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12 Things to Do When Business is Slow

I have been approached by more than one member of the community asking for advice on how to find clients, the phone is not ringing.

The first thing to look at is the calendar.  At the time of writing we are in early February.  I have been working as a web site designer since 2008, and every January on record has been my least profitable month for new site web design projects.  It isn’t surprising because I am literally flat out from October – December. Everyone needs me then and every year, by the middle of February or early March I am juggling multiple sites and say hey, I am NOT going to be one of those small business fail statistics!

We all have ebbs and flows in our work, the smart use the ebb in client projects for other things, which actually make my business more profitable, relieves stress and generates more clients.

    1.  Blog: An editorial calendar is helpful and strategic.  I am sure you can take yourself over to Pinterest and find a fun downloadable that you can complete – or try this – grab a latte, green tea, or even a glass of wine and write out 50 ideas for posts.  Chances are you have at least 10 brewing in your mind and if not check out HubSpot’s blog topic generator.  Write and queue up as many posts as possible.  Posts are WHAT YOU NEED TO GET TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE.  You know this, I know you do, but it’s hard to do for ourselves.  If people do a Google search in your town for your website you better come up in those results!  Blogging will do that for you.
    2. Finances: spend the time getting your books organized, outline a plan for making quarterly payments for the next year, set up your 401K, if you have clients that you invoice regularly see if you can automate that process.
    3. Consider your revenue streams: Being a web designer actually means you have a LOT of talents and knowledge, what other revenue streams for your business can help you offset a slow period?  Organize those into services and then reach out to your existing clients to see if perhaps they need things, click the link to read more about revenue streams for web designers.
    4. Update your own website:  I bet most of you would say that your own website is neglected and not your best work.  Now’s the time!  If you are a burden to yourself, consider using the Divi Cloud Plugin. You will have access to loads of beautifully designed pages, simply add your own images and text and you will be shocked at how quickly you can get a whole new look.
    5. Network: There are over a thousand WordPress MeetUps around the world.  At my little MeetUp we have a guy who works at JetPack (say what you want, I think there are many awesome features) and Matt from the Matt Report Podcast.  Two awesome guys I never would have met if I hadn’t left my office.  Then of course there are loads of small business meet ups where you can look for new clients 🙂
    6. Read: The Power of Habit, Crushing It! or Start With Why are three popular books that you will learn from.
    7. Organize your Systems: Review (or create) your contract, set up a standardized “menu” of your services, design your Pitch template, build a series of onboarding emails.  I have spoken with 17hats about automating many of the Web Designers’ processes, you may find our talk helpful.
    8. Get Outside: Most of us to a lot of creative thinking away from out desk.  Enjoy time away from your office.  If it’s cold in your neck of the woods, visit an art museum or go see a film.
    9. Build Websites: Most of my new clients want designs that are similar to things I have in my portfolio.  So why not design a site, layouts, pages, posts or modules and put them into your portfolio.  You will learn new skills, you can save those to your Cloud Library and update them once you have new clients.  YES, PUT THESE IN YOUR PORTFOLIO.
    10. Teach:  Set up an online course, a webinar or host people in your office for a WordPress course.  My local library is always looking for people to give courses.  Sometimes these are paid gigs.
    11. Volunteer: Does someone you know or a local worthy cause need your skills?  I am sure they would be grateful to have someone with your skill set, and often the good we put into the world comes back to us in spades.
    12. Revisit your Phase B List: Often with web design projects I will include a list of option items, which I call Phase B.  These are things such as Newsletter set up, SEO, blogging (other things from the revenue stream list).  If times are slow you look back at the clients you have worked with over the past year and think about their Plan B’s.  Reach out and suggest you break ground on those other items.

The important thing to remember when times are slow is to not panic and take on projects that you know are not a good fit.

This list is just my dozen, please share if you have other strategies, I love to learn from the community.

Blog Admin
EMP Author is our generic name for contributors on this blog that are no longer associated with the company but have added content in the past and the content is seen as valuable.

A little about the author, Blog Admin

EMP Author is our generic name for contributors on this blog that are no longer associated with the company but have added content in the past and the content is seen as valuable.


  1. Stephanie

    Great reminders. Thanks, Eileen! 🙂

  2. Sandra Ierardi

    Great advice as usual. I have found that many small businesses are reorganizing their budgets and getting back on track through the January time frame. Come February, they all start to wake up with Punxsutawney Phil. And in March, the flood gates open because they needed their new site back in January!
    I often do my big year end taxes NOW! No need to put that off until April. With a clear mind and clean slate, I “re-examine” my current budget (I emphasize re-examine because I already had a budget in place before entering the new year), re-forecast where I want to be in December and work backwards to determine if I’m already on track, then adjust for how many projects or sales I need to fulfil my lofty goals. And then IMPLEMENT!
    And because its a well known fact that way too many will be without a satisfactory retirement plan, I always commit to engaging in some type of passive income project(s) that I can easily fund my retirement without taking from building my businesses.
    One other point to consider, if one needs steady income, it’s ok to ‘go to work’ to get yourself back on your feet. Becoming an “intrapreneur” of a company, even if part time, may certainly give you the confidence or experience you truly need to continue to build your side business. And, it just might fulfill a social gap.
    So much to do as an entrepreneur, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • Eileen Lonergan

      Excellent feedback and insights from such a successful and productive business person! I love the idea of being an intrepreneur. Thank you Sandra.

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