As it is true for the cyclical seasons of life and health, quieter times are a natural and essential way of restoring balance and nourishing the soul of your business. As a graphic design freelancer or creative business owner, you may often experience different seasons and paces in your business. There are times when you’ll have client projects back to back and months pass in a haze of on-boarding, briefs, revisions and deadlines. Then, you emerge from these times and find yourself winding down or at a sudden standstill.
Rather than to be a cause of anxiety, these slower seasons can be re-framed to be a gift instead. Think of them as a business ‘retreat’. They’re a chance to take a step back, look at your business with new, fresh eyes and reconnect to your ‘why’. They’re also an opportunity to re-evaluate your processes, carry out essential maintenance, pull out the weeds and if necessary, steer course.
Some things may be out of your control, but in this post we’ve compiled a guide for things to do during slow seasons of business so you can shift the balance, and reclaim these quieter times as a blessing.
Update your portfolio
How’s your online portfolio looking? If you have the slightest hesitation sharing your website url or if the ‘coming soon’ page has been collecting virtual dust, chances are your portfolio is not doing your beautiful work justice. For us creatives, client work tends to take priority which often means that our own websites or portfolios don’t get the love and attention they deserve.
Slow seasons are an opportunity to ask yourself who your ideal client is and whether or not your portfolio reflects that. Having some breathing space to think also gives you the chance to delve into the type of dream clients you want to attract. If you have older work on there that doesn’t reflect your evolving style, or it doesn’t align with the type of clients that you’d like to design for, perhaps now’s the time to remove it and replace it with work that resonates with you and your business going forward.
With portfolios, more doesn’t mean better. More considered? That’s better. Present the work with mockups that you feel align with the project and be prepared to invest a fair amount of time into it, giving the project its opportunity to shine. If you’ve completed a branding project, prospective clients may need a helping hand visualising its application. So perhaps choose a combination of mockups such as business cards or letterheads that display the logo in a variety of settings. Alternatively, if you designed a website you could use a scene creator mockup, showcasing the responsive design and how great it looks across all devices.
Your high quality work presented well will no doubt be enough to sell your services to your dream client, but to seal the deal you could also include some testimonials singing your praises. Get in touch with your past clients and see if they’d be willing to write a testimonial for you to publish on your site alongside your work. Testimonials not only build credibility and trust, but they also add a relatable human element to your website.
Share your work on portfolio sites
Once you’ve updated your portfolio, you may also consider adding it to websites such as Behance or Dribbble. These platforms showcase designers’ work and are a great way of getting more eyes on your portfolio. Not only can you gain exposure to potential new clients, plus they also help to drive traffic to your website and social media accounts.
Remove any past projects that no longer reflect your style or do not align with the type of client that you wish to attract.
Refresh any past projects with mockups.
Include and update with any new projects.
Reach out to past clients for testimonials.
Upload your work onto creative portfolio websites.
If you find that your client work stalls but you have an abundance of creative energy that needs to flow, try working on personal projects instead. Personal projects are those that aren’t for a client, but for yourself instead. You get to set the brief for these fictional projects and decide the deliverables, too.
If you’ve found that you’re not attracting the right type of client lately, or that your enquiries don’t light you up, set aside time to work on a personal project. Not only are they a great way of honing and developing your skills as a designer, but personal projects are also an opportunity to create the type of work that will attract your ideal client.
When prospective dream clients look at your website and browse your portfolio, they want to quickly and easily make a visual connection. By identifying with a project created for a similar business or product, the potential client can immediately see that you have an understanding of a business like theirs.
For your personal project, brainstorm who your ideal clients are and the type of work you’d like to do. For example, if you’ve always wanted to create branding and a full website design for a sustainable candle company, let that be your starting point. Approach the project as you would for any client, and be sure to showcase the work on your website portfolio for all to see.
Refresh your website
If your website’s been feeling a little stale lately, during quiet spells you could show it some love and spruce it up a little. You don’t have to commit to an entire re-brand or a complete overhaul of your website to inject new life into it. Some quick and easy changes could be changing up the fonts or adding new on-brand stock photos in your header images, about or service pages. It’s a little bit like getting a different bed linen set or new item of clothing, it doesn’t have to be a drastic change but it’s just enough to feel revamped, more confident and to put a spring in your step.
Schedule social media posts
When contending with client deadlines your social profiles are often the easiest to neglect, and so if you have some spare time that’s an ideal opportunity to reassess your social media strategy. Brainstorm content ideas, and choose images such as stock photos that align with your branding and combine them with quotes, examples of your work – both the inspiration behind it, work in progress plus the finished results.
If you can, block out some time to batch your content so you can schedule weeks in advance. Once this is done you can be rest assured that when work picks up again, you’ll not only have your social media content covered, but you’ll save so much time than if you were curating or designing images and composing captions daily.
Nurture relationships & community
Quieter times are the perfect opportunity to nurture existing relationships and to cultivate that all important community. Whether that’s checking in with previous clients, or by connecting with your audience through your social media or newsletter, take the time to have a virtual coffee date.
Connect with your audience on a deeper level by tuning into their needs, pain points and desires. Find out where your audience spends most of their time (for example Facebook, Instagram etc.), connect with them intimately and dig deep so you can gain insight on how you can best serve them. By creating content that your audience relates to and that provides them value, this not only encourages engagement and builds trust but it also helps to establish you as an expert.
The type of content you create can help to connect you with your ideal client or audience. Some ideas for creating helpful content would be inspirational posts on social media, free resources in the form of a blog post, or downloadable templates or guides. By sewing the seeds of connection now, this will ultimately help you to reach your ideal client, grow your audience and carry your business forward.
Spring Clean Your Computer
As creative business owners, it’s safe to say that we generate a lot of content and files that can clog up our hard drive space, whether that’s Pinterest saves or thousands of variants for that one logo from a client years back. (Logo-Edit-Version-58.Ai, anyone?!) Your computer is the workhorse of your business and like a car, it’ll need to go in for service for some much needed maintenance from time to time. During quieter spells is a perfect time to show your computer some TLC.
A computer with hard drive space is a happy one, and so now’s the time to remove all unnecessary files and better still, organise them too. A little bit like when you do a mammoth deep clean and sort out of your house, it can get messy at first. But once you’ve taken out the trash and re-organised your files so you can actually find them, not only will your machine run faster, but it’ll also help your workflow and save time in the future. Plus, nothing’s more aesthetically pleasing than files that are all neat and organised.
Get rid of files that you no longer need (or move to your cloud storage).
Update your Mac software and any apps making sure everything’s up to date.
Update Adobe Creative Cloud or any other software or apps.
Backup your computer either on cloud storage or an external hard drive (or both!).
Clean up and re-organise your desktop.
Physically clean your screen, keyboard, mouse or trackpad.
Service Your Website
There are also a whole host of practical maintenance tasks that can be ticked off the list during quieter spells. A little bit like doing your accounts, they may not be fun, but they’re a necessity for the running of your design business and for keeping your website in good health.
Run website checks. Keep your site safe and make sure that all plug-ins are up to date.
Work on your SEO. Whilst this can sometimes feel like a tedious task, this type of maintenance is essential for improving your Google rankings and boosting your website traffic.
Check all your website links are active. If you have any 404 pages, Google will not treat you kindly and so be sure to remove any old dead links.
We hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any particular tasks that you complete during slow seasons or you try any of the suggestions mentioned, be sure to let us know in the comments section!
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