With all businesses, there are slow times throughout the year. If you pay attention, you can predict when the slow time for your industry will be. If you have been in business for a while, you probably already know when those times are.
The result is usually an overwhelming feeling of “Oh no! I’m going to starve to death” during slow times. We get nervous and concerned. Now that the economy itself is poor, anxiety is even worse.
So instead of worrying about having time on your hands, turn that time into something positive. I keep a list of things I want to do for myself that don’t normally have time for. When things are slow, I go back to my list and see what I can do now to promote my business down the road.
- Do your filing. Get rid of those piles of paper you never have time to sort or file. You’ll think clearer and will have less chance of missing something important.
- Clean out your file cabinet. You know your files are overstuffed with things that don’t matter anymore. Spend some time feeding the recycle bin. The cleaner it is, the easier it will be to find what you want later.
- Prepare for your taxes. Maybe you can put together some of your tax information ahead of time, or make a new filing process specifically for receipts and expenses.
- Clean or rearrange your office. Again, the cleaner and more organized your space, the more effective you will be.
- Bookkeeping. For me, bookkeeping is a necessary evil. I wasn’t an accounting major. I don’t enjoy it. If you are like me, you might need to take some time to organize that area a bit better too.
- Digitize. Clean up some of that clutter by transferring that jar of business cards or the overstuffed Roladex to your computer address book. Do you have post-its all over your computer? Perhaps it’s time to put them inside your computer for easy access. The bonus is your cat won’t walk off with one as she cruises by the monitor.
- Examine your bills. Are you getting what you pay for? Could you choose a better telephone service or combine some services? What about your cell phone? Or your Internet Service Provider?
- Buy supplies online. Check out Froogle.com. Are you getting the best deals you can on office supplies or products? Don’t forget to take the shipping into consideration.
- Toner. Did you know you can buy recharged toner cartridges or even refill your own? I buy my toner on ebay for my specific printer cartridge. My normal cartridge is about $70 at the local office supply store. I can refill it with toner purchased from ebay for about $7. I can even buy a brand new one for about 1/2 the price on ebay versus my local store.
- Notepads. Use a lot of notepads? Make friends with your local printer. They always have promotional notepads they make from extra paper. You’ll never run out again.
Prepare and Promote
- Refresh your business image. Do you need a new web site, logo, or brochure? How about a new ad campaign? Even if your budget won’t allow for it during slower times, you can be prepared for when it is.
- Create a web site. If you don’t have a web site, you are missing out on the opportunity to have something that will work 24/7 to promote your business and provide information to your clients. if you already have a web site, maybe it’s time to revamp it, or add new content. Remember, search engines LOVE new content.
- Create a blog. Blogs are good for search engine marketing and you have an extra opportunity to connect with your clients and provide information.
- Brainstorm. Think of new ways to promote your business. Maybe it’s a coupon or partnering with another business to cross-sell.
- Donate your time or services to a worthy cause.
- Seek out new work. Make contact with people you think would be good clients and see if they need your services. Think about advertisements, flyers, internet postings, Craigslist.com, or social networking. You can also send out a letter to potential clients. It lets them know you are still available.
- Write an article. Write an article about your business and submit it to an article bank online. You’ll get an opportunity to spread your name by adding your reference information to the article.
- Post a video on Youtube. If your business has something that would make an interesting video, upload it to youtube.com. At the end, you can put your contact information.
- Social Networking. Sign up for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any of the other many social networking sites out there. They are free, and you might make some contacts.
- Directories. Search for legitimate business directories that will allow you to post a link and description of your business.
- Local Magazines and Newspapers. Check to see about free listings you can get in local magazines or newspapers in your area. In particular, check their Web sites to see if you can get a free listing there.
Keep the business you have
- Send out cards or make contact with your existing clients. It’s always a good idea to let your customers know you appreciate them. Many times we are too busy to give them the recognition they deserve. So, use this time to say “thanks”. The bonus: Even though they may not need you today, when they do need your services they may think of you.
- Create a mailing list. Whether you might send something by email or snail mail – it’s good to have that list on hand.
- Start an e-newsletter to keep clients informed.
- Reevaluate your services. Maybe you should consider adding some services to your current offerings. Are you meeting all of your clients needs? If you aren’t qualified to add particular service, consider partnering with someone who is.
- Create a new product to sell. Maybe you could produce great widgets or an ebook, or online course in your area of expertise.
- Examine your marketing plan. Is it time to create or change your marketing plan? Has your market changed? What were your best sellers in the last year. Did you have requests you didn’t have the capability to fulfill? This is a great time to think about the past and plan for the future.
- Talk to your clients. Ask them how they are doing and what they need. Create an online survey. SurveyMonkey and PollDaddy are good ones and have some free options.
- Take a vacation. Maybe the slow time is a perfect time for you to take some time for yourself without feeling guilty.
- Find a local group with similar interests. Give Meetup.com a try.
- Learn something new. Take the time to research your industry. Are you keeping up? Perhaps if you learned an new skill you could better serve your customers. There are lots of tutorials and online courses in all subjects. Don’t forget the local library too!
- Make Money in other areas. Some ideas: Write pay articles, sell stuff on ebay, fill out surveys for money, put google ads or other ads on your web site, sell products on CafePress, sell photography to stock photography sites. Think about your talents and what you would enjoy.
So, if you are concerned about having too much free time – give some of these ideas a try. They can improve your business and you’ll spend less time focusing on the negative while you are focusing on the positive.