If you’ve been a consultant or freelancer for some time, you’ve probably noticed a pattern. Typically in the summer months, business seems to slow to a crawl. Prospects don’t get back to you. Clients become hard to pin down. And maybe your own motivation is questionable.
So, what do you do? Do you panic or do you double down? Much depends on your perspective. Does it feel like just a temporary lull…or the beginning of a catastrophic business failure?
We asked some seasoned members* at Fueled Collective to share with us how they cope with the summer slowdown.
Schedule long-term projects
Author and Logosphere co-founder Quinton Skinner advocates getting out of a short-term focus and instead working on your long-term goals:
“On the one hand, it’s good to focus on scheduling out some projects over longer terms when it’s possible, such as multi-month campaigns–then you can keep working and invoicing even during the season of vacations and wandering attention spans. It’s also a good time to take advantage of slower months to work on long-term goals of your own–in my case, editing a new book while the entire publishing industry seems to be in timeshares in the Hamptons.”
“Get outside. When you’ve accomplished what you can at the computer and are sitting there spinning your wheels, waiting for people to return emails or whatnot, close the laptop and go for a walk or a run outside. Sit by the lake; catch up on some good long reads you don’t have time for when things are jamming; go explore a part of town you rarely get to. Keeping yourself awash in new stimuli sparks your creativity and spirit.
Nurture your network. Schedule coffee and happy hour dates with friends, old colleagues, new connections, etc. Face-to-face time is getting scarcer in the digital age, but nothing beats it for a sense of connection and community (and stimulating new business).
Take a class or a workshop. Use downtime to advance your skills, whether in your business field or a separate creative pursuit. Keep growing and learning.
Accept the rhythm of the season and embrace the wonderful things about it. Time for exploration, introspection, connection–all the things that fall by the wayside in the busy seasons of entrepreneurial life.
Do more free shit and save your pennies. :)”
Turn downtime into planning time
Marketing consultant Leo Bogee uses his slow periods to work on goals and to work on the business:
“During my slow months in December and January, I take the time to evaluate my sales goals, clean up any outstanding book keeping items, schedule time to meet in person with my staff and partners, gathering any insight I may have missed during those crazy summer months. I find it’s also a good time to intentionally schedule out a “re-evalutation” period on my calendar that has me take certain actions moving forward in my business.”
Seek retainers and enjoy more freedom
Communications consultant Neil Chudgar finds solace in retainer contracts, which save him from having to hustle during slow periods:
“I’m fortunate to have longish-term retainery clients these days; since I have money coming in and longer-term projects to do, I don’t worry too much about people’s availability. In fact, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned about working for myself is about that: any contract is a good contract, but a retainer contract frees me from the tyranny of the billable hour and enables me to do good work even when my clients aren’t immediately available.”
Honesty is the best policy
Gish & Co. founder Lindsi Gish advocates for client candor:
“We try to ensure all of our client relationships are about being people first, colleagues second. I find that being transparent with them about how I’m spending my time—be it vacations, family gatherings, or just closing up shop early for a patio happy hour—makes clients feel more okay about being honest with me about their schedules, too.”
You can’t beat ’em, so why not join ’em?
Carol Schuler, of Schuler Publicity, embraces the summer vibe:
*Members, we apologize in advance that WeWork will probably use this blog post to stalk you and make your life a living hell.