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Perhaps your work is on hold due to the current COVID-19 situation or maybe business has simply slowed down – whatever the reason, we’re taking a look at how you can make the most out of your downtime in this article, whether you’re a contractor or a freelancer.

As contractor accountants, we know how important it is for you to remain productive even when the business slows down, since you probably won’t always be busy, so it’s crucial that you learn how to use your free time to your advantage.

Update Your CV

One of the first things you should do if you have a bit of free time is update your CV. A good CV helps you to promote your services and skills; it also showcases your track record of providing great service and of being able to complete your client’s projects on time.

You can also display any recent skills you’ve developed or anything new you’ve learned that can be useful to your clients. Having your own business means you need to constantly advertise your skills, so getting your CV up to date is essential.

Check out our tips to write a killer contractor CV, which can help you to attract more clients and get more gigs.

Refresh Your Industry Knowledge

Industries are constantly changing and evolving, which means you have to keep learning and expanding your knowledge. When you have some downtime, you can read industry publications to stay on top of current news, research the trends of the moment, subscribe to relevant news sites, and so much more.

Being aware of everything that goes on in your industry will give you an edge over the competition. This is why it’s so important that you adopt a mindset of always wanting to learn more, since it can provide you with opportunities that you may otherwise miss.

Brush Up Your Skills (or Learn New Ones)

You should also refresh your skills if you end up with some time on your hands. This is also a great way to feel productive (and to keep you mind busy) when you have slow work weeks, since it’s easy to get worried about lack of work.

Professional development is essential for everyone, but especially for contractors and freelancers, who have to keep searching for new gigs and getting new clients. Evaluate your current skills, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, to help you figure out which areas to develop.

Keep in mind what the industry requires at any given moment as well. If your competitors possess a particular skill that you don’t, take this time to learn it so that you’re not at a disadvantage. From reading books on a subject you’re not familiar with and watching online tutorials to taking a course and listening to podcasts, there are many different ways to learn new skills.

Identify the most important – or urgent – skill to learn and work on it while you don’t have so much work to do. If you make sure to stay on top of your game, you’ll reap the rewards when work picks up. You can more easily find new clients or ask for a better rate if your skills are in demand.

Try to Get New Clients

If you’re going through a slow period, take this opportunity to get new clients. Networking is crucial for this; while many events have been cancelled and social distancing remains in place, the digital world is buzzing. As an example, there are online meetups where industry professionals can forge new relationships and discuss the current state of their industry. This can help them to get potential leads.

You may want to avoid sending out cold email after cold email, as they’re unlikely to yield great results. Instead, why not spend some time on LinkedIn? You can connect with people on LinkedIn and build relationships, and you can also showcase your portfolio of work online easily.

You may want to check in with colleagues too, since they can have opportunities for you as well. Take a look at job boards to find clients searching for a contractor or freelancer with your specific skills.

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But Don’t Forget Old Customers

This may be a good time to go through your old client list as well. Connect with previous clients instead of letting the relationship fizzle, because this can lead to new opportunities. While it’s not always guaranteed that you can find work with older clients, if you’ve made a good impression on them, you have a high chance of getting a gig with them.

Check in to see if they need your services and make a note to follow up a bit down the line again. This can keep the relationship going. It will also keep you on their minds so, when they do need someone with your skills, they remember to call you.

Boost Your Social Media Presence

Even before the coronavirus situation, having an online presence was crucial for contractors and freelancers. If you don’t have that much work to do at the moment, use your spare time to update your social media channels or to revamp your website. This can help potential clients to find you, so showcase yourself at your best.

Building and maintaining an online presence is a great investment of your time, as it allows you to advertise your skills to other people. Add testimonials to your site and social media, which can act as social proof and help potential clients to see how well you work.

When it comes to your social media, from Twitter to Facebook, try to get involved in discussions happening in your industry as well. Not only can this help you to build your brand and promote your business, but it will also help people to see you as an expert (or an authority) in your field.

Plan and create a publishing schedule of social media or blog posts, try out new platforms, look for guest post opportunities, ensure your branding is consistent across your site and social media, etc.

Maintain Equipment

It’s not just the pandemic that can slow down work. Some months of the year may be less busy than others; for instance, seasonal work tends to pick up around summer, Christmas, or any other type of holiday.

If your business is going through a slower period, take this opportunity to maintain your equipment and to update the machinery you need to do your job. You can take care of any potential vehicles too. Your equipment may have to undergo an annual inspection, so it’s best to do it when you have free time.

In addition, you can take this moment to upgrade your computer software or do buy new software tools as well – you have more time to realise whether or not the new software works for you and if you should just try something else instead.

Catch Up on Unfinished Work

Tackling unfinished work is great during slower weeks or months. Your clients will appreciate it and you will feel productive and accomplished as well. You may also feel less stressed; it’s normal to be anxious about work when things slow down, so this will keep your mind occupied and focused on the tasks at hand.

Your finished projects can lead to new business too, be it because your clients recommend you to others or because you advertised the gigs on social media and a potential customer stumbled upon them.

Get Your Sales Pitch Down

If you’ve not had the time to review your pitch before, do it now. There are many freelancers and contractors competing for the same work, so you want to stand out from the crowd and differentiate yourself. Think about what you have to offer clients that is unique to you and your business, for instance, and consider how you’re going to approach people.

Are you going to find them on LinkedIn? Are you active on professional online groups? No matter what you’re planning on doing, figure this out now that you’re not running around completing tasks for clients. Think about past pitches that failed and learn from those experiences as well.

Also, this is a great time to review your rates. Are you charging enough? Do you need to raise them to reflect new skills? If you’re struggling to pay your bills or you don’t have much spare cash to travel or have a hobby, then it’s time to increase your hourly or daily prices.

Finally Take a Break (or Holiday)

Of course, you don’t actually have to do anything if you have some free time. If a break is long overdue, use your downtime to take care of your mental wellbeing and to recharge batteries.

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No one can work all the time – you have to take time off in order to be productive, so unwind with a book, go out for walks, catch up on your favourite shows, spend quality time with your kids, explore nature, and start or continue a hobby. The possibilities are endless.

This will help you to avoid burnout too. While contractors and freelancers have to work a lot to build their business, they also need to find the right balance between work and personal life.

Because we’ve been working with self-employed individuals for a long time by providing accounting for contractors, we know that one of the reasons people strike out on their own is to have a better quality of life, including having more time to themselves. So, don’t work just for the sake of it; use your free time to relax and you’ll come back feeling renewed and energised.

Get Your Documents in Order

What better time to get important documents in order than when you have time to spare? For example, if you’re in the construction industry, make sure that all your licenses and registrations are up to date.

If you’ve been meaning to get insurance – or need to renew your cover – then it’s a good idea to do it when you’re not so busy. Once work picks up again, you may find yourself struggling to keep up with all of your tasks, so it’s a massive help to get this out of the way now.

However, you don’t want to spend all of your free time sifting through paperwork. If you need to go over your tax information but don’t want to spend hours sorting your taxes, Gorilla Accounting can help.

Get an Accountant to Help with Taxes

As a self-employed individual, you will have several tax deadlines to keep in mind. You have better things to do during your downtime than going through your papers and making sure that everything is in order before submitting to HMRC.

As limited company accountants and sole trader accountants, we can help you to deal with the financial admin that comes from owning a business, including submitting tax returns to the government. We can help you to go over your numbers and to review costs versus profit as well, so that you’re always on top of all financial details you need to run your business.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us today on 0330 024 0406 to learn more about how we can help you.