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Tumbleweed Territory: 5 Things to Do When Work Is Slow

Has work slowed down in your digital agency lately? Don’t panic! Read this guest blog from agency owner Abby Wood for 5 things to do when things are quiet.

Abby Wood

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Business Development

Abby Wood

Abby Wood

The Content Lab

Originally from Cambridge, England, Abby now lives in Ireland with her partner Nick and their border collie Bosco. A content strategist and copywriter for over 12 years, she's founder of The Content Lab (a white label content agency) and Content Goodies (providing white label content templates for agencies). She's also co-founder of Ireland Website Design (a full service eCommerce agency) and LearnRight (a white label LMS solution).

Tumbleweed On A Road.
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Let’s be real. Lots of us are currently experiencing the thing so many of us fear the most.

No, it’s not the devastating realization at 8:59 a.m. that you’re out of coffee. Although, that’s certainly up there.

Unfortunately, many digital agency owners and web designers are in the throes of a quiet period at work. A lull. A big old nasty slam on the client brakes. 

Chatting with a few members of the TAB Facebook community lately, there’s been an increase in clients pausing marketing plans and a reduction in leads/enquiries.

It ain’t fun, that’s for sure. And not having enough clients to fill your days with work or comfortably cover your expenses can be super stressful, no matter what anyone says.

There is hope, even when you don’t feel it on slow days!

However, I am here to tell you that just because things aren’t popping off at the moment, this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.

While you might be tempted to follow the lead of the ostrich and bury your head in the sand, taking advantage of this slow period can help you stay productive, proactive, and strengthen your belief in yourself as an agency owner and a leader.

After all, we all grow from challenges, so try to look at it as an opportunity for growth, professional development, and positive change. (If you need to go and cry while looking at cat memes for a little bit first, that’s totally ok – we’ve all been there.)

Let’s dive right into how you can harness this unpleasant situation and use it to create positive change in your agency.

1. Don’t panic and start accepting bad-fit clients

We’ve all been there. Work is slow, and you get freaked out about cash flow, so you take on a client, who just happens to be the equivalent of a giant walking red flag with even more mini red flags draped around it.

But saying no to work isn’t so easy when things aren’t exactly going as you’d hoped on the profitability front.

However, it’s important, even in slower periods, to trust your gut if it’s telling you to run very fast and very far away from a particular prospective client.

If you’re thinking you’ll just suck it up and kill time to get through the project so you can get paid, first consider the risks of accepting a bad client for your digital agency.

A bad client can lead to:

  • Loss of time: Trying to please them even though they’ll never be satisfied, making yet another round of edits, or being asked to complete tasks that aren’t part of your job description.
  • Loss of resources: Putting all your efforts into their project to meet unreasonable demands – which means you won’t be able to focus on the next good-fit client’s needs.
  • Loss of money: Spending more time than you’re getting paid for working on their project, or worse, not getting paid at all because they can’t be satisfied.
  • Loss of staff: Working with bad-fit clients affects the whole team. Your staff may become increasingly frustrated trying to work with a difficult client and are no longer happy in their jobs.
  • Loss of sanity: Trying to cope with all of the above while trying to commit time to outreach and sales so you can gain more clients leads to melting of the brain.

Overall, bad-fit clients are a bad choice – no matter how desperate times get. 

2. Start reaching out to old leads 

When you have a little extra spare time on your hands during a slow day at work, it’s the perfect opportunity to reach out to old clients or leads you haven’t been in touch with in a while.

Reconnect with old clients who used to give you recurring work but went silent a while back, as well as previously warm leads who couldn’t commit to a new project at the time.

If you haven’t gotten a definitive no, there is a potential for work there.

You’re not the only one experiencing this quiet period, so it’s possible that they might be, too.

In this case, your reaching out to them could come at the perfect time for both of you! A win-win for everyone!

