How and Why Unanswered Questions Draw Readers Through Your Story

How and Why Unanswered Questions Draw Readers Through Your Story

Title image: How and Why Unanswered Questions Draw Readers Through Your Story

What grips readers and keeps them reading?

As a reader, there are lots of reasons why I might get really into a book … but one big factor is unanswered questions.

One of the times I notice this most is when I’m reading to my kids at bedtime. The books they want aren’t necessarily of the greatest literary merit. (A shout-out, however, to the authors who are diligently churning out book after book featuring characters in under-12s football clubs … my kids love them!) Despite these stories’ somewhat formulaic nature, I’m often tempted to read just a few more pages to see what happens next.

Unanswered questions are a really powerful way to keep your readers hooked on your story.

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Seven Useful Tasks to Tackle as a Freelancer When You’re Waiting for More Client Work

Seven Useful Tasks to Tackle as a Freelancer When You’re Waiting for More Client Work

Title image: Seven Useful Tasks to Tackle as a Freelancer When You’re Waiting for More Client Work

As a freelancer, you’ll occasionally have a dry spell without much client work. This doesn’t happen to me often these days – for a good 90% of 2023, I had all the work as I could handle! – but inevitably there’ll be times when a client goes on holiday, or another client isn’t ready to assign more pieces.

Instead of feeling frustrated (or even panicked) by the lack of client work, look for ways to use this extra time productively. There are plenty of things you can do to either bring in new work or get ahead with other tasks. Here are my main go-to tasks for times when I’ve got spare freelancing time and no client work to fill it.

#1: Seek Out New Clients

If a client has ended their working relationship with you (perhaps they’re winding up a project or moving their writing work in-house), or they seem uncertain when or whether they’ll have more work for you, it’s probably a good idea to look for a new client to replace them.

However, if your client is simply on vacation or hasn’t yet got briefs ready for your next articles, then it probably makes sense not to immediately scramble to find extra work – otherwise, you may have way more than you want in a couple of weeks’ time.

#2: Go Back to Old Clients

When I’ve got some extra freelancing time, I don’t usually go out looking for brand-new clients. Instead, I get back in touch with clients I’ve worked for in the past. I’ll let them know I’ve got some availability if they happen to have any articles they need writing.

Quite often, they won’t have any work, but they’ll let me know they’ll be in touch when they do. Sometimes, they will have something that’s a good fit – and they may well also refer me to people they know who are looking for a writer.

#3: Get Ahead With Other Income-Generating Projects

Some freelancers will have a passion project of some kind that they run alongside their freelance work. For me, that’s the Aliventures blog and newsletter. I sell some digital products for writers (which you can find in the Shop), giving me an extra income stream beyond freelancing.

If you have a website or blog of your own – especially if you make money from it in some way – then you might use freelancing downtime to get ahead with this. I’ll often write Aliventures posts and newsletters ahead of time, so that when freelance work does come in, I can focus on that.

#4: Catch Up With Admin Tasks

Whatever type of freelancing you do, you’ll definitely have some kind of administrative tasks to take care of as part of your work. Things like:

  • Keeping your website software up to date.
  • Doing your accounts.
  • Creating and sending invoices.
  • Updating your social media bios.
  • Backing up your computer.

None of these things are exactly exciting … and I know I find it all too easy to put them off in favour of more interesting (and to be fair, generally more important!) work. But if you’re sitting at your desk waiting for a client to finally email back, then you’ve got a great window of time to tackle a backlog of admin tasks.

#5: Strengthen Your Portfolio

Another great use of your time is to write a fresh piece or two for your portfolio, to help you gain more writing experience or have stronger samples to use when applying for writing gigs or pitching editors.

For the past few years, 99% of my freelance work has been ghostwriting, and I can’t easily use those pieces as writing samples for new clients. One of the reasons I’ve been doing more guest posting this year is to get fresh articles out there on big sites with my name on them.

As well as being open to doing a small amount of free work to get some useful samples, you could also send out queries to publications that work with freelancers. The Write Life regularly publishes lists of websites and magazines that you can pitch (along with pay rates where known), such as their lists of health and fitness magazines and parenting blogs and magazines.

#6: Learn Something New

Is there a particular skill you know would help you with your freelancing?

Maybe you’d like to get to grips with SEO (search engine optimization) if you’re a content writer, so you can offer SEO-optimized articles to your clients.

Or perhaps you’re curious about how best to use ChatGPT to support your writing. You might want to try out a new task management system like Nozbe (aff) or have a go at creating templates for your work in Notion.

If you’re looking to learn ways to grow your freelancing business, perhaps because you’re going through a longer period without much work, then my course Freelance Confidence could be a great place to start.

#7: Take Some Time Off

It can be tricky to take time off as a freelancer: even if you go on vacation, you may find yourself replying to client emails or finishing off pieces of work.

When some unexpected downtime comes your way, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using it as an opportunity to simply rest, relax, or even turn to more creative forms of writing, like that novel you keep meaning to start.

If you’ve got a temporary lack of freelance work, any (or all!) of the tasks above are great ways to use your time productively. I’d love to hear your ideas too: is there a particular way you like to use your freelancing downtime? Or do you have a great tip for smoothing out the peaks and troughs of freelance work, so that you have a consistent amount of work coming in? Join the discussion in the comments below.

About

I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.

Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

About

I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children. Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

Start Here

If you’re new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:

Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing? 

The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)

What to Do When Your Writing Goals Seem a Long Way Off

If you’d like more suggestions, head to the “Start Here” page:

Archives

Want to see all the posts on Aliventures?

Just head on over to the Archive:

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis before the others.

You can buy or sample them on your local Amazon, or read all three FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

How to Write When … You’re Afraid

How to Write When … You’re Afraid

This post is part of my ongoing “How to Write When…” series.  Do you ever feel afraid to sit down and write? On the surface, fear may seem like an odd emotion to associate with writing – after all, there can’t be many activities less dangerous than sitting at a...

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