As freelancers, I reckon we’ve all experienced a lull in our workload at some point. But how do you utilise this downtime to benefit your business?
Sure, you need to catch up on your invoicing and other bookkeeping related duties; chase down leads; follow up quotes; answer queries and, in general, do the sort of things you need to do every day as a part of running your business.
But what happens after that?
Even though it’s tempting, you can’t go fishing, play golf or simply make a cup of tea and relax while waiting for the phone to ring or your email to chime.
Yes, there are various (and often expensive) promotional avenues you can explore to boost your business’s awareness, but again, the question remains.
Even though it doesn’t make you money, there are strategies you can employ to help your freelance business become more top of mind, not only for existing clients but also for potential new ones.
Here are 12 things you can do with your downtime that may prove to be a big winner for your business further down the track.
1. Visit a mentor
If you haven’t got one, you should think seriously about seeking out someone (even a couple of people) you admire and respect. It doesn’t necessarily need to be someone in the same line of business as you, just someone who has considerable experience in the same or like-minded industry. Use them as a sounding board for new ideas and seek their counsel for issues related to your business.
2. Or become one yourself
Ever thought about passing on your knowledge to someone just starting out? Graduates especially are often looking for someone other than their teachers/lecturers and other students to bounce ideas off. I’ve been a mentor to a couple of students and can tell you that it’s quite a rewarding experience.
3. Catch up on your professional reading
There always seems to be someone in your industry talking about new ideas, technology, techniques, industry developments and even case studies. However, trying to find the time to read them all proves to be just about impossible. I've found the easiest thing to do is to create a folder on my desktop and drag a URL or article into the folder when you I something interesting. If I haven’t got the time to read it then and there, I can always catch up when I’ve got a spare moment.
4. Write an article
Like this one. It’s not hard to write about something you know and for which you have a passion. But don’t restrict your writing to just your industry. If you have an interest outside your profession, consider penning an article and posting it to any relevant websites. You’ll need to seek their permission first, but you’ll be amazed at how grateful they’ll be — especially if it’s topical and professionally written. And who knows, it might just lead to other writing projects.
5. Update your professional networking pages
(FB, LinkedIn, Google+)
This is a no brainer. If you’re active on social media or rely on your profile as a selling tool, update it regularly with your latest projects, case studies, awards, accolades and even testimonials if you have them.
6. The same goes for your website
Especially if you rely on your website as a major source of lead generation. Keep it fresh, update it regularly, and create new content as often as you can. Don't forget to do an email shout out to your regular and potential clients to let them know about any changes. A bonus here is that if you’re active on your site, Google will reward you by shifting you up the rankings.
7. And your folio
Ditto your folio if you have one. Make sure your work is current and try to weed out the older entries. Remember, potential clients (and agencies) are always on the lookout for fresh talent.
8. Visit or call a client
Touching base with your clients should be part of your everyday business regimen. It doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day, and you’ll be amazed at how delighted your client will be that you’ve taken an interest in their business. Some of the things you can ask include:
- How’s their business is going?
- What’s their competition doing?
- What can you do to help them out?
Another consideration might be to:
- Create a speculative campaign based something topical; on their business, or something you’ve seen or heard relating to their company/industry
- Offer to write an article/blog to post on their website
9. Contact people/companies you haven’t had the chance to previously
A quick email or phone call is all it takes to introduce yourself and your services. Do a bit of research on the company beforehand to make sure you make contact with the right person. Be sure to offer them a way in which they can find out more about you. Ultimately, this would be via a face-to-face meeting, but you can also point them to your website or even your profile on LinkedIn for more information.
10. Offer your services pro-bono
Give a bit back by offering your services pro-bono to non-profit industry associations or committees. However, don’t be tempted to do this for existing or potential new clients as this will set a precedent, and you’ll find yourself in an awkward situation if they continue to ask you to work for free.
Another avenue is to volunteer your time to a charity entirely unrelated to what you do for a living. For me, it’s spending a few hours a week in the Meals on Wheels kitchen but look around for any charity group that might be looking for volunteers. I've picked up a couple of projects through volunteer work.
11. Take a course related to your service offering
When it comes to what you do for a living, you can never know too much. There are all sorts of courses, seminars, webinars and even conferences designed to improve your business. The hard part is finding an offering that suits and is relevant to your business. Additionally, like me you may find yourself constantly bombarded by companies offering new ideas, software and technologies, so make the most of any downtime by using it as an opportunity to learn and boost your skill levels.
12. Join or even start a professional networking group
A professional networking group can be a fantastic source for finding new business. The group puts you in contact with other businesses who then refer your services to their client and suppliers. You’re expected to reciprocate, so this arrangement means everyone wins.
It’s time to get proactive
Because I’m a writer, the above is aimed at those who work in a writing capacity and any related industry. But it doesn’t matter what you do as a freelancer, the same principles apply.
Make use of your downtime by having a think about what you can do to better your business. There must dozens, but if you think of (and have successfully used) any strategies I haven’t covered above, please let me know.
In the meantime, I’m off to update my LinkedIn page, visit my mentor and call a client or two.
About the author
Steve Williss is a freelance copywriter who has worked in the advertising industry for more than 30 years. He is currently owner and go-to guy at WriteMind — a writing, communications, and ideas business based in Adelaide, South Australia.