How to Keep Business Up During Seasonal Slowdowns
While the festive season is certainly the busiest time of year, for solopreneurs and the like, this can often result in a noticeable slowing down in terms of projects, gigs, or jobs coming in.
This all being said, how do you keep your solo business efforts chugging along and your end-of-year targets met when the holidays inevitably roll around?
We’ve rounded up 5 ways to keep your spirits up and your business merry and bright.
1. Give Your Clients Some TLC
“I just called to say…”
OK, so we’re not suggesting you quote the great Stevie Wonder here and call up your clients to tell them you love working for them. But, the general sentiment here applies.
As any established freelancer, contractor, or solopreneur knows, your bread and butter quite literally relies on how well you communicate with your clients. Therefore, building your reputation as someone who is thoughtful, fair, and kind is not to be underestimated. Take advantage of this oh-so-jolly spirit to let your clients know you feel the same—that you appreciate their business and you’re someone they can always rely on.
To do this, consider sending them a holiday card, either via email or, better yet? By handwritten post. This only serves to reminds them that you value your existing relationship, giving them a bit of good cheer and fingers crossed, the incentive to hire you for future projects in the year to come. Letting clients know you remember them not only strengthens your professional relationships but also helps you to reconnect with clients from the past, giving a gentle reminder that you’re still alive and kicking and just as capable of doing awesome work.
Contently does a stellar job of reviewing the proper etiquette on how to send these particular sorts of holiday greetings.
2. Consider Taking Time On, Not Off
While more established solopreneurs might be jetting off to Hawaii or St. Barths on their holiday vacation, consider yourself lucky when a prospective client comes a-knocking and you’re at home, with a foot of glorious snow outside your hypothetical doorstep.
It may sound obvious but simply being available to work during the holiday season as a freelancer, contractor or solopreneur makes you extra valuable (and attractive) to potential clients. Making that availability known before the festive season begins might very well be what lands you that lucrative gig or project you’ve been hoping for.
Those who are new to the solo business world can particularly benefit from this “slim pickin’s” scenario. And, depending on how well you know the client, you might even consider taking a calculated risk and increasing your rate since you know the competition is scarce come New Year’s Eve.
3. Give the Gift of Your Discount
Another way to make the most of this season when you’re flying solo, business-wise? Shifting your mindset on what it means to “discount.” No longer just reserved for overzealous holiday shoppers, discounts are a favorite (and easy) way for you to say thank you to your clients.
By offering “holiday” discounts on your services—whether it’s to clients who have an excellent track record of paying your invoices on time or to those who pay up-front for longer projects— they’ll be more apt to keep you top of mind when future gigs pop up.
You may be wondering, but how do I go about “discounting” myself?
Excellent question. This one can run the gamut but to play it safe, we recommend giving a small percentage off your contract fee, offering free estimates, or even adding services in at no extra charge.
For example, let’s say you’re a freelance copywriter and your agreed-upon hourly rate with your client is $70/hour. They’ve told you upfront that they only have the budget to pay you for 15 hours, maximum, yet you know they appreciate a thorough proofread at the end.
Your suggestion? Throw in an extra hour of proofreading on the project, at no additional cost to them. It may seem like you’re giving away your services for free but au contraire! What you’re actually doing is being highly strategic, thinking ahead on how to best separate yourself from the competition.
And, remember, the discounts don’t have to end there. You might also consider referral discounts if you’re slightly more established in the solo business world. These are ideal for rewarding loyalty and expanding your business. All these discounts require is for you to choose which client you’d like to bestow this “gift” upon and inform them that for every new customer they send your way, you’ll take 10-15% off every future invoice.
This one is a definite win-win for everyone involved.
3. Spruce Up Your Digital Image
It may sound like a lot of legwork but to keep those payments coming in, the holidays are the ideal time to freshen up your digital presence (aka your website, portfolio and social media accounts).
With that in mind, consider “sprucing up” the following:
- Your website’s landing page (our very own Basil Harris makes the case as to why a well-designed website actually matters)
- Your digital portfolio (these helpful tips will guide you along)
- Your LinkedIn page (revamp your profile – fast)
- Your social media strategy (here’s a refresher on how to do it properly)
Crossing off this handy list not only helps to attract prospective clients in the long run but also encourages you in the short term to reestablish your professional goals. What’s the first thing you want people to think of when they see your website? What project are you most proud of working on? Taking the time to evaluate your work and your goals will be—pardon the pun—time well spent.
4. ‘Tis the Season for Networking
Ah, there’s nothing quite like those holiday parties to keep calendars full, attention spans short, and well, memories fuzzy. As a solopreneur, now’s your chance to use schmoozing to your advantage. Holiday invites might just land you in situations where you suddenly find yourself surrounded by potential new clients, ones whom you may not have had the chance to connect with before.
Better yet, if a company you freelance for invites you to one of these parties, don’t hesitate to RSVP “yes.” Consider this your rare opportunity to get to know your fellow clients on a more personal level, helping to build a stronger relationship. (P.S. If you’re particularly charming, you may even pick up some information about what their company is up to in 2019.)
If your clients aren’t social butterflies and decide not to host any holiday parties, don’t stress. You can still build your business network by attending (or joining, depending on your situation) local networking groups or by connecting with other freelancers. Often times networking groups will organize various holiday meetups so make sure you get on the list for that.
In short? The holidays are prime time for socializing and for building your network. Remember, you never know whether sharing experiences and ideas with others may lead to new project opportunities.
5. Plan Ahead (with Confidence)
Although 2018 may be nearing the end, don’t let it be forgotten. Now’s your chance to properly reflect and review how your year went. Here, pay particular attention to what didn’t work as well as you would have liked, and allocate your efforts accordingly. In other words? Account for the bad days (fewer projects/gigs/jobs coming in), just as you would for the good ones (many projects/gigs/jobs coming in). As the adage goes, failing to create a plan is creating a plan to fail.
So, at the end of the year, start jotting down your objectives for the coming year ahead. This will take time, of course, but it’s necessary. Be as specific as possible with your objectives. If one is to increase your sales, be sure to make note of how much (percentage or otherwise). Let’s say now that you’d like to grow your client list. Start thinking how many new clients you’d ideally like to be working with by the end of next year? Jot this down, too.
By breaking down these objectives into small-yet-actionable tasks, you’re setting the stage for success. And remember, if you want to really make progress in your solo business efforts, you have to prioritize. Although it’s very tempting to work on everything at once, remind yourself to focus on one thing at a time. (Don’t worry, you can thank us later!)
And while those winter doldrums may try to get the best of you, don’t let them. The secret to keeping that festive momentum up? Confidence. Remaining confident in your abilities is crucial, whatever it is that you do. Because when you learn how to personally value your work as a solo business owner, future success seems to happen naturally. This allows you to eventually charge more, turn down jobs you know aren’t right for you, and ultimately feel more satisfied with the work that you do.