First, picture your ideal assignment:
- pays well
- pays quickly
- frequent/ recurring work
- reasonable deadlines
- interesting topics
- pleasant, or even fun topics and people
Write it out. Let your dreams run; don't hold back. Read this every morning until your have it memorized. This ideal assignment should start rising to the top of your thoughts whenever there is a quiet moment.
Next, understand that you deserve this ideal assignment because of your
- track record
- ongoing skills training
- dues paid with less-than-wonderful assignments
- reciprocation (being a good worker/ contractor)
Then, start turning down the worst assignments.* Weigh each offer against that ideal your wrote down.
Use that time, instead, to solicit more rewarding work via cold calls, ask other clients for referrals, and look for ways to help people in your circles with advice, connections, or paid work. And when you've run through that list, update your skills and do the rest of the checklist for lulls.
Raise your rate to attract better-paying clients and better assignments. Your rate conveys a certain level of professional standard and value related to exclusivity. Clients who pay top dollar may be very demanding, but bargain-basement clients are more likely to be disorganized from the planning right through to the (very late) payment.
Finally, contact your favourite clients and ask them what you might do to serve them better. “What can I do differently for you this year?” Lindsay Van Thoen suggests you might ask, in her Freelancers Union post. “Then pick one thing and add it as a complementary service.” Not only will you have made an existing good client even happier, you'll remind them of why they like working with you. Take that time to also thank them for being good to work with, and tell them “I'd love more clients like you. Please pass my name along to any you know.”
*We'll talk more about how to “no your way to success” in the coming weeks.