If you find yourself with lots of down time, here are some ways to invest your newfound free time.
Attack your to-do list
If you don’t have a to-do list, then you have too much free time. Your list should be some combination of marketing, administrative, and all those other things that make a small business run.
Slow periods are an excellent time to put some extra effort into your marketing efforts. Write some extra blog posts and save some for down the road when things pick up again. Or, if your website currently has between zero-one posts, double that number!
You may want to make some minor, or major, modifications to your firm’s website. Sometimes even “minor” changes like posting updated pictures can make a big difference (especially if you look like a twenty-year-old standing in train tracks).
Perhaps lowest on the list is cleaning or reorganizing your office. Well, hopefully cleaning is done regularly (and meaningfully). Reorganizing can include getting rid of CLE’s from ten years ago, hanging that two-year old award, and finally getting a new chair to replace the one that’s on it’s last leg.
Admittedly, there’s a reason these types of things get pushed off—they’re not really that fun. At the same time, they also keep your business running. And it’s much easier to do them when you have nothing better to do.
Take advantage and take some time off
Taking a vacation as a solo attorney is not easy. I always tell people that I have lots of control over my daily schedule, but fairly minimal control over my long-term schedule. In other words, when it’s slow, I work less. When it’s busy, I work more.
With that in mind, take advantage of the holidays and throttle down your working hours. If you’ve been in a business for a few years, you know the holidays are slow, and you also know that things will pick up and get crazy again. That means you need to take advantage of the slow time when you can.
Easing off can mean whatever you want. Take a four-day weekend. Only work half-days. The beauty of running your own business is that you know what works for you. For me, I rarely ignore everything for more than a day. I’d rather check my e-mail a couple of times a day to make sure nothing exploded. It sucks, but that’s what works for me. If you can check out completely—do it!
Look back to plan for the future
This can mean any number of things. You can compare your finances to the previous year. Among other things, compare your income, your expenses, and your projections for next year. Staying in business is always a good goal, but if you’ve been around for awhile, aim for something higher than that. Goals, especially for lawyers, are great motivators.
If you track your intake and marketing efforts, try and figure out what worked and what did not. It’s not an exact science, but you should get a better idea of what works better and what is perhaps a misuse or your money. For example, I just realized I was paying $10/month for an e-mail marketing campaign that has been dead for months. $10/month doesn’t break the firm’s budget, but discovering multiple wasted expenditures can add up fast.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to take five minutes to pat yourself on the back. it’s easy to develop doom and gloom when the phone stops ringing during the holidays. Take a few minutes and think about all your successes over the past year. If you’re still in business, your successes vastly outnumber the disappointments. Give yourself some credit, and then finish that to-do list!