My very first job was a working in a shipping department, and I remember it clearly: I would walk in, the shelves would be full, and it would be my job to empty them. Sometimes those shelves would fill back up quickly, other times it would take days. Looking to maximize my down time (and job security 😉 ), I would organize my space, create labels, and do anything that was necessary to make those busy times go more smoothly. It was this job that taught me there’s always something to do when business is slow.
Many people would twirl their thumbs during this time, though. Maybe it’s because they could rely on a steady income, no matter what they did. But as a small business owner, not doing anything is the last thing I want to do. If you’re feeling a sense of anxiety in these times, take a deep breath. Now is the perfect time to find something to do to help propel your business forward!
Here’s some of my favorite things to do for those slow days.
1. Rediscover your passion
Slow days can be disheartening when you’re working super hard on making your business successful. Take this time to reflect and remember why you started in the first place. Appreciate all the progress you’ve made so far and remind yourself that slow days are just a part of the process.
Try taking a walk to clear your mind, or do something for fun that you usually don’t have the time to do! If you’re finding it extra difficult to stay motivated, here’s lots of tips that I use that get me back on track.
2. Optimize your processes
If it’s one thing running your own business has taught me, it’s to be prepared for those busy times! Business can create this funny pattern of intense, work-filled days followed by little drought of leads.
When business is slow, find ways to automate your business to make those busy days easier. Analyze your process from start to finish and see what you can streamline. Maybe that’s in the form of creating packages of your services, setting up invoice reminders, or creating an automated welcome email sequence. The more time you spend now focusing on streamlining your process, the more time you can spend focusing on your clients when those busy days come!
3. Work on personal projects
Spend this lull wisely and work on larger or personal projects that you wouldn’t be able to do during your busy times. Not only will this help you improve upon your skills, but it also can provide you with more content for your social media channels.
Working on personal projects is also a great stress reliever. To me, creating personal work is a form a self-care. There’s almost always some sort of restrictions when working with brands. While I enjoy the challenge of working within those guidelines, I find it therapeutic to create photos without any boundaries.
Take this time to try something new! Has there been a hobby or something you’ve always wanted to try your hand at? Go for it! Doing something outside our usual habits pushes us to think in new ways.
4. Market yourself
It may seem obvious, but it’s not always a first choice for some people! When business is slow, take a look at how your marketing efforts are working and see what needs improvement. If you have Google Analytics for your website, that’s a perfect source to check where your referral traffic is coming from. If you don’t have Google Analytics, it’s also a perfect time to implement that into your site. 😉
Most of my website traffic comes from Pinterest, which is fantastic for getting eyes on my content that everyone can share. Whenever someone fills out my contact form, 80% of the time they’re coming from Instagram. So when I have down time, I really focus on pumping out LOTS of content for those channels to ensure a steady stream of both traffic and clients.
Take this time to define your best sources and create content for them. Concepting ideas, photographing them, and thinking up captions can be a time consuming process. If you can, outsource this work and hire someone to manage your social media and ad creation on a monthly basis. If you need a more affordable route, then try stocking up on some images instead. By having someone do the legwork for you, you can ensure you constantly have a consistent flow of solid marketing. Win-win!
It never hurts to take a break, especially when business is slow! Maybe you can even take a little road trip or vacation. After all, it’s likely you’re recovering from a busy month! Use this time to unwind and relax so you can come back more focused later.
Never underestimate the importance of self-care. When’s the last time you treated yourself to a bath in the middle of a day? Or actually let yourself stop working late into the night to meet up with friends? Taking care of yourself prevents burnout, reduces negative stress, and helps you refocus. And while these should be worked into your schedule, taking this time for a longer break is a perfect reset for your mind and body.
6. Reach out to previous clients
A slow time is a perfect time to check up on your previous clients! Send them a quick email asking how they’re doing since you last worked with them. Give them an update on what you’ve been working on or throw a blog post link in there that might be of interest to them. They’ll be appreciative that you took the time to check up on them. Send them something like,
Hi [previous client]!
It’s been a while since we’ve spoken—how are you?
I was just thinking about [a project worked on together] so I thought I’d reach out and see how everything is going! I remember your concern about [topic] and thought this [link to latest blog post] would be of interest to you!
