10 Ways to Better Spend Your Slow (Work) Days
Once and a while we have those slow days. Well, sometimes you have more than a few. I'm always making sure I make the most out of the days when I don't have any current client work, or I even just have a bit of a lull in between projects.
Below are some of the things I do when I have that little bit of extra time.
1. ADVERTISE LOCALLY
Have you ever been to your town hall, local library, grocery store, natural food market, deli, diner, or community center? These are some of the places you may find a bulletin board or counter space to leave a flyer, business card, or postcard to advertise your business. Look around town - there may be more! If you develop a rapport with a local business owner they may let you leave your marketing materials somewhere near their front door or checkout counter where customers are likely to see them. Advertising locally in a place that receives a lot of foot traffic is an inexpensive way to catch the eye of some potential customers.
2. TAKE AN ONLINE CLASS
Learning a new skill, or even brushing up on an old one to learn new applications, is a great way to expand your business! It's also a great way to keep up with your competition and even put yourself one step ahead.
I understand how hard it is to take time away from your home, your family, and your business to travel to school. Luckily nowadays there are many different ways you can take classes online on your own time. Many local colleges or universities offer online classes that can earn you credits towards a degree - whether you're starting from scratch, or might have plans to pursue Bachelor's or Master's degree in the future. But always do your research before shelling out money to any school. There are still many predatory colleges that still exist to sucker you into paying for a class that may not deliver. You owe it to yourself to look for reviews and student feedback in advance!
There are also more affordable options, like Skillshare or Lynda, that offer monthly memberships. That way you pay for the month or year, and take your own time learning as many classes as you like. They also have a great variety of classes to take outside of the more creative classes like web design, graphic design, and photography. There are even some free classes you can explore if you're not sure if you want to commit to the monthly fee.
If you're looking to touch up on coding (or maybe learn it as a new skill!) check out Codecademy. They have a free one week trial before you can opt to pay for a pro membership. I'm currently exploring the web development path.
You can pay per class on sites like Udemy, which offer classes for a variety of focuses from the arts to business and health and lifestyle. They even have a business option if you're looking for something to share with employees.
Sites like Khan Academy and Alison are completely free and have options for both adults and students - great resources to share with your kids if they need help in school with math, technology, science, history, English, and more.
3. GET A HEAD START ON YOUR TAXES
Tax season can really sneak up on you! Even if you don't file quarterly you should be setting aside a bit of time every month to organize your books and make sure you are keeping track of all of your income and expenses. If you ever pay in cash or make extra purchases while you're out and about, try using a notepad app on your phone to keep track so you can update your accounting at the end of the week (or month). I mentioned in a previous post I've been using Wave, which is a free financial management software for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I'm able to sync it to PayPal, Etsy, and my bank account - saving me literally dozens of hours a year that I would otherwise be using inputting numbers. Any extra figures (like the notes I save on my phone or receipts I print out for my files) simply get keyed and I can go through the numbers regularly to make sure nothing's amiss. Then at the end of the year all I have to do is print and go!
Also make sure you're up to date on all the changes in your deductions (what you no longer can deduct and what you now may have claims to) and how you'll be effected in what you'll owe. A great reference to get started is CPA for Freelancers. I definitely recommend getting yourself a good account though so if you have any last minute questions come tax time you have someone to answer them. Besides, it's always less stressful to hand over your paperwork to someone you can trust to do what's best for you and your business.
4. WRITE A NEWSLETTER
Haven't started a newsletter yet? Don't wait! Sites like Mailchimp are a free and easy way to collect subscribers and send out newsletters, even schedule in advance using a nifty calendar feature. When you have extra time you can put together templates to more quickly write up future issues, then set a day and time for them to go out for the month. The idea of a newsletter can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be complex - it could be something as simple as a peek into your process, some work in progress photos, any new items you have for purchase, or upcoming events or sales. Be direct, but keep it interesting!
5. WORK ON PASSIVE INCOME PROJECTS
The majority of my sales each month aren't individual clients but actually individual customers. In this context, passive income refers to a product you can create to sell that requires little effort to maintain it. Something that you can sell to customers "in the background" while you work on other things. For example: In my Etsy shop I sell digital graphics that can be resold over and over again. Other than offering customer service when needed, I can post the listing and leave it as is. The customer instantly downloads the product every time it is purchased so I don't even have to email it to them. Another example would be something a little more short term, like my calendar templates which can be resold but I just need to create updated versions annually for the following year. It's still a minimum amount of work compared to the sales I get from each set I create. (Even selling premade designs, like my business cards, are a way to make sales with new customers and deliver a finished product with time and energy saved).
If you're already selling digital products, consider expanding the online venues where you sell. I don't just use Etsy; I also sell on Creative Market, The Hungry JPEG, Creative Fabrica, FontBundles, and even Shutterstock. I know that seems like a lot to manage, but the hardest part is simply getting the products uploaded. Then voila, it's one (or more) extra stream of income. Just worry about your own promoting.
You don't have to be a designer to create a passive income product or service! What is something you can create that's relevant to your industry?
You could also look into offering an online course on one of the pages mentioned above (like Skillshare). This involves a bit more work since you'll need to interact regularly with students (depending on the focus of the class) but much less time consuming than leaving home to teach in person. Some classes work more like tutorials, so they are a bit more self-sufficient.
You could sell a PDF or e-book that's aimed at your niche. Offer your expertise and put together a guide with insights into the industry based on your personal experiences. Just like online classes, these could also be done in video form. If you don't feel ready to sell by video you could post your videos on Youtube and monetize them that way so you're both generating income off of the videos and also building an audience for your business.
