What To Do With Business Downtime
It’s not very often that I have downtime between freelance projects. I usually have several client projects going on simultaneously. Most would think the holidays would be a slow period for a freelancer, but the truth is that it’s one of the busiest times of the year. Clients have some downtime in the winter to request projects or send files, which leaves me working throughout the holidays. Many clients are in a hurry to have new products or branding out by the new year, so the end of December becomes extremely busy.
The summer months can be slower when clients are away on vacation. So how do I keep myself busy without doing senseless work? Here are just a few things to do between projects, when business is slow.
Update my Website/Marketing/Social Media
I often move from project to project and don’t always have time to add new material to my portfolio. During downtime, I pull recent projects and take pictures or screenshots and add them to my website. I’ll feature a couple of these on my social media as well, and update my Behance portfolio with the best ones.
Write Blogs and E-mails for Upcoming Months
Since I don’t always have time to write, if I have downtime I will compile a list of topics to discuss for future blog ideas, prepare and design e-mails for my mailing list, and create sales and offers for upcoming months. It’s great to plan ahead, so that when I’m busy I can still stay current with clients and engage people. (Note added later, funny enough, this blog was written months ago during downtime, and now that I am busier than ever it is being posted! It's good to be prepared ahead of time!)
Update my Etsy Store
It’s easy to post items onto Etsy and let them sit without maintaining them. But, if I have downtime and low sales, I’ll update product images, keywords, and add new products. I can also make generic designs for save-the-dates, invitations, and more items that are customizable that I can offer for sale.
In addition to my design business, I’m also a painter. I create paintings and prints and offer them for sale on my website. When I have downtime, I create new art or take on commissioned work.
Reach Out to Clients
When it’s been a while since I’ve heard from a past client, I’ll check in with them to make sure their designs or products are still meeting their needs. For older, outdated websites (or products), I’ll e-mail a client about new and improved services I offer. I’ll also keep track of clients who haven’t had business cards or promotional material done in a while, and check in to see if they need more printed, or have new employees that need cards made.
Learn or Upgrade My Skills
I LOVE learning. I frequent sites, blogs, and videos that teach more about graphic design, running a business, marketing, freelancing, crafting, and more. I also have a subscription to Lynda.com where I can watch videos that feature the newest capabilities of lots of programs including Adobe creative products and MS products as well. I also love learning how to do things faster, and I experiment with key commands and shortcuts in my programs to make working faster more natural.
Enter a Contest
I also love to enter design contests. I’m very competitive. So when there is a design or logo contest I’ll create multiple entries. When I win a couple, it’s a great accomplishment to show off on my website and social media accounts.
Find a Non-Profit That Needs Help
Every so often I’ll find a non-profit organization that touches close to home for me, and is in dire need of a design overhaul. I’ll reach out to these organizations and offer my services (often free of charge). In return, I have a great new portfolio piece(s), a great shoutout to my business, a new relationship with a client and other potential clients who they recommend me to, and I’ve also helped out a good cause.
Organize and Backup Files
Though I work very organized, there’s always room for improvement. I reorganize files if necessary, and create multiple backups of every project--even projects from 10 years ago. You never know when a client will send you an e-mail asking if you still do design work and have their files. I’ve been doing menus for restaurant for almost 10 years now, and though they like to keep their design pretty consistent, items and prices change from time to time. I have every version saved in a support folder in case they ever need them.
So these are some good things to keep in mind when you have downtime that will help your business. A couple of these should even be incorporated into your normal workload, and some as part of your marketing. I'll be posting a blog soon about those tasks that should be done regularly.
What do you do with business downtime to help your business? And taking a vacation is a valid answer! Everyone needs to push reset once in a while :)