Maybe they’re also struggling and need a fresh rebrand or a marketing push to attract more leads, gain more clients, and increase their revenue in these wobbly times.

Pro tip: Feeling overwhelmed reaching out? Set a do-able goal, whether that’s one a day, three a day, or ten.

3. Go back on projects you lost (or leads who went to another agency) over six months ago

It’s natural to miss out on sales – we work in a highly competitive industry. You can’t win them all!

Or can you? *Hold for gasps*

Make a list of all the leads you had that didn’t work out or went with your competitors over six months ago.

Ok, this might sound like a time-consuming process, but trust me, it’s a great way to get a head start!

Send them a friendly reminder of who you are and ask them how they’re getting on with their project.

If they aren’t seeing the kind of results they’d hoped from their chosen path, you’ve got space to make your case as to why they should hire you now and how you can help make their lives easier and actually achieve their growth goals.

If their needs aren’t currently being met and you make it clear to them that you can offer them some ideas and concrete solutions moving forward, then congratulations! You’re hired!

4. Send out email marketing and newsletters when you’ve got downtime

You’re already sending emails as part of your day-to-day work, so why not keep the ball rolling and take the time to create an email marketing series you can send out over the next few weeks or write a monthly company newsletter to your contacts?

Email marketing can create a whopping 760% increase in revenue, so it’s pretty clear that crafting email lists and writing compelling copy is a great way to use your time productively on one of those slow days.

As well as being a pretty chonky return on investment, it helps you stay at the top of your client’s minds and shows them that you’re busy working hard on offering an excellent service to them.

As well as putting your efforts into email marketing campaigns, it almost goes without saying that you should regularly post on social media to maintain a strong presence.

Be careful, though! Don’t just post any old content on there for the sake of content.

What you post on social media matters and impacts your audience’s perception of your brand.

Find the right balance between posting the obligatory salesy stuff while also remembering to have a little fun giving insights into who you are as an agency, sharing your expertise, and providing real value to your followers so they’ll be happy to pay you the big bucks as an expert in your field.

5. Don’t be tempted to reduce your prices

You’ve got to know your worth, honey.

Even if sales are slow right now, don’t accept any less than you deserve!

If leads are haggling on price, stay firm on your fee.

Instead, you can reduce the scope of the project. This way, the cost stays down for them while still receiving quality results, and you’re still making the same profit on your work but with fewer deliverables.

Reducing your prices is not only demeaning and demoralizing for you as a professional, but it can also damage your agency’s reputation.

Bonus point to add to your to-do list! Join The Admin Bar community if you haven’t already

It’s important to know that we’re all navigating this together, and you’re not alone.

*Intuitively starts clapping on the beat as Lean On Me mysteriously starts to play*

If you’re new to TAB, it’s an online community of freelancers and digital agency owners where people have the space to put questions to their peers, extend support and knowledge, and ultimately grow together as individuals.

It’s a fantastic space to learn from other thought leaders, discover an online class to develop new skills, collaborate on new projects, build relationships, and even just chat if you feel bored.

As a digital agency owner for over ten years now, I have personally gotten so much from joining The Admin Bar community and now consider head honcho Kyle a pal 🙂

Being able to learn from other like-minded people has been invaluable to me while helping other agency owners when they need it is a truly rewarding thing to be able to do.

We might all be working in competitive spaces, but there is room for all of us here.

So, if you’re currently feeling disillusioned in the middle of a slow period, don’t panic!

Stick to the points outlined in this blog, and always remember that you are not alone, you’ve got support, and things will pick up again if you just keep going.

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Abby Wood

Abby Wood

The Content Lab

Originally from Cambridge, England, Abby now lives in Ireland with her partner Nick and their border collie Bosco. A content strategist and copywriter for over 12 years, she's founder of The Content Lab (a white label content agency) and Content Goodies (providing white label content templates for agencies). She's also co-founder of Ireland Website Design (a full service eCommerce agency) and LearnRight (a white label LMS solution).

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