Is there anything I can help you with? I like to make sure my clients know I’m here if they need my services, so feel free to email me if you need anything!
If they don’t answer that’s fine, too! It never hurts to show someone that you’re thinking of them. This is a great way of strengthening your client relationship and maybe even getting a new project out of it!
7. Educate yourself
Invest in yourself and business by learning something new. This can help propel your business forward with ideas you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. With online courses on the rise, there’s so many great topics out there that you choose from. Take time to learn about social media strategies, improving your e-commerce conversion rates, or even creative skills.
Check your local library to see if they subscribe to Lynda.com. If they do, then you can access this resource for free with your library card right from the comfort of your own home (which is only about the best thing ever)! Lynda.com is a great asset for creative business owners who’d like to hone their craft and improve upon their skills. Another great option out there is Skillshare. Both platforms offer a free trial, so get learnin’ 😉
Start developing a creative network if you haven’t already! Doing this when business is slow a wonderful way to build a little team that you can eventually outsource work to, or pass on projects that don’t fit for your business. This, in turn, can also provide more work for you in the long run! By working together and joining forces with other creatives, you open your opportunities so you have a more consistent source of work in the future.
Don’t be afraid to reach out via email or through social media with other entrepreneurs in your niche. Just send them a quick message about wanting to connect and perhaps set up a phone chat to get to know each other better.
9. Develop & launch a new product
Have an idea for a shop or course you’ve been wanting to develop? Dive in! Ask your audience via email or through social media what they’d like to see come to fruition. This is a perfect task to chip away at during slow days, since it can be quite time consuming. The payoff in the long run can be extremely rewarding!
If you’re not a business with physical products, no problem! Use your amazing skills to create something your audience needs. Maybe that’s something along the lines of design templates, e-books, or printables—your options are endless!
10. Upgrade your office
Is your office looking a little messy? During my busy times, my office and studio take a big hit when it comes to staying tidy, eek! Messy office + busy days = inefficient workflow.
Take this time to get organized when business is slow. Buy some filing cabinets or hang some shelves so you can keep your space tidy. Keeping your space clean helps eliminate distractions and can provide clarity. Once your workload picks back up, you can save time because you’ll actually know where everything is!
Now’s the time to finally catch up on recording all those old receipts and invoices! Let’s admit it—bookkeeping is not. fun. It’s definitely one of the easiest tasks for me to push aside, despite it being very important.
Make sure you’re all up to date with everything. Check to see if there’s any invoices overdue or due soon, and send out a reminder if needed. Gather all your business expenses and make sure they’re all recorded. This will make tax time significantly easier for you, too!
12. Create email templates
As with most businesses, there’s always some sort of repeated task that you do. Emails are one of the easiest tasks that you can optimize. With most of us spending hours a day on emails, templates are a fantastic way to save lots of time.
Go back and read your previous emails with clients. Do you see a pattern of actions taken, or things you’ve said? Create a template for it! I use HoneyBook and save all my email templates there, but there’s lots of other ways you can store templates. You can always use the trusty ol’ Excel sheet with your email templates. If you use Apple mail, you can create a folder named “Templates” and save drafts there. In the subject line, put the name of the email template it is for. That way when you go to find the email you’re looking for, it’s easy to sort though.
If you notice that you spend way too much time on email, also try creating a schedule to check your email. Aim to only check your email twice a day to eliminate distractions and start putting this habit into practice. If you need more time saving tips, check out this post!
13. Plan content
Is your Instagram or Facebook starting to acquire virtual cobwebs? This down time when business is slow is great for starting to plan your content out for the next few weeks. Social media moves fast, so if you’ve been ignoring it for a little while, it’s time to catch up!
Consistency is key when it comes to your social media strategy. By being active in your posting and engaging, you’re proving to your audience that you care about delivering amazing content to help them in some way. Use this time to create or shop for images and help define your brand’s story with thoughtful, compelling captions.
Planning your content all at once is an efficient way to ensure that your business keeps moving forward even during those busy times.
Slow days shouldn’t be worrisome. Instead, view them as a perfect opportunity to catch up and evolve your business! Whether you’re treating yourself to some much-needed relax time, marketing yourself, or organizing things, slow days can be that blessing in disguise. Use this time to recharge yourself and your business to build momentum for the journey ahead!