You open your email for the 157th time today, hoping that a new ‘you’ve got a sale’ email is waiting in your inbox.
You wait five more minutes, sipping your peach iced tea and scrolling through your Instagram feed. You press refresh again.
The only new email is from ‘I don’t know how to market my business’ company asking you to place an ad on your life coaching website for recliner chairs.
It’s obviously spam, but you’re a bit desperate for money so you wonder if there’s any way you could accept the offer.
Maybe writing a blog post on how recliner chairs make you happier because they’re so comfortable?
Probably not the best idea.
What about a post on why television really isn’t that bad in moderation?
Yep. Nope. Horrible idea.
You delete the email and pick your iPhone back up. There are 12 new photos in your Instagram feed. YAY!
Many creative entrepreneurs hit a slow patch in the summer.
People are hanging out by the pool, going on vacations, eating dinner on their patios, and barbequing with their neighbors.
Because of that, you’ve got less sales, less blog comments, and less interaction.
It happens to the best of us.
Instead of wasting this valuable downtime, I suggest that you get something done that will make a difference to your business and bottom line.
Here are 18 better ways to use your downtime than stalking your frenemies from high school on Facebook and refreshing your email every five minutes:
1. Create extra blog content.
There comes a time in every business when there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. When that time comes, you don’t want to have to give up doing something that helps market your business. Instead, prep for those overwhelming time periods.
You’re also going to have weeks where you don’t feel like blogging. You don’t have any original ideas. You’ve got a migraine. You want to get a pedicure for your upcoming vacation, so you don’t shock your husband with your overgrown toenails. You’re going for sexy—not scary.
When that happens, you’ll be glad that you’ve banked a handful of blog posts that you can pull from.
Instead of just not publishing something that week (and looking unreliable and inconsistent to your readers), you can pick one of the blog posts you’ve saved for a rainy day.
2. Prep for the holidays.
If you run a business that picks up during the holidays, you should absolutely prep for it during your slow months.
Create extras of the products you sell the most of during the holiday season. Make sure your holiday packaging is ready to go. Get all of your holiday marketing prepped and done in July. (Then, reward yourself with a refreshing mojito. You’ve earned it.)
You’ll thank yourself when December hits and you’ve got enough time to make sugar cookies with your kiddos, because you did a bunch of the hard work in the summer.
3. Create a batch of visuals.
Use this time to set up a bunch of photo shoots. Edit your photos and categorize them so they’re easy to find over the next six months.
If you use other types of visuals within your business (like infographics), create some of those, too.
4. Fill up your social media timelines.
Use those photos from above to plan out your Instagram and Facebook feeds for the next few months.
Then take a day to fill up your Twitter queue with a bunch of content.
That way you can check in each day to reply to comments and to engage others, but your content is already created and scheduled.
5. Create the content for your next launch.
How many times have you launched a product or service and wished that you’d done a bit more?
Maybe you wanted to create a handful of videos for your launch but never got around to it. Or, maybe you wanted to send out a few more emails to your list.
Now’s the time to prep for the next one. Create the content for a launch this fall that will blow your customers away.
6. Plan out the next six months of marketing.
Marketing is one of those things that too many entrepreneurs say they’ll pay attention to ‘later’ but later never comes. If you’ve got a bit of extra time, plan out your marketing for the next six months and get started on it. Go go go!
7. Film and edit a bunch of videos.
If you use videos in your content and marketing, spend a week filming and editing a whole batch of them. It’s just like having extra blog content—you’ll be able to pull from these videos for months, consistently uploading to YouTube or social media.
8. Collect testimonials.
Spend a couple of days collecting testimonials from past customers and inserting them into your product descriptions and autoresponder emails.
People want what other people want and have. Using testimonials might give potential customers that little push to buy from you now instead of later. You never know—this might help you get out of your slow period.
9. Finally put together your sales funnel.
You know you should have a sales funnel, but they’re time consuming to create. Use this time to finally get your sales funnel up and running.
10. Get organized.
Now’s the time to finally organize all your photos into neat categorized folders. Label and group your supplies. Categorize your blog posts. Add keywords to all your YouTube videos. Start a new planner/calendar system.
Figure out what you need to systemize and do it.
11. Re-write old website copy.
If you’ve got website copy shame, you can fix it during your slow season. Work through all the main pages of your website, rewriting them one by one over the course of a couple months.
Look at your older product descriptions and sales pages. Could they use a revamp? Do it now, so that those products sell more when things pick back up.
12. Talk to some of your ideal customers.
When I tell creative entrepreneurs that they need to actually talk to some of their ideal customers to get to know them better, I can tell they want to say, “Who’s got time for that?”
First, if you want to run a successful business, you should make time for that. Second, downtime is the perfect time to do this dreaded task.
If you’re a wedding photographer, attend a local bridal event and talk to as many brides as possible. If you’re a jewelry designer, ask your top five customers if they wouldn’t mind chatting for 10 minutes on Skype or Google Hangouts. If you’re a copywriter, contact some entrepreneurs and ask them if they have a few minutes to chat and in exchange, you’ll give them some personalized copywriting tips.
Don’t put this off any longer. It’s one of those things like going to the dentist–you aren’t thrilled about going but you’re glad once you’ve done it.
13. Go through your payment process, paying attention to each detail.
Buy one of your own products so that you can see exactly what your customer sees at each step.
If it’s too complicated, simplify the checkout process. If there’s a grammatical error or two, fix it. If the receipt that’s emailed to customers after checkout sounds robotic because you never personalized it, do that now.
Details matter when it comes to branding, and this is your chance to make sure each detail works with your brand.
14. Survey your customers.
Put together a short survey and send it to your email list. Ask what they love about your brand (so that you can do more of it) and ask what they don’t love (so you can change it).
15. Host a yearly sale.
If you’re running low on sales and you need some income quick, this is a great time to host a yearly sale. Offer your email subscribers a really good discount—one that they can’t pass up and sit back as the sales roll in.
I wouldn’t recommend doing this more than twice a year (and really, I think it’s better as an annual thing), because your customers will wait for a sale instead of buying your products at full price if you have regular sales.
If it’s an annual thing, they’ll probably treat themselves a bit more during that time and still buy your products during the rest of the year.
16. Take a class to improve your skills.
Sign up for the product photography course you’ve been eyeing for the past few months. Tackle that blogging course you’ve put off, because you didn’t have the time until now. Learn some advanced skills in your niche through a local course.
Improving your skills whether in your niche or in business will help your bottom line in the long run.
17. Network with other creatives.
Go to a conference for creative entrepreneurs. Attend local events for your business community. Ask another entrepreneur to go to lunch with you so you can get to know each other’s businesses. Get an accountability partner. Schedule some ‘Skype dates’ each week with other entrepreneurs in and out of your niche.
18. Give yourself a challenge.
If you’re an artist, share a sketch a day on Instagram for 30 days. If you’re a business coach, upload a video a day to YouTube for a month. If you’re a writer, challenge yourself to write 2,000 words a day for the next 60 days.
This will help you stretch your skills and possibly gain more followers if you’re sharing your work daily.
Know that slow periods are totally normal. Everyone has them!
If you’ve currently hit a slow cycle, what are you doing to make the most of it? Did I leave anything off the list? Leave it in the comments below.