Fill Paid-Work Gaps with Your Own Projects

Georgina Laidlaw

What do you do when work’s thin on the ground? Finding work can be hard, and it takes time to get momentum going. Some days, you’ll have combed the job sites, contacted all your contacts, and attended to your daily promotional and client tasks before 10a.m. What’s next?

Searching fruitlessly for clients can be demoralizing. It’s rarely enjoyable, nor does it give many of us the chance to use what we see as our true talents. So, instead of worrying daily about the future, why not stop the paid-work gap with a project of your own?

Do Your Own Thing

If I have a quiet period, I usually divide my time between pursuing paid work and undertaking a project of my own. To some, spending my time on an unpaid project for my own gratification when I’ve got a mortgage demanding to be paid may seem crazy, but it offers valuable benefits.

Experimentation and Skill-building

Pursuing professional interests through your own projects inevitably allows you to exercise the creative muscle — to experiment and try out approaches and tactics for which commercial projects may not allow scope. This experimentation will likely broaden your experience, perspective, and skillset. In any case, it’s likely to be fun.

Pay or Promotion Potential

Pursuing your own professional interests through slow-period projects can develop your earning potential in a few ways. First, as I mentioned above, it can build salable skills. Second, your project may open unexpected new doors, spurring you to pursue, or giving you valuable exposure to new markets, clients, or industries. Finally, your project may, of course, focus on creating a product or service that you can sell, so although it may not pay while you’re building it, you may see a return once it’s complete and you begin to market it.

Talking Points

When you’re talking to contacts or potential clients, you may find you have little to relate if all you’re doing is looking for work. Working on your own projects ensures you’ll always have something exciting on the cards — something you’re eager to talk about and explain to others. Your contacts are bound to be intrigued, to ask questions, and to gather the perception that you’re innovative, motivated, and that you really love what you do.


Dragging yourself out of bed each day to discover the inevitable — that there still aren’t any suitable projects for you to pitch on — can get a little tedious. Having your own project to work on once you finish the day’s prospecting activities can motivate you to get up, get out, and kick those goals as early and thoroughly as possible, so you can enjoy some guilt-free hours on your own project afterward.

I find that working on my own projects gives me a real sense of purpose and progress even in the quietest times. So much so that I try to always have at least one of my own projects on the go. What about you? When was the last time you did you own thing?

Image by stock.xchng user clix.