Planning ahead: When working at home is 'feast or famine'

Planning ahead: When working at home is 'feast or famine'

Not all work-at-home jobs are like this, but for many, what is most challenging to get used to is the feast-or-famine lifestyle.  Especially for writers, artists, or those who own or have jobs with seasonal businesses (such as lawn care), work tends to come in waves.  Sometimes you have so much of it that all you can do is keep your head down and keep working, and other times you have so little work -- and, as a result, so little income -- that you hardly know what to do with all your free time (not to mention all your bills).

Learning how to manage the feast-or-famine lifestyle is possibly the biggest determining factor for whether you will survive working from home.  Here are a few tips to help you out:

  1. Market continuously.  One mistake many contractors and small business owners make is that they only do any marketing when they don't have any work.  This means that they go from not having any work to having a ton, and then when that runs out, not having any again -- and then they use their free time to do some marketing, and the cycle repeats itself.  Instead of only marketing yourself when you've run out of work, try to do a little every week or every day -- then you can schedule work several weeks in advance, and minimize how often you run dry.
  2. Schedule wisely.  Speaking of scheduling, it's important to manage your workload so that you spread out your work.  Don't overload yourself at some times, and starve yourself at others -- instead, schedule work days or even weeks in advance whenever you are too busy at present.  Not only will you spare yourself the stress of feeling overworked right now, you will also help to minimize the "famine" phenomenon by filling in your "slow" periods with the overflow from your busier times.
  3. Plan ahead.  If you have a ton of work right now and you know you'll likely go through a dry period sometime soon, be sure to set money aside or pay your bills a couple months in advance.  That way you'll be able to weather the "famine" periods without starving to death before the "feast" comes around again!