Consistency takes time. Even if you’ve been freelancing for a few years, sometimes business is slow. It’s a reality for all indys. In fact, seasonal ebbs and flows in work opportunities are a major aspect of the freelance lifestyle. This holds true whether you’re a seasonal entrepreneur with a constantly segmented workflow or you’re simply experiencing a drop in assignment offers because your clients are away for summer vacation. It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed with a flood of demand for your products or services, followed by a lull that makes you question your career path. It’s all part of growing a business you believe in from the ground up.
Here’s an overview of three ways small business owners who are experiencing a seasonal slowdown can optimize their processes and continue to grow their bottom lines, even when their inboxes are empty.
Explore New Revenue Streams
When a seasonal business starts to slow down, it’s essential to keep the income flowing. After all, even when your business takes a break, the bills don’t. Here’s what you can do to keep up.
Discover a new profitable outlet for your business. An additional revenue stream will help equalize and increase your annual income. Look at the supplies or related talents you already have available to offer, and build on them. For example, a wedding planner who spends her springs and summers with brides and grooms may transition her talents into corporate holiday event planning when the “I dos” slow down during the fall and winter months.
Assess the competition. Every small business owner has the potential to discover new revenue streams that can help fill the gaps in a slow work month. Look to your competitors to see what add-on services they offer, and come up with ways to put your own spin on them. Can you rival their business models?
Keep Building Brand Awareness
What’s more important than getting your brand in front of potential clients? During the off-season, take the time to bolster your marketing strategy to gain attention and new customers.
Refresh your business website and social media accounts. Do you have your current pricing and contact details listed? Could your blog use a new post to help customers prepare for the next season? For example, a landscaping service may write a blog post dedicated to helping customers prepare their lawns for spring services.
Use some of your downtime to take an online course about implementing search engine optimization (SEO) on your website. And learn how to use hashtags effectively on social media to draw in more clicks and larger online crowds that could lead to new business.
Contact past customers. Make yourself heard by calling your recent customers. Ask how they liked the product or service you provided, and use that feedback to not only improve your business moving forward, but to start a conversation. For example, a tax preparer may contact a past customer who had ordered an annual return during tax season. When the customer mentions confusion over the new tax laws, the tax preparer could offer hourly consulting services to get ready for next year.
Increase your visibility in the community. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there and up your visibility to your key audience if you want to find more customers. Get involved in local events by setting up booths at festivals, fairs and conferences during the off-season to increase name recognition. And don’t forget to advertise locally in the months leading up to your prime business season via email, newspaper and digital ads.
Take Stock of Your Business
A business refresh doesn’t always have to occur during peak spring cleaning season. No matter when your off-season is, it’s the perfect time to take physical and financial inventories.
Refresh your supplies and equipment. Replace and repair the tools you use before the busy season hits, and shop around for the best deals on supplies you’ll need in the coming months. After all, your industry’s off-season is the best time to find sales on related equipment.
Examine and reconfigure your processes. Think about your business overall. Which aspects of the job do you enjoy most? Which ones aren’t very fulfilling personally and financially? Can you tighten up and revamp your workflow and processes to improve your business?
For example, a baker may realize that her labor-intensive brownies cost twice as much to make and require more time in the kitchen than her best-selling chocolate cupcakes. In this scenario, she may decide to drop the brownies from the menu, and focus on the more profitable and popular cupcakes.
When business is slow, don’t stop working. View the downtime as an opportunity to rethink, develop and grow your business by using the hands-on knowledge you’ve gained since you first put together your business plan. Who knows, you might just stumble onto the magic niche or workflow change that takes you from bored to booming!