Being a freelancer can mean periods of feast or famine. But your business’ downtime is actually a golden opportunity to catch up on important things you might have neglected while you were working those twelve-hour days. Here are some important things to do when you have downtime in your freelance business.
1. Check Your Health
When is the last time you had an annual physical or eye exam? How about dental cleanings? We tend to put these things off when we’re busy, but your health is the most important thing in your life. Work downtime is the perfect time to get caught up on these appointments.
Other things you might need include your annual flu vaccine or elective procedures like a colonoscopy if you’re over 50. Best get these done when you have time, rather than when you’re in the middle of a hellish project!
2. Get Back in Shape
No doubt, your exercise regimen might have suffered while you were insanely busy with work. Use your business downtime to restart it.
3. De-Clutter Your Computer and Workspace
If you just got done with a huge project, your office could probably use some tidying up. I use downtime to evaluate all of the stuff I’ve accumulated and see what I can get rid of. Here are some examples. If the stuff has value, I sell it on eBay for a little extra cash (see my eBay selling tips). If not, I put it on my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Here are some other ways to get rid of stuff you don’t need.
Similarly, is your computer’s desktop a mess? Do you have files and photos strewn everywhere? How about your email inbox? It might be a good time to tidy up your computer. When you’re done, make sure to set up automatic backups!
4. Update Your Website, Social Profiles, and Marketing Materials
When you’re busy, updating your business website is pretty low on the priority list. But it probably has gotten out of date. So, now might be a good time to update it. Same goes for your business social profiles and any other marketing material you have.
5. Learn New Skills
Ideally, you should always be learning new skills for your work, or you could become obsolete! But I get it – that’s not always possible when you’re swamped.
Now is the time. If you’re a programmer, maybe you can check out the latest new JS framework of the week. I like learning how to use new WordPress builder themes during my downtime, going to WordCamps, and going to tech Meetups. Last year I took an online class in web accessibility, and that has paid off big time. Or, there are tons of excellent YouTube videos on almost any topic you want to learn about.
6. Check-In with Old Clients
Your existing clients are some of your best sources of new work! They probably have stuff they need help with; they just need someone to remind them.
7. Improve Your Home or Office
Perhaps there’s a better way to arrange your furniture, or make your office more user-friendly and pleasant?
Do you need a better office chair or standing desk? Does anything require fixing, like the toilet that always runs? Now’s the time!
8. Upgrade Your Tools or Gear
Are you using a ten-year-old computer or phone? Maybe it’s time for a bigger monitor. Or better time tracking or accounting software. Upgrades like these are best done when you’re not in the middle of a high-pressure project.
Networking and word of mouth are where I get most of my clients from. Use your downtime to go to Meetups, attend conferences, and so forth.
10. Audit Recurring Costs
Business downtime is a good time to examine your recurring costs. You might find some unnecessary items to cut from your budget. By looking closer at my accounting software, I was able to shave $15 per month off my subscription cost. Not huge, but over the past ten years that would have saved $1800!
Do you have any streaming TV services that you don’t watch? How much do you spend on your cell phone bill? I spend $15/month – find out how!
11. Share What You’ve Learned
If you’ve been busy, you’ve undoubtedly learned a few things. Why not share these things in a blog post, YouTube video, or a Meetup group? Or, speak at a conference! Teaching others is a great way to really cement your knowledge of a topic. Plus, you’ll get publicity and street cred!
12. Set Up Side Income
During my downtime, I tend to my blogs, which generate income from Google Adsense. I enjoy doing it, and I get some spending money from it.
13. Check Your Investments
When was the last time you checked on your investment portfolio? Are you putting away enough money for retirement? Is your portfolio properly balanced?
You could share your skills with a worthy organization that you believe in. I actually got some paying business this way when a homeless shelter I volunteered at hired me to do their website!
15. Rest and Recharge
Last but not least, you should take time off, whether that means taking a vacation or chilling out at home. Maybe you’ve neglected friends and family during your insane schedule. Now’s the time to make it up to them… and yourself!
I hope these ideas have helped. Let me know what you do during your freelance business downtime! – Brian