Self employment naturally has its ups and downs. If you’re lucky, you have a backlog to keep you working steadily during those inevitable times when new leads slow down. But if not, just make sure you KEEP BUSY! Here’s how.
My number one recommendation is to set a daily goal to work a minimum number of hours. You probably already have, but if not, do so. I take the minimum amount I need to earn, divide by my hourly rate and double it since I can figure on needing to do up to an hour of unpaid work for every hour of paid work.
What is this unpaid work? Simple. It’s what you need to do to get those new leads rolling in and make your business run smoothly. A few examples:
- Submit your website to directories related to your industry (you DO have a website, right?). Don’t bother with general directories that aren’t specific to your industry. Chances are that if a potential customer is looking for someone who provides your services, they’ll do an internet search and up will come the directories relating to that industry. You want to be on THOSE. Do a search yourself to see which ones you need to be listed on. Some are free and some are paid, it’s up to you to decide how much is appropriate for your business.
- Spruce up your website. If it’s been a while, click through your website, reading everything. Print it out if you have to, or paste the text into Word. Buy some new stock photos, or find free, legal ones. Mark the edits you want to make and contact your site designer (or do them yourself if your site was designed in WordPress). If you decide your site needs a major facelift, jot down what you do and don’t like about the site and some other sites that you like. Then contact your designer, or a new one to get a quote. When business is slow, now doesn’t feel like the right time to be thinking about spending more money, but it will be much harder to do when you’re busy. At least get the ball rolling for now.
- Reach out to others in your area of expertise that you can refer people to when you’re too busy and who can send people your way when they are. Also find people in other industries that intersect with yours. Develop these relationships now while you have the time.
- Depending on your industry, you may be able to find websites where customers have requested a free quote. Usually you have to register on the site, and often pay a fee per quote you send. Check these out and try to send out a quote every day that you’re not meeting your goal.
- Set up social media accounts for your business. Be very careful not to get sidetracked on those sites, though! And don’t start anything that you can’t continue when you’re busy. If you need help, get in touch with your website designer. If he or she doesn’t do that, ask for a recommendation.
- Research keywords and pay-per-click advertizing to see how you can use it for your business. Read articles about it and check out Google’s AdWords, it’s a great tool for getting started, but there are lots of others.
- Make charts, forms and other documents that will make doing business easier when you’re busy. Learn how to make forms in either Word or Acrobat Pro and impress your clients with your speed at getting paperwork over to them or getting a quote out to them.
- Follow up with your past clients. Don’t do it so often as to annoy them, but often enough that they know you’re available for repeat business. And ALWAYS ask satisfied customers for a referral.
- Educate yourself. Read up on the latest news in your industry. Practice skills that you haven’t had time to before. Expand your expertise… then update your website to show it. I tend to shy away from formal classes during the in-between times because I don’t want to get locked into something that I’m not going to have time for when I get busy again.
- As a last resort, I’ll usually spend some time cleaning up my desk and computer. Remove programs I don’t use, archive or delete old documents, just generally clean up. Then run a defrag. If you don’t know what that is, you NEED to do it. There are lots of instructions out there, just Google it.
Now, do these things when your paid work doesn’t meet your daily minimum and you can’t help but get a boost in your business.
On the other hand… if you’ve been really busy and surpassing your goals, take a brake for a day or two. Play with the kids if they’re not in school, take care of yourself, whatever works for you!