9 Things to do when business is slow

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Being a freelancer can be tough.

Sometimes, even with a regular practice of daily marketing, the work is slow and we find ourselves staring at our monitor with nothing to do.

Instead of sending out another 50 cold emails to prospective clients today, try some of these valuable business tasks that get pushed to the side when we have too much on our plate:

Creating new passive income streams

Passive income streams create a steadier cash flow for your business with minimal involvement from you.  Sell your unused photos and designs on Creative Market, Envato Marketplace or Etsy.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

Teach a course

If you’re looking for another way to make money without much involvement, create a video-based course and sell it on Udemy, Skillshare, or a similar website.

Contact local schools and business centers and offer to teach a course or hold a workshop. Not only will you find potential clients through some of these, you’re also helping the community. And some places may have paid teaching opportunities you can take advantage of.

Update your marketing materials

How outdated is your website, business card, portfolio or printed materials? Now’s the time to do some spring marketing cleaning. Be sure to read 20 Stunning design portfolios you MUST see before (re)designing yours.

Call your clients on the phone

In a world full of text messaging, email and Slack chat, we forget to pick up the phone and reach out to people. Call your clients and spend some time connecting with them. If they’re local, invite them for a cup of coffee or lunch date.

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Upgrade your skills

Take a class on Adobe SpeedGrade or the latest hand lettering techniques. Go to a design conference. Software and trends are changing all the time. Invest in learning more. It’s the one thing we can do to be the best at what we do.

Just be careful: if you’re learning too much and not working enough on your business, you’re not headed in the right direction. Remember, learning a ton may not fix your broken business, but this will.

Find a passion project

Maybe you’ve always been drawn to a cause but never had the time to volunteer. Why not now?

Even better if you can find a way to merge your business goals with personal volunteer goals. Maybe you can design a website for a local non-profit which could keep your skills sharp and potentially bring you new business.

Create and schedule a year’s worth of email newsletters

This is one of those tasks I wish I had done in January when my business was slow.

Create and schedule a monthly newsletter to go out to your clients. It works wonders for keeping your name in front of people. You can keep it personal and effective even though you write them all at once and schedule them out.

To get really advanced, try setting up a drip campaign through a service like MailChimp (free up to 2,000 subscribers) so your clients are getting the right email in the right order at all times.

Do a business audit

We’re coming to the end of the 1st quarter of this year. Compare your income goals against your actual business and see how it stacks up. Falling short? Focus on profit and explore where you can cut your expenses.

Computer maintenance

Clean out old client files. Archive work older than a year. Defrag your hard drive. Clean out your computer “junk drawer” (mine is a folder called Misc stuff where I throw things I don’t have a place for). Delete old emails.

A bonus if you can find lots of good stuff to sell on marketplaces like Envato or CreativeMarket.

What did I leave out?

This list is by no means complete.  What do you like to do when things are slow?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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About Sharon McElwee

Sharon McElwee helps creative businesses with blogging, email, copywriting and social media. She loves to partner with designers on web and print projects. You make beautiful things; don’t let them get ruined by ugly copy. Connect with her on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Hi Sharon, fabulous list!

    When business is slow, I work on 3 months worth of blog posts, as I’m doing right now. 🙂

  2. These are some great ideas for when business is slow. Thank you for sharing it! One of the big ones is the clean-up. When a freelancer cleans up their folders and e-mails it makes the freelancer’s life a lot easier.

  3. Jerome Tanibata says:

    Wow, great article, Sharon! Very helpful suggestions here. One thing that I would add is to unplug, get outside and go for a walk. We all need a break sometimes and taking some time off can be helpful to your business as well. Now, I think I’ll go clear out my old emails… 🙂

  4. Great tips Sharon,
    some of them are boring but necessary!

    I mostly find myself staring at google calendar, trello and written to do lists, wondering where to start! I like lists a lot!
    I think that there is always something to do, if you are a freelancer, even when there’s not much work from clients.

    When things were really slow for me, I started my blog. Since then things are never slow!
    I always have new ideas that will keep me busy, like learning new things, promoting my studio or getting involved in something new and challenging!
    I just can’t stand still!
    In my free time, I mostly work on personal projects and read lots of blog posts.
    Like now!

  5. I read this today although amusingly enough, this last week I have completely cleaned out my emails, Organised my files (even my Google drive. And I thought that was a lost cause), put a bunch of stuff (physical stuff, like a cracked macbook) up for sale on marktplaats (local online classifieds), had to do my taxes (so thats the business audit), and rebuilt my portfolio. I did some work (for basically nothing) for a company who’s cause I support – so kinda pro bono.

    The only ones I haven’t done is create emails, call clients (no clients yet, so seems a little premature), or create video tuts for passive income.

    There is always next week I suppose 😉

  6. Nice article,
    Thank you
    Zoran – https://nextoronto.c om/

  7. I am also disgustingly slow. I haven’t had a sale in 5 days, and normally I am selling something daily. And like others, I have looked up my popular searches and I have slipped a bit. But it doesn’t make sense really.