I’m sure you’ve seen it happen every year: your business slows down during predictable times, like the summertime months or the holiday period at the end of the year.
For the self-employed who rely upon steady cash flow, this can be a disconcerting time. Should you just take a time off until things naturally pick up again? Or should you try to find the needle-in-the-haystack business that might be out there during slow times?
This year, vow to be different! Instead of languishing in “No Business Neverland,” get off your butt and do something to build the foundation of your business so that natural business cycles don’t affect you too deeply:
- Clean your office. Go through all the piles of papers that have been sitting around and get rid of them once and for all. Remember the office organizing mantra: do it, ditch it or delegate it. File all your papers, dust and vacuum your office. Reorganize your desk and your office so that you can find everything you need in 60 seconds or less.
- Review that stack of books. I know you’ve been meaning to read them, but will you seriously finish 20 or 30 books anytime soon? If not, pick one or two you want to focus on, and put the rest back on the shelf. Commit to reading 30 minutes a day. If the average adult reads 200-300 words a minute, that means you could read up to 6,000 words in a half-hour session. Typical books are 50,000 – 60,000 words, so you could finish that book (finally!) in about 10 days of easy half-hour sessions.
- Take a mini-break from work. Walk away from your office and enjoy a day or two of renewal and relaxation. Go to a day spa. Take a weekend retreat. Go for a walk in the local park. Take your honey to lunch. Breathe.
- Get ready for tax season. If your business slows down during December, no worries! Use that time to prepare your tax files so that you can whiz through tax season (it’s coming sooner than you expect!). Tally business-related mileage for year. Estimate your last tax payment for the current year (many self-employed people make quarterly estimated tax payments; the final payment is usually due around mid-January). Send your final invoices for the current year.
- Send business holiday cards and gifts. If the slow time falls around the holidays, use them to your advantage. Get into the holiday spirit with your clients by mailing holiday cards and gifts to them. Make specially-discounted holiday offers to clients/customers. Offer them gift certificates that they can give to their family, friends or colleagues for your services and products.
- Do your accounting and bookkeeping. Enter all revenue and expenses into your recordkeeping system. Balance your checkbook. Set your budget and revenue goals for next year.
- Become goal-oriented. Take this down-time to look at your current goals, to see how you’re doing so far and to write some new goals for the next 12 months. Create an updated marketing plan and budget. Make sure your budget includes a cash reserve to cover you during slow business times. Even if this business slow time falls mid-year, you can still spend time planning for the next 12-24 months.
- Go back to school. List the topics you’d like to study, the classes you’d like to take, or the books you’d like to read, to keep you up-to-date with your industry and business skills. Use your quiet business times to read, study and add to your intelligence pool.
- Get some personal chores done. Slow business times are ideal to schedule your annual dental and eye exams. It’s also a great time to clean out the attic, garage or basement. Remember, a strong personal foundation helps to propel your business forward.
- Go shopping. No, not for personal items (though that’s always fun!), but for business items. Have you been putting off buying a new PC, laptop or tablet? Now’s the time to research what’s out there and determine your next computer purchase. Is your office chair uncomfortable? Spend some time at office furniture stores “butt-testing” for a quality office chair that will support you properly. Stock up your office supplies. Buy some music to play in your office to inspire you. Invest in that software system you’ve been eyeing.
- Spend time with family and friends. When business is busy, it’s easy to sequester yourself away to get all that work done. Now that business is slow, come out of your cocoon and visit with family and friends. They’ve been wondering where you’ve disappeared to!
As you can see, slow business times can be used productively to prepare you for the next burst of business coming your way. Renew your business, your office, your Self, and create a firm foundation for the busy business days ahead! Always ask yourself, “How can I use these days wisely?”
Will you be doing anything for your business during the holidays? I’m looking forward to the “quiet” week between Christmas and New Years Day, when I’ll be working on a new class design. 🙂
More from the blog:
I will write all my January blog posts in December. That way I can be ahead of myself and start the new year fresh.
I think I’d better add “clean my office” to my December list. LOL! (I wonder what’s in that pile over there???)
Great list! I usually get depressed when I don’t get sales inquires later in December and have been wondering how to use my time to benefit my business instead of feeling sorry for myself. Thanks. 🙂
This time of year always is a dull business time for me. My clients are all on vacation. Thank you, Karyn, for some good ideas about how to use the next two weeks.
Susan Klein, MCC
I’m doing all of the above. Plus, I’m going to be working on my website- to freshen it up and make it more current. I LOVE this time.
I’m also seeing friends and family.
I love the idea of taking this time to freshen up your website, Susan. I have several pages on mine that need some small tweaks and this is a good time to get that done. Thanks for the idea! 🙂
Well, I am having a grand ole time! I just got a new website template – I work only with women so it is much more feminine (and pink) lol – I love it. Got a new email signature which is updated with new certifications. Planning a few new programs that I hope will take hold for the long term and designing email newsletters. Did a few decorative tweaks for the office too. So really looking forward to taking care of me as I suspect there is a bit of compassion fatigue.
Wow, Rachael, you are keeping yourself busy! Good for you! 🙂
Hi Karyn – I learned a long time ago to have faith that yes, the phone will ring. They are great times to get caught up. And if you know they are coming because you track your sales and practice thinking strategicially, they are also great opportunities to generate new revenue you just haven’t explored yet. I encourage my business clients to look at these slow times as untapped opportunities. Thanks for the tips!
Yes, the phone WILL ring, Sherri. I just signed up a new client who is starting with me the day after Christmas. But I’m still scheduling time to clean my office next week…it’s the only predicatable slow time I have all year. 🙂
P.S. Thanks for the mention in your blog!!
Hi Karen – great tips – I’ll be doing several of these – reorganizing my office, setting goals for 2013, home study course on marketing my business for 2013, spending time with family and friends.
December is typically a slower time of year for our business too, so this year, we got really busy updating our procedures. We also revamped our filing system and got all the files set up and ready to go for the new year. Then we looked at the year just ending and fixed those files to match the new system. Getting organized and documenting important procedures has gotten us off to a great start in 2013. Happy new year!
That’s an excellent use of time, Mary! We try to keep our procedures documented “on the fly,” but often it doesn’t get done in a timely manner. Best to set aside time to work on it as a project, eh? 🙂
I usually recommend to my clients, and this is something I do myself, to use the holidays as a time to reflect on last year’s performance and to build a strategic plan for next year.
Daily sales calls! You can still reach out and make contact with potential customers or make it an information research call. The regular discipline of reaching out to those we most want to work with doesn’t take a break, in my opinion. My coach always says “Where you are today is the result of the actions you were taking 3 months ago…”
Great idea, Ann! 🙂