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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

On Monday, when I sat down to start my week, I had an email in my inbox from a client giving me their approval to launch their new website. I anticipated this, and the site was live within an hour and a half.

Satisfied with another completed project, I opened Plutio, my project management software of choice, to see what I was to work on next. And what I found was nothing. I had no website projects. I had no podcast cover artwork to design. My to-do list of client work was blank.

I can’t remember the last time this happened. I didn’t even have proofs out with clients that may come back. I had nothing, nil, nada, zip, zilch and whatever other ways I could say it. I had no client work.

It’s now Friday afternoon as I write this, and not a single new project came in this week.

For the first time in over a year, an entire week went by without a single order from my Podcast Branding website. For the first time in an even longer period, I didn’t have a client website on the go.

This lack of work is a situation that many self-employed designers may face. It doesn’t only happen to new designers trying to grow their business. It can happen to anyone at any time.

Maybe it’s how the planets have aligned, or Lady Luck decided to take a vacation. I don’t know, but it happens. It just happened to me. And it can happen to you.

But experiencing a lull like this shouldn’t make you worry. I’ve been in this line of work for a long time, and I can tell you, lulls never last. Give it a little time, and once again, you’ll feel overwhelmed from having too much on your plate.

What to do when facing lulls.

The best way to face lulls is by embracing them. Please take advantage of the time they provide you because it won’t last.

This past week was one of the most productive for me in a while. I had no client work to hold me back, allowing me to accomplish many things.

On Tuesday, my daughter asked if I could build her a website. She has an Etsy store but wants to move off that platform to one of her own. What she wanted was very simple. And there was no rush. She told me I could get to it whenever I had the time.

Well, guess what? I had the time. So I got right to it, and in a matter of hours, I had completed her new eCommerce website. I did say what she wanted was very simple. So it didn’t take long.

And the look on my daughter’s face when I showed it to her that same day was priceless. You got to win those parenting points whenever you can. Am I right?

But that wasn’t all.

I met with a client the week before this. They’re looking for a website redesign and expect a proposal from me.

I have a multi-page website proposal template, which makes submitting proposals very easy. I open the template, update the information about whatever project I’m proposing, save it as a PDF file and send it to the client. Easy peasy. I’ve been using this template for a few years now, and it was getting a bit dated. But I never had the time to update it until now.

It would typically take me 20 to 30 minutes to complete a proposal like this one. Instead, I devoted a couple of hours to redesigning my proposal template before sending it to the client. I’ve been thinking of redesigning it for a long time, and because of this lull, I was able to scratch it off my to-do list.

I also had the opportunity to look at my Podcast Branding website and make many minor changes. I changed some wording here and there and updated a few of the images on the site. I also decided to eliminate one service I wasn’t keen on doing anymore. And I added some clarification to the other services to increase conversion.

I closed many of the browser tabs I had opened by reading articles I was “saving for later” or watching tutorial videos for various things. And I didn’t feel guilty about any of it because I wasn’t taking time away from client work. After all, I didn’t have any.

And of course, I did take the time to reach out to several old clients that I haven’t heard from in a while, to get in touch and let them know I’m still here should they need me.

Every day this week, I worked from 9-5, and I wasted none of that time even though I had no client work. I didn’t feel self-pity or down in the dumps. Because I knew this lull wouldn’t last, and I wanted to take advantage of every minute of it.

We often put off working on our own business. And then we forget about it when we have a bit of time we could devote.

I usually say you should treat your own business as a client and block off time to work on it. But a lull is the perfect opportunity to get as much of it done as possible.

It helps if you have recurring revenue.

I would feel much worse if I didn’t have recurring revenue streams in this situation. In episode 216 of the podcast, I talked about offering website maintenance to earn extra income. This service provides peace of mind for my clients since they don’t have to worry about the security or maintenance of their websites. If they have a blog or podcast, all they have to do is publish new posts or episodes, and I do everything else.

I have a virtual assistant who handles the weekly maintenance for me, so other than checking in once per month; I only need to get involved when there’s an issue. And to be honest, that rarely happens, thanks to the many preventative measures I have in place. But this also means that even though I had no client work this week, money was still flowing into my bank account.

Retainers are another form of recurring revenue that could help you get through lulls. I don’t currently have any retainer clients, but it will help you get through slow times if you do. Check out episode 32 and episode 255 to learn more about retainer agreements.

Lulls are a normal part of running a design business.

Lulls will happen. In your early years, you may experience them more often. As your reputation grows and you gain more and more clients, you’ll experience fewer lulls. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never experience any. I hope you don’t. But that’s the reality of our industry–There’s no guarantee of steady work or income.

But in my opinion, that trade-off is worth it so that you and I can do what it is we love doing, designing.

So the next time things slow down, remember these five things.

  1. Lulls offer an excellent opportunity to reconnect with past clients
  2. They allow you to work on what you’ve neglected in your business.
  3. They allow you to catch up on the many to-do items you keep putting off.
  4. They give you the time to improve your design and business skills.
  5. And most importantly, remember that lulls don’t last. So please take advantage of them when they present themselves.

Just because there’s no client work doesn’t mean you should stop working.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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Resourceful Designer podcast intros are performed by the amazing Wayne Henderson of MediaVoiceOvers.com. Wayne is available to help you with any voice-over work you require.