If you were to ask other freelancers what’s the hardest thing about working for themselves, you’ll probably hear this answer more than once: the ebbs and flows of freelance life. And that becomes even more obvious during the summer months, when clients are usually on vacation and business slows down significantly.
Lauren’s here to share that summer months aren’t all doom and gloom. It could actually be a good time to focus on growing your business. Here are five ways you can make the best of slow summer months.
I love the flexibility I have with my business in June, July, and even August, but a lot of freelancers dread the summer slowdown. When you need consistent income, it’s easy to get discouraged.
The trick is to have a plan and use the extra time to your advantage. Here are a few ways I make the best of slower months
1. Provide More Value to Existing Clients
One of the easiest ways to raise your income is to become more valuable to your current clients.
The client is not always the best judge of what they need. Their business may slow down in the summer so they request less work from you, but the reality for most businesses is that they have a backlog of things they need or want to get done. Website updates, overhauling systems and processes, clearing out their inboxes, and optimizing content are often tasks that get put on the back burner.
It may be that they don’t enjoy the task or just don’t have the time. Or the project may be so far outside their zone of genius that even hiring someone else to handle it seems overwhelming.
If your client has a budget that can stay the same (or increase!) regardless of the season being slow, take some time to help them identify their backlogged needs.
You’ll be their hero for knocking out tasks that have probably been hanging over their head for quite some time.
You can also be more valuable to your client by helping them plan ahead.
If you write content, suggest some ideas for upcoming months and start writing. If you handle social media, create a social media calendar a month or two in advance. If you’re on the customer support side, help them figure out how to impress their customers even more.
Late summer is a great time to start talking to clients about their winter holiday strategy. They will appreciate that you understand the timing of their business and will be impressed that you got them thinking about it early.
Another thing to consider is that sometimes clients want to slow down in the summer, but they don’t necessarily want their business to slow down.
This can be a great opportunity for you to step in and cover for them so they have a little extra freedom. They may want more time to spend with kids at home for the summer or they may want to take a trip for a couple weeks.
If you can give them the peace of mind to make that happen, you’ll have a client for life.
Taking the time to learn a new high-end skill, such managing Facebook ads, is also a great way to increase your income. While this might not pay off this summer, it will absolutely pay off in the future. This is a good way to level up in general, but it’s a lot easier to learn something new when you have extra time.
2. Diversify Your Clients
If you are worried about a decrease in work, actively seek out a client that is busy during the summer months. Not all businesses slow down at the same time. Look to brick and mortar businesses like landscaping or childcare or summer-centric businesses like travel, weddings, or photographers.
I had a client for many years that was a realtor, and since spring and summer are the busiest times in real estate in New England, I never had a shortage of work for those months. In fact, I usually had more than I could handle and looked forward to it slowing down.
Several of my other clients were fairly slow in the summer but insanely busy for the holidays. With that combination of clients, it all balanced out and kept me busy throughout the year.
3. Run a Promotion
Remind people that you’re available. While a lot of the online world in the Northern Hemisphere may be enjoying the outdoors, another thing they’re probably doing is scrolling through social media. It’s a great time to run a promotion or flash sale for a service you’re really comfortable with.
I periodically run a $5 Friday promotion. I let my network know that on Friday – and only Friday – they can submit requests for graphics or photo edits at $5 each. It’s a low-cost entry point for them, a quick turnaround task for me, and I usually end up with several recurring graphics clients by the end.
This year, one of my clients plans to send me her summer vacation photos to edit. This isn’t something I suggested or sought out, but I think it’s going to be a blast, and it evolved from the $5 Friday promo.
What if you don’t have a network?
Make a great graphic for your promo and share it on your social profiles and in groups on appropriate share days. You will likely be surprised by the response.
Remember that high-end service you took the time to learn earlier in the summer?
You can use the same tactics to run a promotion for your new service. The promo price will help you get quick client experience under your belt and some testimonials specific to that service.
4. Be Your Own Client
Use any downtime you have in the summer to treat yourself like a client.
Write out a list of things you’ve been meaning to do for your business and schedule them in like you would for any other client. Maybe you’ve been wanting to streamline your client onboarding process or revamp your website – there’s no better time to tackle that! Don’t have a website for your business yet? Gina has a great free course on starting a website in 7 days or less.
You could also start a newsletter, create a new opt-in, or improve your current one – anything you would do for a client, do for yourself.
There’s a saying I feel like most of us can relate to – “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” As freelancers and virtual assistants, it’s easy to forget that we are also business owners and need to take time to work on our business, not just on our clients’ businesses. Hire yourself in the slow months, so when you’re busy again, you already have everything you need in place.
5. Remind Yourself That You Work Virtually
Take advantage of the “virtual” part of your business. Many of us started a virtual assistant or freelance business with some desire to be location independent. Take your work outside or to a coffee shop with a nice atmosphere – anywhere new that makes for a fun work environment.
Different places can really spark creativity. I often work better when I get away from home for a while. I’ve gone to parks and beautiful libraries – even on a hike up to a gorgeous view where I stopped and worked in total paradise for a few hours.
A designer friend of mine has summer plans to work once a week at places around New York City. She finds the city inspiring and can also work on the train ride there and back.
Fun tip! These work outings can make for great social content for your own business. Take a few photos, talk about your adventures, or use them as gratitude posts to remind yourself how amazing it is that you can work from anywhere.
The most important thing to remember about a slow season is that it’s just a season. Business will pick up again. Don’t stress about the money you’re not making right now. Plan ahead if you can, and if you can’t, put your extra time to use in the most productive ways possible.
The seeds you plant now may sprout quickly or may need a little time, but you’ll be in a better place than if you had spent the summer not taking action.
What do you do in the summer when business is slow?
Lauren is the boss lady over at Like Magic Media where she fosters her clients’ belief in magic by helping bloggers and other business owners Simplify, Beautify, Create, Amplify, and Optimize. When she’s not working magic, you can find her reading, writing fiction, or chasing adorable animals around her farm.