If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced predictable slow periods, like summertime or year-end. Business can also slow down due to economic uncertainty, such as the months proceeding a national election. So what’s a freelancer to do?
If you find yourself in a slump, first determine the cause. If you’ve been neglecting to market yourself, then start prospecting for new business right away. But if it’s due to a naturally-occurring slow period, here are 12.5 useful activities to remain productive.
1. Continue to Prospect
Just because you’re in a typical slow period doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prospect. Even if you don’t land new clients immediately, you’re still priming the pump for when business does pick up.
2. Contact Former or Existing Clients
Slow times are an opportunity to reconnect with existing clients or reach out to former ones. Take a client to lunch today!
3. Join a Networking Group
Regardless of how slow or busy you are, you ought to be networking. Its benefits extend far beyond just gaining new business. If you don’t belong to a group, take advantage of your down time to join one or start one of your own.
4. Look for Speaking Engagements
Speaking in front of groups can often land new clients. Contact your local chamber of commerce or SBA Chapter.
5. Enroll in a Sales Training Course
When I started my web business, I knew nothing about selling my services. Some of us are natural sales people. Unfortunately I was not one of those. Even if you are a “natural”, you’ll benefit tremendously from professional training and coaching.
6. Work on Long Term Projects
Update your website, revise your marketing plan, design that logo you never got around to creating, redesign your business cards. Just be sure you’re not doing what’s comfortable to avoid a less pleasant but more important activity.
7. Review Your Business Practices
Every business ought to have best practices and processes in place. I’ve advocated having both a sales process and a web design workflow to increase your efficiency. Now’s the time to review your practices and processes, or create them if you have none.
8. Clean House
Clean your desk, purge your files, rearrange your work space. All of these get neglected when we’re busy. So spend time getting organized and prepared for when business picks up.
9. Prepare for Tax Season
An end-of-year slow down is the perfect time to get your paperwork in order for tax season.
10. Back Up Your Files
Do you keep a local backup? Great, but what if your computer equipment gets stolen? A secondary cloud backup keeps your files safe in the event of a break-in, fire, or flood. When Tropical Storm Lee caused the Susquehanna River to rise over 27 feet, our New York sales office lost all their computers and files. Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Use your down time to set one up.
11. Take Some Time Off
Had a vacation lately? Perhaps now’s the time for some time off.
12. Find a New Hobby or Resurrect an Old One
I’ve always wanted to learn Kendo, the art of Japanese Samurai swordsmanship. How about you? Is there something from your bucket list you’ve been putting off? Maybe now’s the time.
12.5. Refuse to Worry
While this isn’t technically an activity, it’s important, nonetheless. I’ve heard that there are two types of problems: those you can solve, and those you can’t. So if you can’t do anything about it, why worry? And if you can do something about it, why worry?
Have I missed anything? What activities help you during slow times? Add your comments below.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.