“Downtime” and “non-billable hours” are two terms that can strike fear into the most confident consultant – especially in a questionable economy. And for good reason: Too many of either can make the difference between succeeding and calling it quits.
But downtime happens and it’s the reason we often charge what we do for our services. There’s rarely “100 percent utilization,” right? In reality, it usually ends up being 200 percent or 10 percent. Sometimes we work non-stop for 48 hours, and then go several days with little to do. Because we’re often subject to the whims – and the cash flow — of our clients, it’s hard to forecast just how busy you’re going to be at any given time.
Since it isn’t always easy to plan out when we’ll work and when we’ll be sitting on the bench doing little more than marketing our skills to potential new clients, it’s best to have some plans for what we can do to remain productive when downtime comes along. Here are a few options to consider:
Attend a Conference
I must admit that this is an easy one for me because I live in the conference capital of the world – Las Vegas. Since I do a lot of writing and marketing and social media as part of my consulting practice, I can get into most technical conferences for free. That saves me anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per event, not to mention travel and lodging costs.
As important as is the professional information you’ll pick up, conferences can also serve as an opportunity for you to market yourself, especially on the expo floor where everyone in the business is pushing their services and products. Look for a few potential clients you could help and go after them. Over the years, I’ve managed to find several clients at conferences I’ve attended.
Publish Expert Articles
If you’re a consultant and you’re good at what you do – and you must be if you’re still in business – then you probably should be writing expert content to draw attention to your skills and traffic to your consulting website. Besides attracting prospective customers to your site, in time that content may help you get media passes to some trade events. Also, once you build a good following, it helps to legitimize your consulting practice and expertise.
Sometimes you can do this for pay, but often you may just be writing guest articles for recognition. Either way, you’ll be testing your knowledge, forcing yourself to remain current and working on your writing and presentation skills. That will only help you when you have to put together your next client proposal.
Seek out websites with blogs or trade journals that are meaningful to you and ask if you can submit articles to them. It may not bring you any additional revenue, but it will be an interesting challenge and give you more content for your resume and links to and from your own site.
In Part 2, we’ll cover three more things you can do fill your time and hopefully broaden your horizons, grab new clients — or at least clear your head.