When Freelance Slows: What To Do When There's Nothing To Do

Freelancing is not a linear business. There are periods you’ll go through where you’ll be so busy you can hardly find time to breathe. Then you have the slow periods – when there’s nothing coming in or going out. Time to freak out, right? Wrong! Slow (or No) periods can be great and just as important for you, both professionally and personally. Let’s look at some things we can do with our slow periods.

Take A Break

With all the freelance and business blogs and articles I’ve read, I can’t think of one that talks about taking a break. What’s the point of being your own boss and running your own business, if you’re going to overwork yourself and never take a day off? Why it may be impossible to take a vacation, or even a day off ┬áduring the super busy times, slow times are great for taking a guilt-free breather. Read a book, go shopping, take some classes or pick up a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with doing these during “business hours” as long as you aren’t shunning your normal web duties and clients. I try to take a full day off (not counting the weekends) at least once a month to give myself a break. As freelancers we tend to work longer hours, evenings and weekends, so there’s nothing wrong with taking a few days off here and there. Get a massage and relax – these are the perks of being a business owner.

Update Your Website

Have there been various maintenance tasks you’ve been holding off on? Now’s a great time to update your website. Whether you’re needing to add portfolio pieces, tweak some coding or update your blog, a slow period gives you the time to do so. It’s important we don’t get too far behind on maintenance tasks, as these can positively or negatively impact your SEO rankings. Be careful of overtweaking however, I know personally when things get slow I end up spending the whole day moving around my website – only to move it back to the way it was. The point of slow periods isn’t to fill up your time with mindless tasks – it’s to actually get important things done you normally don’t have time for.

Rethink Your Marketing

Now’s the time to focus on your business. Are there techniques you’ve been thinking about implementing and haven’t had the time for? Take a look at how you’ve been marketing (or not marketing) and see how you can expand or improve. Have you commented on any blogs lately? Contributed any articles? Tweeted? Do you need to update your site map, keywords or listings on directories? What about submitting your designs to CSS galleries? Spend the hours now to get your site to the top and you’ll quickly reap the rewards for another busy period.

Learn Something New

If you’ve been itching to try some new design techniques or learn a new programming language, now is the perfect time to do it. Make up some fake clients and do the work you’ve been dreaming of. Not only will this help you learn new things, you may end up with some great pieces for your portfolio or you may finally be able to practice some of your favorite techniques and improve upon them.

Make Appointments

If you’ve been holding off seeing the dentist, getting your hair cut or going to the doctor, now’s the time to do it. When we’re busy we hold off important personal tasks such as these, as we feel we can’t leave our desks in the middle of business hours. Even though these taks may not seem like they make a difference, they do in the long run and are important to staying a happy healthy freelancer. Even something like getting your hair or nails done is important as it can lead to more self confidence (doesn’t everything seem to go right on perfect hair days?) which can lead to more sales and more clients.

Spend your downtime well. While I don’t advocate going on a summer long vacation, spending the day on Facebook or Twitter, a good median needs to be established. You went into freelancing to set your own hours and workload right? Being busy isn’t always a good thing and these slow periods can help you grow as both a person and a business.