Five Things to Do When Business is Slow

We've all had those days—and sometimes those weeks!—when a lull in the action leaves us a little bit bereft of something to do. Maybe you're thrilled at the prospect, since this is the day you can finally see that movie you've been meaning to see...or mow the lawn...or make that long-overdue trip to the barber shop or beauty salon.

On the other hand, you might be thinking that you should fill the time with something work-related. After all, you're running a business, not a hobby, and having a slow day is not something you necessarily want to celebrate.

Here are five tips for filling in your time and productively and perhaps with an eye toward building more business that will benefit you in the future.

1. Clean Out Your E-mail Inbox

Certainly the prospect of facing a lot of old spam and junk e-mail is not the most fun way to spend your day. And it may cause you to regret some of your choices. Why did you sign up for that frequent buyer card for a gas station, you may wonder? Who knew they'd send you an e-mail every day? And are you still getting those e-mails from Highlights magazine even though your "elementary schooler" has just gone away to college? Okay, so it's a wake-up call. It really might be time to go through those e-mails and hit all the "unsubscribe" buttons you can to cut down on your overall e-mail volume. (But please don't unsubscribe to Focus on Faux! We only send you one or two e-mails a month.)

Here's the great news about going through your e-mails. You may find a hidden gem amidst all the e-mail rubble—an e-mail from a fellow decorative painter who wants to explore the possibility of partnering with you, an announcement about a class that you really want to take but never thought you'd have the time, or a "thank-you" note from a client whom you might be able to ask for a referral. Having a few minutes to consider some of these e-mails, rather than racing through them because you don't have the time, may actually reap some nice benefits for you.

2. Explore Advertising Options

Okay, so things are a little slow. Maybe you can make things happen by advertising. There might be some local lifestyle magazines that would fill the bill, if the rates are reasonable and the returns are decent. However, a lot of people these days are eschewing print advertising for online advertising that allows them to focus effectively to an already interested market. In many cases, the venue they select is Google AdWords. Some of the artists we have profiled (like Chris Burke) have done pretty well with this advertising venue. However, as Chris cautions, you do have to be careful of the pay-per-click pricing structure, and you might want to look at other online ad options such as Facebook.

Make sure you thoroughly do your research before committing to any advertising option. Understand what you're getting into as well as the potential return-on-investment. And also, of course, remember that sometimes the best advertising is word-of-mouth. Explore the potential for satisfied clients to provide you with testimonials on your website, and always, always, always ask for a referral.

3. Educate Yourself

We already spoke about the importance of taking an in-person class in a previous article, but don't overlook the opportunity to educate yourself here, there and everywhere, on the Internet as well as with a good book written by an industry expert. When looking online, search the topics you want on Google or YouTube. Explore the websites of major manufacturers and studios to learn about new products and techniques.

4. Take Time to Be Social

Social media is enjoyable, but boy, can it be a time-zapper! Get engrossed with Facebook or Twitter, and you'll say to yourself, "Where did the time go?" But the fortunate thing about a "slow" period is that you can take the time to do social media. Catch up on all the posts you've been meaning to read. Make your own posts with photos of your work so that you can get valuable feedback from your peers. And, of course, take the time to ask questions or have an ongoing discussion. Working as an artist can be a solitary pursuit. Spending some time in a conversation with your peers can help you feel connected and rejuvenated for pursuing your profession.

5. Experiment with Finishes

Some of the best discoveries occur through trial-and-error. Yes, the light bulb! And even some of our most important antibiotics. So, why not put your own little trial-and-error session together in the interest of inventing an entirely new look that could be your next big money-maker? Maybe you can solve a problem or figure out a way to work faster. Perhaps you can take two finishes that you know work well separately and see what happens if you alternate them into an interesting stripe pattern. Experiment with color, with texture, with contrast, with tools.

Part of being an artist is to create. Doing so when you don't have a deadline looming can be liberating and transformational.