I’m sure you’ve seen it happen every year: your business slows down during predictable times, like the summer vacation months or year-end holidays.
For the self-employed who rely upon steady cash flow, this can be a disconcerting time. Should you just take a vacation 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-never-land, 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 and magazines 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.
Take a mini-vacation 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. 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 on January 15). Send your final invoices for the current year.
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 and friends for your services and products.
Do your accounting. Enter all revenue and expenses into your recordkeeping system. Balance your checkbook.
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? 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 CDs to play in your office to inspire you.
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!