I’ve been writing about what we can constructively do with the scary gaps in our consulting assignments, otherwise known as “bench time.” In part one, I looked at two of my five suggestions:
- Attend a Conference: You’ll learn about new technology and may be able to network and gain new clients in the process.
- Publish Expert Content Articles: Write about your areas of expertise. It’ll expand your horizons, get your name out to more potential customers and generally raise your profile in the industry.
Now, the next three on my list.
Make Strategic Client Contacts
I realize this is probably the obvious one, but sometimes we can get so frustrated on the bench that it’s hard to focus, plan and use our time wisely or logically. Or, we may panic and go into marketing overdrive. That may sound good but targeted, smart marketing is better. Worst of all, we may think that it’s time to give up consulting and start sending out our resumes for every job that even remotely relates to our experience. Don’t do it. Stop and think first.
A better way to spend your time is to strategically seek out new clients. I generally do this by searching the Internet for companies who may have needs I can address. Then I search for the right executives to target by direct email. You can even try responding to some of the more legitimate looking Craigslist ads in your area. Yes, Craiglist is its own thing and so many scams are listed every day that it can be a big time-waster. On the other hand, I’ve found two pretty lucrative gigs there, so it’s something I periodically go back and check.
Reconnect With Past Clients
Never lose connection with your past clients – especially if they were good clients who may need you in the future. Even when you haven’t reconnected on any viable work for several years, remember that needs change. They may not be contacting you because they’ve forgotten about all of their options, lost your contact information or had some internal restructurings. None of that means they don’t need you. In the past couple of years, I’ve had six instances where a former client was thankful I reached out to them and said that my timing was perfect. Their needs had changed to where they were ready to give me more work.
Actually Really Take A Vacation
Vacation – who can take a vacation from 25/8 consulting? This is always a hard one for the heads-down dedicated consultant. Nearly every time we take a trip, I take my work with me, which drives my wife crazy. Often, I have someone else drive while I try to get as much done as possible to and from our destination.
However you need to do it, be sure to take vacations. If possible, do it without any work involved – that’s what I’m going to try to do this year. Your family will appreciate it more than you realize. So will your head.
It’s always scary having downtime. The key to handling it is to not panic. You’re still the expert you were on your last gig – and you will get more work. Use this time wisely to clear your head, expand your horizons and strategize. Don’t bail unless you find it absolutely necessary. Remember: downtime’s not forever.