If you already have a website and/or blog you can also monetize it by adding affiliate links and advertising. It's a way to create passive income within something you've already created and are already regularly maintaining. On my website I place my affiliate links in the footer as a way to unobtrusively make them available to visitors. Then on the blog, I place all the links in the sidebar where they will be seen by anyone who has come to read. But please don't do pop-ups or autoplay videos - That's the fastest way to get someone to click out of your page.
6. VISIT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY
Your local library can be a huge untapped resource that you didn't realize you were missing out on. You can save money by reading books instead of buying (I know, amazing) that are relevant to your business. I recently took out a 20th Century Art book from the library and was able to make notes on subjects for future social media and blog posts. A few graphic design books I read I've mentally bookmarked so I can write book reviews for this blog - and was even able to make contact with one of the authors that I admire so much! Sometimes there is information you can't simply Google so being able to learn from a book written by an industry expert can be a huge win for you. My local library offers membership cards for free and you can even set up your own pin to have access to book requests and reservations online. They then conveniently email you when the book has arrived.
As mentioned above, your local library is even a great spot to try and advertise by leaving business cards and flyers. Some libraries also double as a community center. If you were looking for a space to teach an actual in-person class, or start a club, or meet up with work contacts, the library may be a safe space to do that.
*Pro-tip: If you're like me and you sometimes have a shoddy internet connection, consider visiting the library next time you have a deadline or need to e-mail a client ASAP. Instead of panicking, head to the library and get permission to use one of their public computers. You can thank me later!
7. WRITE A BLOG POST
Just like this! Well...no, not just like this, but use your noggin to brainstorm some topics related to your field. To start you can write posts on things you know. Do interviews with others in your line of work or that would be of interest to your audience. Share something personal with your followers about the you behind your brand. Write a tutorial on something small that could be of help to someone else in your business (like a How To) or a fun DIY that customers can use - maybe even featuring one of your own products!
You can also include some freebies on your blog that others can link to share the original post from your blog. (Be generous, but not too generous. Insert the analogy about milk something something cow). Blog posts can be a great source of traffic to draw people to your website and keep people coming back if they see how cool and interesting you are. It also gives you additional content to share periodically on social media. And who doesn't love adding the title "Blogger" on their resume?
Besides writing in your own blog, you could also do a guest post on someone else's blog! Or even for a major publication if you already have some writing experience. Keep an eye out for paid writing gigs that you can complete on the side - or if its more quid pro quo the opportunity can at least push traffic to your own page.
8. JOIN A FACEBOOK GROUP
I'm really terrible at socializing. I have a hard time meeting people in general but especially people who work within a similar career. This is a way you can get yourself out there and make connections in a less stressful and less time consuming way. Facebook Groups are one of those hidden resources that people tend to skip right over but can actually be really valuable. It can be promotional, social, and educational!
An example of a really successful Facebook Group I've joined is The Rising Tide Society. The group is active daily (or even by the minute when a post is really popular) and allows you to ask questions, get referrals, and even promote under special threads. Many members have made business connections amongst each other outside of the group and I've even personally contacted members whose information I found through their profile page after reading their posts or their comments. (*Hint: If you're going to be active in Facebook Groups, you should post your URL publicly on your personal page. That way if someone clicks on your name to learn more about you they can find your business page or website link right away). This group is a prime example of how a successful page can be managed and used effectively.
Search for a Facebook Group you might like to follow (though be warned, some may be closed or you may need permission upon asking to join. Just following the instructions and abide by any rules set forth by the moderators).
Feeling ambitious? Create your own Facebook Group! Facebook Help Center answers questions on how to get started.
9. UPDATE YOUR PROFILE
Say what? I mean your online presence of course! When is the last time you rewrote your introduction on your website, or made sure your bio on social media was up-to-date, or changed your avatar? This is one of those little maintenance things that is important to do once in a while to keep you fresh. Take the opportunity to make sure your brand is best presented on all of your social media platforms - even the personal ones. Maybe your header images need a clean coat of paint, or you might find a URL is missing a dot somewhere. I recently redid my About Me page to better reflect my mission statement and describe myself and my purpose a little more clearly. Sometimes our information just gets a little stale or we change. Take a second to improve how your presenting yourself so we have a better idea of who you are and what you do.
Share a little of yourself with the world! I'm not talking about going out for a coffee with a friend (though, you should definitely do that too). Once again, I'm talking about social media.
So you're waiting for a meeting that doesn't start for another 20 minutes. Or you can't move forward until that special client gives the okay. Maybe the server is down and you're waiting to hear back from your IT gal, or you just are looking for a more useful way to burn time. Popping onto Instagram or Twitter and writing some constructive feedback, handing out some well-deserved compliments, answering questions, or responding to comments on your own work can be a useful way to engage others and drive traffic to your own page. Others see your comments and think "wow, what amazing customer service!" or "hey, what useful advice, I should try that too" - next thing you know you have a new fan!
Always be professional and polite (or just civil when the situation calls for it - we are talking about the internet) but don't be afraid to use your voice. What I mean is, don't be afraid to talk as you, not just you the business. People will have an easier time connecting with you if they see you as a real human person, not some faceless robot giving automated responses and begging for likes. The whole "check out my page!" or "follow me, I follow back!" routine is old and tiresome and cheap. It isn't authentic and its not going to grow your audience in a substantial and long lasting way.
Some of the most successful freelancers and independent business owners I know devote a little bit of time every week to social media and interacting with others online through their profiles. This is good for your business for a few reasons. Increasing your overall presence with interactions can increase brand awareness, generate leads, build meaningful relationships, expand your professional network, and establish you as a significant online presence. So spending a little time online when you have that extra time doesn't have to be a waste - it can be an investment!
Have some tips of your own you'd like to share? Comment below and let me know what you do to be constructive on a slow day.