They happen - sometimes, often. The days when nothing happens, when you can't get your clients to return a call to save your life. When a half dozen projects-in-progress are sitting on someone else's desk for review. And when there's nothing you can do about it. The dead days. They drive us all insane.
A dead day doesn't have to mean an unproductive one, however. On those days when it seems that your freelance business has ground to a halt for lack of anything constructive to do, try some of these:
Make calls. As the line goes: if you don't have anyone to call about your business, you're temporarily out of business until you do. Pick up the phone and remind your old clients that you still exist. Call your in-progress clients and gently nudge them along. Always have at least a few phone calls to make every day - even if it's nothing more than a friendly few minutes to chat and say hello.
Mail out sales letters. If you work freelance, you should always have a sharp sales letter written and ready to go on slow days. Start with your warm letters, friendly and personalized notes mailed out to past clients and business associates, reminding them that you value your relationship with them. When you run out of warm letters to send, start shipping your stock sales letter out to cold names. Include a business card or two, and a well done sales letter makes for a great way to keep busy, while staying active on your market's radar.
Write an online article. Another great way to stay visible on slow days is to write an article in the area of your expertise. Put it up on your business website for better search engine rankings. More online content means greater market exposure, while simultaneously cementing your credibility in the minds of those most likely to buy from you.
Work on your Web site. Is there anything else you can do to improve your online presence? How recently have you updated your downloadables? Adding and improving your website content is another great way to build your business on a quiet day.
Research prospects. How well do you really know your market? When you're busy, you don't always have the time to catch up on the latest happenings in the industries you serve. A dead day is the perfect time to read up the industry trades, check on investor documents, and learn more about the industries you serve. Every obscure but relevant detail is another reason for your prospects to work with you.
Research competitors. While you're browsing around the Web on a slow afternoon, don't forget to check up on the competition. Read their blogs; keep up with their project announcements. Even consider calling a competitor or two: you might just be able to work out a trade deal. Competitors aren't necessarily enemies!
Review old client files. Remember that mortgage broker you met with two years ago on a project that never took off because, at the time, they decided to keep it in house instead? Have you talked with them lately? Take some time on a dead day to review old client files and refresh some old relationships. At the very least, you can use some of this downtime to clean up your files, shred unneeded paper, etc. Tidy things up.
Clean up the office. If you're anything like me, the first thing that goes to hell when work gets busy is the office. Papers get dropped wherever they fall; a copy of Wired ends up on the floor for two weeks; clutter accumulates while you fight to just keep up with a heavy workload. When things quiet down, it never hurts to take an hour or two out of the day and attack the disaster head on. When things pick up again, you'll be glad you did.
Rest and relax. When you've done everything else and still you're spinning your wheels, it might be time to actually take a break and enjoy the downtime. You can't work all the time, and before long you won't have the luxury of taking the day off - so while you have some peace and quiet, go take a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Spend time with loved ones. Recharge the batteries for when you'll need the boost later.