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Many small business owners are facing more downtime as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If this is your reality, you may find this “business hibernation” period very challenging. But there is a silver lining, especially if you have some working capital saved up.
Maybe there’s a new skill you’ve been meaning to pick up so you can expand your service offerings—or perhaps you’ve been putting off updating your portfolio or business website with past projects.
Whatever the case may be, let’s look at 7 ways you can use this slowdown to your business’ advantage. And when this hibernation period comes to end, your company will emerge stronger than ever before.
1. Explore relief options
If you’re worried about keeping your small business afloat financially, use this time to look into relief options available.
There are a number of SBA disaster loans available to companies struggling as a result of COVID-19. Although certain funds have been exhausted or are no longer accepting applications, others—like the Economic Injury Disaster Loan—have made another round of funds available.
Bottom line? If you need help covering your bills or paying your employees, now is the time to take advantage of these programs. Take a day to explore, research, and potentially apply for a disaster loan to cover your expenses. After all, these lending initiatives are in place specifically to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 storm.
If you need support with your SBA application, Bench is here to help. They have a team of experts ready to answer your questions about the SBA loan eligibility and forgiveness.
2. Get your books in order
When you’re busy juggling a variety of clients, projects, and deadlines, it’s easy to push other parts of your business to the bottom of your priority list—finances included. There’s no time like the present to get your finances in order now that you have some downtime on your hands.
Here are some of the top financial clean-up tasks to consider:
Audit your books
Follow up on overdue invoices (FreshBooks can help)
Reassess your product and/or service pricing strategy
Research new payment platforms to determine lower processing fees
Review your business tools and subscriptions to try to lower costs
Contact vendors to negotiate costs
When it comes to the long-term health of your business, staying on top of your finances is an absolute must. Don’t want to wear the bookkeeper hat? No problem. Bench’s bookkeeping expertsm are here for you.
3. Do your taxes
Once your finances are in order, you’ll be ready to prepare for the most important financial task of the year: taxes.
Thankfully, business tax deadlines in the U.S. have been extended this year. But the deadline is now looming (July 15), so if you haven’t done your taxes yet, now’s the time to get them finished and filed.
If you’re already working with a Bench bookkeeper, BenchTax is a great add-on to consider, especially if you want to leave your taxes to a professional. And don’t panic if you neglected your 2019 books. Bench also offers catch-up bookkeeping services.
4. Update your online presence
If you haven’t moved your business online, now’s the time to start. Not only is it a way to stay connected to your customers, but it can also provide your business with new revenue stream opportunities.
Here are some ways you can update and upgrade your business’ online presence:
Website: Ensure your website is well-designed, aligns with your branding, and has up-to-date copy and visuals.
Social media profiles: Maintain a strong connection with your customers by responding to comments more frequently, posting new types of content (like video), or exploring new social media platforms.
Online portfolio: Spruce up your digital portfolio by adding new samples and making sure it represents your best work.
eCommerce shop: If you plan to sell your products/services online, make sure your eCommerce shop is fully functional, up-to-date with your latest products/pricing, and features eye-catching product photos.
5. Master a new skill
No matter how experienced you are, there’s always something new to learn to help you run your business better. So why not use this downtime to invest in learning new skills or tools that will take your small business to the next level?
Maybe you’re a freelance designer who wants to learn video editing. Your approach may be to actively look for freelance opportunities in video editing so you can learn as you go. Or you might take an educational approach by enrolling in an online video editing course.
No matter what kind of business you operate now’s the perfect time to learn, grow, or expand your skills.
6. Stay in touch with your clients
When you’re in the midst of a business slowdown, it can feel like you’re the only person going through it. But your clients are experiencing this downtime, too.
Even if you are not actively working with certain clients right now, you should still nurture the relationship. Plan to touch base at least once every few weeks to see how they’re doing. It’s also a good time to give them an update on your company and what’s happening.
Continue with these check-ins. It shows your clients that you value their relationship and don’t just see them as a bunch of dollar bills.
7. Take care of yourself
After all is said and done, downtime can literally just be downtime. This is the time for you to do you.
There is a lot going on in the world right now and it’s causing stress and burnout. While there’s nothing wrong with using this downtime as an opportunity to be productive and set your business up for success down the road, there’s also nothing wrong with using this time to rest and recharge.
Feeling overwhelmed? Cut yourself some slack and take care of yourself first. Bake sourdough bread, catch up on sleep, do some yoga, read a book—whatever self-care means to you, take time to do just that.
Make the most of COVID-19 downtime
Slowing down is tough. Whether you want to take this time to be productive or simply take care of your mental and physical well-being, both will help you come out stronger than ever on the other side.