(First published on the Freelancers Union blog.)
In many industries the beginning of the year has been frustrating. For example, two of my corporate clients decided to cancel large projects that had been scheduled months ago. A huge loss! What to do?
The most obvious short-term focus is on connecting and nurturing existing clients. Contact them, see how they are doing and if they need your expertise right now. Offer something engaging that fits your industry, business and/or personal approach.
But don’t spend all your resources on your existing business. Seize this precious opening to think big, create something new and take care of yourself!
Since I have been through these cycles before and coached my clients through similar experiences, I find that there are 4 basic strategies that help putting your business on increasingly firm ground for the future.
1. Think long-term
When business is slow, you finally have an opportunity to think long-term business strategy on a whole new level. You can dedicate a whole morning to competitive research. In the afternoon, identify low-hanging fruit that you have overlooked. And tomorrow you can focus on new clients you need to groom in order to sign on.
2. Expand your offerings
This is also an opportune time to create new services and products or enhance your reputation as an expert and industry leader. If you are like me, you probably have lots of ideas for exciting new service packages, groundbreaking eBooks or valuable online courses bubbling to the service on a regular basis.
Work on several of them if they are still in the development phase. However, if you have a project that’s already advanced, use this quiet moment to focus on finishing it and getting it ready to go to market. If the market isn’t there yet, pick another project that has more potential.
3. Learn new skills
Invest in your education and skills. If finances are tight, focus on self-development that is easily available online or through organizations like Freelancers Union or industry associations. Another fun way to acquire new capabilities is to create strategic learning partnerships in which you teach others what you know well and vice versa. Just make sure it’s an even deal.
4. Take a break
Take a breather and re-energize. I know, it’s a challenge to not hustle even more than usual to generate business when the going gets tough. BUT exhausting yourself comes at a cost – your health and productivity. Instead, remind yourself that business cycles will be on the upswing again soon and that you want to be ready to take advantage of the pent-up demand when it comes.
Again, tailor your rest and relaxation choices to your income flow. If a beach vacation or adventure travel are in your budget and on your radar, why not go now?
One of my favorite low-cost adventures is a staycation. Living in New York City, I’m assured to find something new and different all around me: Neighborhoods I haven’t explored; new food trends popping up; a small museum or art gallery that waits to be discovered. At the end of the day, I like to throw in a home cooked meal that picks up on the theme of the day. What tickles your fancy?
Come to think of it, these strategies are crucial during any business cycle. However, when times are slow, they are easier to put in place and make real progress on big picture planning and implementation. Why not take advantage? Now!