What to Do When There’s Nothing to Do

slow business times

Let me guess: you’re reading this post because, despite all the work you've been putting into your side hustle or full-time biz, you have nothing to do. No client work, no emails that need answering, no voicemails to return.

You can literally hear the clock ticking.

I’ve been a full-time freelancer (part wedding planning, part writer/blogger) for almost a year and if there’s one piece of truth that I’ve found in my first year of freelancing, it’s this:

You will be incredibly busy. And then you will be incredibly, well, not busy.

While there are plenty of posts about how to spread freelance work around so that you’re mildly busy all the time instead of toeing the extremes of being so busy that you can't breathe immediately followed by hearing crickets, I have yet to learn how to do that. And if you’re anything like most freelancers in their first year or so, you won’t know quite how to handle it either.

slow business times

Without further ado, here’s what I recommend doing when the crickets are chirping and you’re pretty sure you’re never, ever, ever going to get another project.

Go for a hike / bike / dance party / happy hour at 4pm on a Tuesday

Just like with an office job, sometimes you will be incredibly busy and other times you will be able to take long lunches. The reason this isn’t more panic-inducing at your office job is that in freelance life, you never know when those incredibly busy times will hit you (and your office job pays you no matter if you’re fiddling around on Facebook or up to your eyeballs in status reports). Try to remind yourself of the crush of the work that you just crawled out from under (or that might be approaching) and give yourself a free pass to relax. I promise that the worst thing you can do is sit at home all day, watching Mad Men reruns and obsessively refreshing your inbox to see if you have any more project requests (not like I, uh, have ever done that before).

Clean out your inbox

Speaking of your inbox, clean that business out. When I’m not busy I try to get it under 10 emails (usually 2 videos my best friend sent me, an e-gift card and a recipe for summer squash risotto)- which means I pay all of my bills, reply to any outstanding emails and transfer any emails that require cataloguing to my “To Do” folder. This way, I’m better prepared when I get 50 emails in one day from clients needing work ASAP.

Tidy up around the house

Not your actual house but your business’ house. I try to keep a running To Do list on my white board of “eventual” projects for my website. Write a blog post for your blog, send out a newsletter regarding the projects you just finished, make a Twitter list of all those editors/designers/wedding stylists you’ve been meaning to interact with. Pay all of your bills (in fact, dedicate an entire morning to just bill paying so you can be done in one fell swoop) and even get your desk organized. You’ll feel way better and ready to work when you get your next project.

Take care of yourself

When I’m not busy, I crave time with other people so that I can feel like I’m not wallowing in my apartment, biting my nails and wondering if I can pay my internet bill this month. When you’re not busy with work, reach out to your buds and seek their support. Get a manicure, go to yoga or take 30 minutes to run up and down the hill behind your house. The first thing to go when I do get busy is my self-care, so trying to make this a habit every day when you aren’t worrying about hitting client deadlines means you’re likely to stick with it when you do start getting inquiries again.

Engage in some marketing work

Reach out to your five favorite bloggers and ask them if you can write a guest post on their blog about your services or a topic their readers might be interested in. If they regularly accept guest posts, I bet they’d be stoked to have a quick content turnaround on something that you’re an expert in. The best part about this is that it feels like you do have a project to work and all it takes is a well composed, simple email to get the ball rolling.

And whatever you do, do not panic.

I promise, if you stop thinking about it and have goals for yourself each day (even if it’s only 3 small ones), you’ll be much more organized when the clients do roll in. And they will. Trust me.

What do you do when you experience slow times in your solo business?

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Lauren Caselli has been planning workshops, retreats, conferences, and the occasional wedding for nearly 10 years. She works all over the country and works almost exclusively with clients outside of her home state of Montana. If you need some help getting your first workshop off the ground, sign up for her ‘Get Your Plan On’ Course that will kickstart your journey into the world of speakerhood + event hosting.

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  1. Lately I have had to reduce my project hours during the last week of the month (like now), so I have faced this situation.

    I try to take more time to work on my own blog, work ahead on my other projects, apply for new projects, and network in a way that I normally do not have time for.

    It is actually a blessing in disguise and ends up being a very fruitful time. But it can be easy to let the lack of structure lure you into laziness if you are not careful.

    Good and timely post for me! Thanks for sharing.

    • Truth! I get smuggled by the lazy-monster when I take too much time off. There is definitely a fine line between “taking a break to recharge and reinvest” and “not getting off your couch for days at a time”.

      • Haha, definitely agreed! It’s interesting, because sometimes when you have TOO much to do, things like marketing are the first to go. So slow periods can definitely be a blessing in disguise, like Jennifer said!

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