How to use all that extra time productively and keep your business going.

Without a doubt this is a bleak and scary time. Especially if you are self-employed and feeling isolated. Most solopreneurs work from home. They don’t employ staff and rely on networking events for contact with other people. Networking events provide support, referrals, ideas and a chance to meet with other business owners. Most of these events have now been suspended.

The self-employed will be the most affected financially. They do not have the cushion of an employee salary or full sick pay. This will especially hit service-based businesses as projects, events, beauty salon visits, non-essential health appointments and training courses are being cancelled or postponed. Non-essential luxury goods will also see a downturn in sales. In addition pubs, restaurants and the leisure industry will be severely hit.

For many of us the Coronavirus outbreak means self-isolating for an extended period. But this needn’t mean feeling isolated. Each day make a point of calling others in the same situation to lift your spirits.

If you are now finding that you are spending much more time in your home office than normal, you can use this time productively. Here are some ideas of how you can make a difference to your business rather than binge-watching Netflix.

1. Tidy or decorate your office
If you have a home office or space spend this additional time clearing and tidying it up. Freshen it up with a lick of paint and reorganise it. Decorate the walls with inspiring and uplifting images and words to create a positive space. File paperwork and shred anything you no longer need.
2. Review your marketing plan
Spend time reviewing your marketing strategy and making plans for when this health emergency subsides. Maybe you have never had time to write a marketing plan – now is the time!
3. Revisit your business plan
Spend some time creating or reviewing your business plan. Where would you like your business to be in the next three years? How will you overcome this current blip (or crisis, depending on your business)? Explore ideas of how you will achieve this.
4. Review your website and social media
How good is the user experience on your website? When was the last time you checked your social media insights and really looked at what is working and what isn’t? Check your Facebook insights and see which posts get the most traction. Check your Twitter and Instagram analytics. Spend time following new people, commenting on posts and checking out your competitors. These are all things that will progress your business.
5. Create new content
In many cases you can directly create content relating to the coronavirus and how it’s affecting your industry. Make sure you
keep your clients informed of your policy. But if you think bigger picture, this is an ideal time to create a content calendar, source images and find useful information and website links and articles around your industry. If you have time on your hands this is a great way to use it. Canva is great for creating professional looking graphics and you can create a bank of images to use this year.
6. Organise your accounts
Get on top of your accounts. It’s a job most people hate but a very useful way to spend this time – when life gets back to normal it will free you up to focus on your business. If you are not using an online cloud system now is the time to start! Check out Xero, Kashflow or Quick Books. Investigate online payment options for clients. Look at ways you can streamline your business finances. Receipt Bank means you can scan receipts into your phone. You can also use apps to record business mileage.

7. Arrange online meetings
By using Zoom, Skype or Facebook – by video calling in Messenger – you can speak to people face to face but online. This enables you to have remote meetings that are almost as good as the real thing, or to stay connected with associates for a morale boosting chat. Or just catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while.
8. Business card follow-up
You probably have a pile of business cards sitting there on your desk. Sort them out! Decide which people you will follow up with, which ones you will connect with on social media and which ones to connect to people in your network. Consider using a CRM system to track contacts and sales leads. A customer relationship management system can be built using online platforms such as Salesforce or Capsule. Here is a great article explaining how you can use a CRM.
9. Plan the next six months
Make your plans for when all this is over. Think about how you will be able to manage financially. What steps do you need to take to manage this situation? What changes can you make? What help do you need?
10. Innovate and create
If you have been running a business for a long time and follow a daily routine, you don’t necessarily spend time coming up with new ideas. Think about what new services you could create. Spend a few hours thinking about how you can improve your goods or services. Arrange an online meeting with other businesses owners and innovate together.
11. Write that award entry, book or blog!
You may have never had the time to write! Check out what awards are taking place this year and start writing that award entry. Check out Awards List for a complete list of UK business awards.
Have you been considering writing a book? Now is the time to start planning it. Write some blogs for your website. Share your knowledge and expertise and raise your online profile.
12. Make videos
This can easily be done from home. Create a vlog or instructional video and upload it onto YouTube and social media. Go live on Facebook on your page or in your group. Create a video you can use on your website. Or maybe you’d prefer to create a podcast. There are plenty of online courses and guides to get you started.
13. Get your email in order
When was the last time you cleared your inbox? Time to sort and clear and get your emails working better. If you haven’t created an email list of your clients you could consider setting up Mailchimp or Constant Contact and building a list of clients, ensuring you ask for their permission before you start sharing your newsletters.
14. Review your literature
Have you been meaning to create a brochure or leaflet to market your products or services? New business cards? New branding may also be on your list. Now is the time to work on this area and create something fresh and exciting that you can reveal once things get back to normal.

15. Create an online course
What expertise can you share with other people that they would value enough to pay for? Google digital guides to creating your own online course. This will eventually provide you with a new revenue stream that could make you money while you sleep. At the set-up stage it can be a time-consuming process, but if you don’t do it when you have time on your hands, you may never get round to doing it at all. So get to it.
These are difficult times. Try not to panic. This will be over soon. It will be a difficult few months but it will pass. The main thing is to use the time productively and work on your business.  Make sure you look after yourself and keep well.

Words: Debbie Gilbert, founder of Mums Unlimited and author of The Successful Mumpreneur.