What to Do with Time on Our Hands

Pandemic…crisis…emergency…disaster…every word used to describe COVID-19 raises images of doom, gloom and apocalypse. That’s why I am doing my best to avoid using those words. My attitude (which earned me the nickname “Pollyanna”) is one of a glass half full and there’s always a bright side to look on – even in a situation such as this. Do I experience moments of depression and worry? Of course.

As a freelancer, small business owner and artist, I am lucky to have already been working remotely, so there was no adjustment to go through when businesses were closed, and employees required to start working from home. It’s “business as usual” for me. And I am largely an introvert, so spending days on end by myself is not an emotional challenge, though I know it is for many of you.

If you are a business owner, you may still be wrapping up loose ends, contacting clients and suppliers, calling your lenders to request extensions on loan payments, and investigating government assistance for your business and what you can do for your employees. But what happens when you suddenly look at your list and you’ve done all you can for now? If you become bored and restless, that will only lead to frustration, stress and anxiety. I recently heard that we actually grieve when we are laid-off, and also tend to feel guilt, though we have done nothing wrong. Expect to experience the same emotions as an entrepreneur in a mandated shutdown.

Many of us (myself included) are spending more time on social media, which also helps to fill our need to socialize, and smart advertisers are taking advantage of the fact, offering both free and paid advice and training online. Email marketers are doing the same. This prompted me to think about more productive things that I and other entrepreneurs can be doing than scrolling through social media.

Things that can help us get through this challenge and actually come out ahead at the end of it. Here are some of the ideas I came up with that might be helpful for you:

  1. Create, finish or update your website – online sales are a great way to make up for some of your lost product sales during the non-essential business shut-down.
  2. Start or get back to your social media page – remember all those people spending more time online than ever before? This is an opportunity to build your audience and build relationships with them.
  3. Create online content – if you offer training, coaching or consulting services, take it online! Reach out to individuals and businesses to offer them your services online, starting with contacts you already have and boosted Facebook posts.
  4. Create an inventory of post content – take this opportunity to write at least three months of posts (one per week) and find photos to go with them. Set them to post on a regular schedule in your social media accounts or use a posting management program, like Hootsuite or Buffer, and you’re done for a couple of months!
  5. Take photos for your website and social media – photos are SO important for online marketing! Take good photos of your products or business. If you’re lucky enough to be quarantined with someone, have them take some photos of you “at work”. If you lack photography skills, find someone who has them and is willing to do it while maintaining “social distance”.
  6. Organize your office – unless you have OCD, your office probably needs some work to make it more efficient and pleasant to work in. Rearrange to make it more comfortable to work in and more welcoming if you invite clients/customers into the space. Make files more accessible, clean out and organize that supply cupboard, add a bulletin board and planning calendar.
  7. Catch up on filing – a lot of us are bad about keeping up with filing, then become frustrated and overwhelmed. Eliminate some stress and get it under control now, including establishing a place for things that need filed and a routine for doing it on at least a weekly basis.
  8. Catch up on bookkeeping and billing – we get so busy doing what it is we do, that we neglect invoicing, balancing the checking account, recording paid invoices, and keeping up with bills to be paid. Get caught up and establish a routine now…or commit to hiring someone to do them for you.
  9. Computerize your accounting – if number 8 is an issue for you, make it easier to get those accounting tasks done by setting up a software program. Entering your first three months of 2020 will give you practice using the program but not be overwhelming.
  10. Create or update a logo with a designer – invest in working with a graphic designer to create or revise an existing logo for a high-quality and flexible design that works for all your marketing needs.
  11. If you’re a creative entrepreneur, CREATE! – with nearly all your opportunities to sell cancelled (festivals, galleries and gallery shows, markets, open studios, classes, etc.), take this time to not only do some of the business tasks on this list, but also create lots of inventory!
  12. Take an online course – many online educators are offering free access to at least some of their courses and discounts on others during this quarantine. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn something that will help your career or business.
  13. Call or email clients/customers – ask how they are and if there’s anything you can do for them. You could offer doorstep delivery, find and special order something they need, offer to add service with a product that doesn’t involve personal contact.
  14. Start our blog or newsletter – if your customers would benefit from your knowledge, consider starting a weekly or monthly blog or sending an e-newsletter monthly or quarterly. Hearing from you regularly with valuable content will keep you “on their radar”.
  15. Survey your team online – are there improvements needed, problems you’re unaware of, or do they have ideas for new products/services? This is a great opportunity for team building and letting them know they are valued!
  16. Update or write your business plan – if there’s one lesson to be learned from COVID-19, it’s that we all need to get better at planning! Every business needs a plan to stay on track, guide its growth and ensure its sustainability in events such as this one.
  17. Give your business a facelift – If you can do things like painting, wallpapering, rearranging, landscaping, re-sealing the driveway on your own, this is the perfect time to do them. Order a new sign, freshen up your furnishings, replace the window coverings…there’s lots you can do!
  18. Create new menu items or services – this is also a great time to re-evaluate your customers’ needs and preferences and update your offerings.
  19. Plan a “Welcome Back” event – I am predicting a bit of a party atmosphere when the quarantine is lifted, so anticipation of a celebration at your business will get customers excited about coming back and make them feel appreciated.
  20. Create a marketing plan and marketing materials – doing this now will jumpstart your business and cash flow when the quarantine is lifted.
  21. Create a disaster plan – you’ve already learned a lot during this event, so what plans can you put in place for your business to mitigate the effects of another disaster – whatever it might be?
  22. Include your team – use technology to strategize with your team and make them part of planning and preparing for your business (and their employment) recovery.

I hope this was helpful and makes you a little more optimistic about this unexpected opportunity (we must think of it as such) and the future. Optimism is so powerful in helping you stay healthy (emotionally and physically) and it will do the same for your business.

This historic event is testing our strength as individuals, as a community and as a society. But, to quote another optimistic soul, “We will get through this, together.”

Written by Blog Contributor: Julia McCray