

So here are four actions you can take NOW—before you’re in a lull—to break out of the feast or famine cycle:

1. Nurture longer-term prospects

It’s tempting to drop your marketing entirely when you’re slammed with client work. But the smartest move is to shift strategies and focus on marketing tasks that are way less time-intensive.

One of my favorites when I’m slammed with work: nurturing longer term prospects.

Longer-term prospects are prospects who’ve expressed an interest in your services but aren’t yet ready to engage you. The timing isn’t right. Or maybe they’re working with another writer. Or maybe they have a project in mind, but they aren’t ready to proceed.

That’s OK. Nurture those leads. Stay in touch by occasionally sending value-added information. Don’t ask for work. Simply touch base and provide them with something of value.

When you do that, prospects will sometimes respond with offers of work. Your contacting them acts as a prompt. “Hey, that reminds me. Would you be interested in this project?”

But because you weren’t asking for work—you were just saying hello—you’ve left yourself room to maneuver. “That sounds great! Unfortunately, I’m booked solid for the next three weeks. Would July work for you?”

Whereas if you’d asked for work, it would be awkward to say, “Oh, actually, I’m too busy to take on new work right now. Maybe later?”

If you practice this approach regularly, it will help smooth out down troughs in your business.

2. Dig deeper with existing clients

Busy times are also good times to dig deeper with existing clients. Connect with other people in the organization and see if there are other projects where they can use your help.

There are three main advantages to this approach:

  • Making these connections takes less time than approaching a company cold. You’re not starting from scratch so you won’t have to spend hours researching the company and trying to find connections. It’s easier because you already have a foot hold.
  • It will take time to establish trust. Even though you’re already connected with the organization, you’ll still need to build trust—which will take time. And that’s a good thing because you’re not in a rush to take on a new project.
  • The onboarding process will be less onerous. If you end up landing work, you’ll need less time and creative headspace to get started. And this will save you time when you are ready to get started.

3. Focus on higher-profit work

Sometimes, the feast or famine cycle is a signal that you need to get more selective with projects and clients … or even start raising your fees!

Do some analysis to see which projects and clients are less profitable. This usually means tracking and calculating your internal hourly rate for each client and each type of project.

(Your internal hourly rate is the rate that you average per hour, based on your fee and the number of hours it took you to complete the project.)

Then, make some decisions and do some trimming. Are there some projects you should no longer take? Which clients are less profitable? Should you (politely) drop them?

By reducing some of your existing work, you free up time to take on more profitable work. And that higher-profit work can help ease you through ups and downs in your project pipeline.

4. Look for recurring projects

Another great way to smooth out the feast or famine cycle is to seek out recurring projects.

Recurring projects are projects that repeat every week or month, such as blog posts or newsletters. Their recurring nature helps keep your income steady.

Retainer clients is another way to add recurring work. With a retainer client, you negotiate a monthly “package” of work for a set fee. This creates an income stream that can also help carry you through slower months. Even one retainer client can make a big difference!

You CAN Escape the Feast or Famine Cycle

Getting caught in the feast or famine cycle is scary and exhausting. But you can escape!

The key is to not wait for things to grind to a halt before taking action. Nurture longer-term prospects, dig deeper with existing clients, and look for higher paying and recurring work now.

You many not completely eliminate the ups and downs of the cycle. But they’ll be much less drastic. And much less scary.


By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1. Grab a free copy of my training class for writers who are new to freelancing.
It’s called “The 3 Magic Levers: How to Get Your Writing Business Off the Ground and Land Your First Paying Client.” Click Here

2. Download a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.
You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

3. Join our “Get Better Clients Academy”
You’ll get a personalized action plan based on where you are today in your business. Plus all the tools, scripts, checklists, cheat sheets and templates you’ll need to escape feast-or-famine … grow your income … and land clients who love and respect you. — Click Here

4. Get your website DONE!
If you’ve been struggling to get your website done … or if you’re not happy with what you’ve got today… let my team and me build you a beautiful website for your writing business. We’ll do all the hard work! Email me at [email protected] … put “WEBSITE” in the subject line … and I’ll reply with the details.