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Making Headway on a Slow Day: 9 Ways to Turn Down-Time into Productivity Time


If you work from home, you know the kind of day I mean. You made the calls. You revised those drafts. You sent out the emails. Where is everybody!? As much as you used to relish a slow day when you were corporate, it's a little different when you're playing boss to yourself. Your mind gets to wandering. Should I head out to the park? Should I hit the mall? Should I... file for unemployment?

For a freelance writer, designer or web marketer who works from home, a day without contact from the outside world can bring on anything from sluggishness and inertia to a panic attack. Such fun games the mind will play when the two of you are left alone for long periods of time! But here's a little secret about slow days. They're the perfect opportunity to catch up on everything that went out of your head the minute the phone stopped ringing.

How do you remember what it is you were supposed to be doing before it became unimportant? Think back to the last time you were swamped! Chances are, your mind was in overdrive, firing off ideas about how you could be improving your business. Were you mulling over a couple of articles? Pipedreaming a new web marketing strategy with an online buddy? Wishing you had remembered to meta-tag every page of your website?

A slow day is your big chance to get cracking on those little plans that will lead to big business for your company. Do you make lists of things that never get accomplished? Today's the day you'll be filling that goal notebook with checkmarks! Here are some tips on how to make headway on a slow day.

1. Learn a new program. Remember last month when you bought "HTML for Dummies" and then tossed it into your closet? Now's the time to drag that book out of hiding. Remember that free software you installed along with your scanner? Take the tutorial. A day that's free of interruption is the perfect day to pick up a few new technical pointers. Mastering some new programs can save you a huge headache when push comes to shove and you're struggling with that last-minute project.

2. Organize your workspace. Isn't it about time you stopped using the floor as your file cabinet? And STOP depending on your email for phone numbers; you'll be sorry the day the server goes down and you can't get in touch with your biggest client! Invest in some hanging file folders and a Rolodex--so you'll have easy access to contact information, project notes, contracts and such. Stock up on printer cartridges and paper so you don't run out in the middle of an important project. Hang a wall calendar and start using it. There are so many small things you can do to get organized and increase your productivity!

3. Write an article. Experiencing freelancer frustration with nowhere to vent? Had a recent eye-opener while doing work for a client? Being an independent contractor means something new every day. Whether it's a challenge, a victory or a pitfall, everything you come away with is a valuable lesson to be learned. Why not share your knowledge with the world? There are thousands of websites looking for content. Many give you a byline, and some will even pay you! What a great way to make the most of your experiences... and get your name out there in print.

4. Do some research. Ever have a conversation with a colleague, and "not really know what they're talking about?" Say they mention 'viral marketing'- well, you've heard the term, sure, but what does it mean, really? "AdSense articles... what is that?" you wonder. Down time is the perfect time to get informed and updated! Do a Google search on all those mysterious buzzwords you've been hearing. Go through your old emails and catch up on reading. Surf around; bookmark some good sites. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what you learn in just a few hours!

5. Join a Network. Web networking's the way to go... use your "free day" to make some new contacts and maybe even a few friends. Participate in a forum discussion where you can share your knowledge as well as learn from others! If you're already part of a network, take this time to reconnect with people who might become future clients or business associates. When you least expect it, they'll come out of hiding with an exciting work proposition... maybe even on your next "slow day!"

6. Update your website. There is nothing more unprofessional than a website that's only half-built, or not up-to-date. Still have Christmas imagery bedecking your homepage in March? Get rid of it! Thought about raising your hourly rate but never got around to doing it? Now's the time! Whether it's adding portfolio samples, improving the general design, adding legalese or putting together a Testimonials page from satisfied clients, chances are there's something that can be done to improve your website and increase your credibility!

7. Buy a present for your business. Got a stash of cash in your PayPal account? Invest a little of it in the future of your business. Join a freelance website with a good reputation. Take a 2-day course in something you've always wanted to know more about. Gifts that will broaden your professional horizons and ultimately increase sales are money well spent!

8. Learn how to become a Website Affiliate. Build business relationships, get exposure, share information and get paid for it! Affiliate Programs are usually free to join, and with a few clicks of the mouse, you can supplement your income simply by driving traffic to other people's websites. How's that for easy cash?

9. Create a Company Newsletter. If you don't already have one, downtime is your chance to build a contact list and put together a company newsletter. With a little investigation you'll discover that many websites offer free trial periods where you can learn to use their contact base and newsletter-template software. And there are tons of sites on the web that offer free articles that you can print in your publication. Maybe you can even make use of those articles you wrote the last time nothing was going on!

Now, what are you waiting for? You've only got half-a-slow-day left to get going on these projects. Happy Freelancing!

Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. Use with permission.

Dina Giolitto is a New-Jersey based Copywriting Consultant with nine years' industry experience. Her current focus is web content and web marketing for a multitude of products and services although the bulk of her experience lies in retail for big-name companies like Toys"R"Us. Visit http://www.wordfeeder.com for rates and samples.


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