• Shannon Marie Ferguson

10 Ways to Better Spend Your Slow (Work) Days


Smart and productive uses of your time for any slow work day - Do More!

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.

Header Photo by Carl Heyerdahl

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.

Finances can be scary, but use the most of your time to get a handle on your bookkeeping.

Photo by rawpixel

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.

If you are into home decor or apparel you can create designs for sale on sites like Society6 or Designs by Humans. You simply upload your work and they will handle the shipping and customer service.

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.

Libraries are golden opportunities to learn, grow, and explore - even in business!

Photo by iam Se7en

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