Regardless of your chosen industry, there will come a time when you are in between jobs while working from home. Many remote positions come about because the employer or client doesn’t have enough work to justify having an employee on payroll full-time. To meet a small business budget, you often need the fluidity to keep expenses and unnecessary spending at a minimum. While this is great for the small business, it’s sometimes not so great for the independent contractor on the other end.
That’s not all doom and gloom though! Many of us enjoy the flexibility that comes with freelancing and the occasional downtime can be a time to reflect on our own businesses and make changes for the better.
If you have found yourself with a little time off before your next project starts, here are a few ways to ensure it is still spent productively and working towards your end-goals.
1. Get Caught Up on Your Books
I can’t be the only person working from home who hates bookkeeping. But, it’s a necessary evil. Not only do you need to keep up on your financials for the federal government’s sake – they certainly want their cut and in a timely manner – but you also need to know where your business is headed.
If you don’t know how much you are earning and how much you are spending and how those numbers trending, how will you know if you are profitable? How will you know if you are headed towards financial disaster? You won’t.
Take some time to sit down and enter your income and expenses online. I use QuickBooks Simple Start which runs about $15 per month. They also have a Self-Employed program for just $10 per month (get Self-Employed for up to 50% off for a limited time). My favorite feature is that QuickBooks pulls in all of your bank and PayPal transactions and will learn how to automatically categorize stuff for you. You can also do all of your invoicing, and even estimates if on Simple Start, through QB.
QuickBooks advanced reporting will let you see in an instant how your income is trending, where you are spending money and which invoices are outstanding. Check out QuickBooks here.
2. Learn a New Skill
One of the best ways to increase your hourly rate is offering in-demand skills. You shouldn’t offer in-demand skills unless you know what you are doing.
There is an endless supply of learning opportunities online. And you don’t have to learn from some Joe Blow anymore. There is a good chance the industry experts you follow have courses available for purchase as well.
- VAClassroom – learn all of the hot virtual assistant skills
- Elite Blog Academy – learn the ins and outs of successful blogging and offer those skills to others
- Udemy – this site has affordable courses for almost everything under the sun
Pick something of interest or that clients have already been asking about and learn it.
3. Catch Up With Previous Clients
I can’t stress how important it is to stay in touch with prior clients. Just a quick “how’s it going?” or passing along an article of interest every now and then will keep you at the front of the list (hopefully) should they ever need help again. And you won’t feel so weird sending them a quick email should you have an opening for another client. A warm market is the best market. Keep it warm, friendly and helpful.
4. Update Your Service List or Portfolio
When was the last time you updated your service list, portfolio or even media kit? If it’s been awhile, there are likely a few changes. Maybe it’s time to up your rates, too.
Revisit all of your client interest and onboarding documents to make sure they are all up to date and reflect your current offerings and prices.
5. Work On Your Passive Income Avenues
There is an opportunity for passive income for everyone regardless of your interests or budget. The options run the gamut from dividends to peer-to-peer lending to real estate investing to blogging and beyond. These little things don’t require a lot of work day-to-day but can pay off big time in the long run.
Oh, how I love passive income. Everyone should have it! No excuses.
6. Do Some Soft Marketing/Networking
Even if you know you have another project coming down the pipeline, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to make a few new connections. You never know when you may need to call on your soft leads.
Join a few Facebook Groups where your target market hangs out. Spend some time answering their questions and introducing yourself. Don’t sell. Just be a helper. Offer to connect further by email if someone appears interested in your services.
7. Get Out of the House
Hey. If you have been working really hard and have your busy work all caught up, by all means, get out of the house and enjoy the fruits of your spoils. Go on vacation. Even better if you can figure out a way to write it off as a business expense!
Bonus tip: Automate It
As busy work-at-homers, we have so many tasks that need done day in and day out. These can be holes in our profitability buckets. Wasted time is wasted money. Spend some time looking at how you spend your time each day and then brainstorm ways you can have things done automatically.
Have you been in between jobs while working from home? I’d love to hear how you spend your downtime.