My Slow-Season To-Do List

Photo: Rawich, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Rawich, freedigitalphotos.net

Well hello, there.

I’m back from my short trip and happy to report it was wonderful. There’s nothing like seaside cocktails, a spa massage and a stroll punctuated by frequent ducks into Laguna Beach boutiques to revive a gal’s spirit. And it’s all the better when done alongside a close friend.

So here I am, back on the East Coast and ready to dive in. But if we’re being honest, I must admit there’s not much external work to dive back into right now. I finished up an assignment just before vacation and my next formal deadline isn’t for a couple of weeks. I have received letters of intent from editors for fall and winter assignments, but I won’t need to begin work on those for a while.

So … what to do?

As a relatively new freelancer (I’ve been doing this seriously for two years) I’ve discovered it can sometimes sting when work subsides. However, I’ve also learned that slow seasons can be some of a small-business owner’s greatest opportunities for growth.

Thus, I look at a dip in business as an opportunity to hone my skills, review my goals and plan strategically for the coming year.

If you’re in my position and interested in doing the same, I suggest creating a slow-season to-do list. Think about how you can use your time and efforts to grow your operation. Get creative and have fun with it! After all, other small and large business owners would love the opportunity to take a hiatus from the everyday grind in order to brainstorm business-building ideas. Think of it as your very own annual corporate retreat, minus the mediocre veggie and cheese trays and forced team-building exercises.

Here are my  goals for the remainder of the slow summer season:

1. Optimize my portfolio site.

I hired a wonderful Oregon-Based design firm called The Beauty Shop to simplify and retool my portfolio site last year. While I love the look of it, the template company I chose does not offer a zoom feature (crazy, I know). So in order for potential clients to actually read my work, I have to apply a workaround. Thankfully, the online self-publishing site ISSUU offers something I can use. It will take a lot of time to convert my materials in ISSUU so they’re zoom-able on my site. But it’s necessary.

2. Review my online materials and tweak my brand as needed.

After living with my brand message and my blog design for a while, I’ve decided both could use a revamp. So I’ve gone back to The Beauty Shop for a brand refresh. We start in about one month, which means I need to review my online materials and make a list of the specific items I want to change.

3. Organize my contact, client and potential-client lists.

Now that I have a list of potential, current and future clients, I need to store contact info in one easy-to-access place (probably an excel file).

4. Organize project materials.

One of my ongoing monthly projects requires that I contact the same 100-150 businesses each month in search of what promotions, special deals and programs they’re offering. Like my client list, it would be great to have these sources’ contact info in one file. (Excel again, most likely.)

5. Read an industry-specific publication.

I pick a career-focused book to read in addition to my recreational reading each summer. This summer, it’s “Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck,” by Seth Godin, whose quick and insightful blog posts I read and retweet each day.

6. Create an editorial calendar for my blog.

I don’t really want to admit this one on the blog, but I guess I must: I blog by the seat of my pants. Time to stop doing that.

And most importantly …

5. Produce and distribute queries for 2014 stories.

I follow a basic sales process outlined in one of my favorite reads, “The Wealthy Freelancer.” Like any other good business, I must always be innovating and selling. The story is my product. Summer is an especially ideal time for developing and pitching stories (querying) because many editors create their editorial calendars for the following year during the summer months. Thus, they’re looking for new material right now. The business I build over the next few months will determine the amount of contracts I receive (and cool stories I get to write) next year.

So as it turns out, I have a lot to do.

Try making a list of your own and you might discover your task list is quite full as well. If that’s the case, then count your lucky stars that you have the time and resources to do it. Chances are, you’ll begin to enjoy your slow summer season for what it really is: a chance to grow.

What’s on your to-do list? Tell me all about it in the comments section.

2 thoughts on “My Slow-Season To-Do List

  1. I really like this idea. Almost everyone who wants to be productive has a to-do list of some kind, but not everyone has a ‘slow season’ to-do list. I suppose the equivalent for me is my ‘wish list’, which is kind of like my back-up to-do list – tasks I can focus on if my main to-do list ever gets cleared!

    • Thanks, Brian! That’s absolutely true. Slow times are such good opportunities to tackle the stuff we wish we had time for at other points in the year / cycle. Good luck with your backup list. It always feels so good to check those longstanding low-priority items off for good.

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