If you’re balancing building your creative business along with juggling a full time job, it can seem like a struggle to find time for your business. Throw in a significant other and/or little ones at home and it becomes doubly difficult. You’ll quickly find that early mornings and/or late evenings are your friend.
Do you know what other time period is your friend? Your lunch break. Furthering your business doesn’t always have to take hours and hours of time. Sometimes you can make some progress in the few minutes that you catch while you’re eating lunch.
Here are some tasks that you can knock off your to-do list during your lunch break:
1. Send an email to your list– Has it been a while since you’ve emailed your list? Take a few minutes to send out an email and remind your subscribers that you exist. Don’t know what to write? Here’s a few ideas.
2. Don’t have an email list? Start one– This one’s easy. Go to Mailchimp* (it’s free up to 2,000 addresses and 12,000 emails per month) and sign up. Then create your first list. Shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes tops.
* Full disclosure: I am an affiliate of Mailchimp…but only because I think it’s awesome! 😉
3. Do some research on Marmalead– This tool enables you to do market research on Etsy. You can see the most popular price points are, which tags that drive the most traffic, and analyze your competitor’s listings. Fire up a quick lunch-time Marmalead search and see what you can learn.
4. Do a weekly review– This is especially useful if it’s done at the beginning of the week. A weekly review can help you look back on how you did the week before and then help you plan your goals for the week ahead. You can learn more about the process here.
5. Research media opportunities– Want to get your work featured on blogs? In magazines? Or your local news? Write a list of potential outlets and start researching them one by one. When you have more time, check out Brigitte Lyons Creative Live course on PR for creatives for more info.
6. Make sales calls to galleries– Got a list of galleries you want to submit your work to? Take a few minutes to knock a few of those sales and scouting calls off your list.
7. Analyze your website statistics– If you’ve got Google Analytics installed on your website or blog, take a peek at them to see how your traffic is doing. Write down unusual spikes or dips in traffic so you can study them further. Don’t have Google Analytics installed? Watch this.
8. Tweak your Etsy About page– Your Etsy about page should be something that you’re reviewing on a regular basis. Take a few minutes to review yours. Update, correct, or tweak as needed.
9. Research guest blogging opportunities– Guest blogging can be a great way to build more traffic to your business. Use some of your time to research potential opportunities and to contact them.
10. Write a thank you note to some of your best customers– Pick three of your best customers and drop them a nice heartfelt thank you note. Send them an actual note, through the mail, not email. This is another great way to remind your customers that you’re still around.
11. Update one of your social media profiles– When was the last time you’ve updated your social media profiles? Pick one and spend a few minutes updating it…even if it’s just to freshen up the cover photo or update the bio.
12. Research product photo ideas– Product photos are one thing that you constantly need to improve. If you need some inspiration, study the photos of Etsy shops that are similar to yours. You can also try studying photos on Instagram as well.
13. Have lunch with a mentor or fellow artist– This kills two birds with one stone. You can exchange ideas and information with a fellow artist or a trusted mentor over a lunch at a cafe or even over a quick brown bag somewhere close to work. And don’t forget to save receipt for tax season.
14. Call up your best customer to thank them– Chase Jarvis of Creative Live calls up three customers per day to thank them for being customers. Imagine how memorable you would be if you did something similar.
15. Get customer feedback– Pick three of your most vocal customers (you’ll who they are), and send them a personal email asking them for some feedback on your business. Ask them what they like about what you do and how you can improve. If you’re thinking about starting a new project or making some changes to your website or store, you can use this as an opportunity to get their thoughts about it.
16. Send a personal email to your most recent newsletter subscribers– Got a new email subscriber to your list? Send them a thank you email and engage them in some way by asking for some quick feedback or see if they have any questions about your work or your business. People are used to getting automated thank you emails…so getting an actual email from a real person is a pleasant surprise.
17. Engage with your followers on social media– If you’ve gotten into the habit of simply posting and/or pre-scheduling posts, break that habit by going onto the social media channel of choice and engaging with your followers. Reshare or like their content, leave comments, ask questions or answer them, give your most responsive followers a shoutout to the rest of your followers. Don’t forget the social part of social media.
18. Read a book on business– You can’t go wrong by spending your lunch-time with a good business book. My most recent reads includes Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon, The Creative Entrepreneur by Isa Maria Seminga, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin.
19. Brainstorm your next blog post– Not sure what you’re going to blog about next? Take a notebook with you during lunch and brainstorm while you eat. You can also use the Blog Idea Template to help you out. You can access the template from the Creative Business Toolbox.
20. Start rewriting or updating an old blog post– If you’re a long time blogger, you probably have a number of old blog posts you can update, refresh, or even expand into new content. Choose one and start updating.
21. Share an old blog post on social media– You also probably have a number of posts that are just fine as is…they just need to be seen. Pick one and share it with your social media followers.
22. Research upcoming art shows and exhibitions– Check your community calendar and your local and regional websites for information on upcoming events, festivals, and exhibitions.
23. Tweak the copy on your least effective Etsy listing– Do you have an Etsy listing that doesn’t really perform well? (You can use this simple formula to tell) Take a few moments to tweak the copy, the listing title, and the listing tags. If you’re not sure how to improve your listing copy, check out Lisa Jacob’s course on copywriting for crafters.
24. Organize a mini-show for your co-workers– If your co-workers have been bugging you about bringing in some of your work, think about setting up a mini-show during lunch. Of course you want to be extreeeemely careful about doing this. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a boss that’s cool with you bringing in your items, it’s still probably better find a neutral area outside your place of employment to hold your lunch-time showing. And of course don’t do any of your pre-showing organizing during work hours.
A few more things to consider
Be careful that you’re not filling up all of your lunch periods with business tasks. Remember that taking some time to enjoy your lunch and having a proper break from work is just as important as squeezing in “one more task”. Leave some lunch periods free so you can step away from your job or have lunch with your co-workers or your friends…or even just to have lunch by yourself.
And it should go without saying that you don’t try to do business using company resources or during company time. That’s something that very few employers would appreciate and rightly so. Many of these tasks can be accomplished by using your smartphone or tablet or even a simple paper notebook or journal.
Find a place away from work to get these quick tasks done. One of my favorite lunch-time “offices” I used was a local hotdog shop across the street from the building. They had free wifi and the hot dogs were delicious. There might be a cafe, a restaurant, or a coffee shop nearby that you can use to do some work while you’re having lunch. There might even be a local library or a park or some other public space where you can work while brown bagging it.
Use apps like Evernote, Box, or Google Drive so that you can access any files you may need from your mobile device. Many blogging platforms will have an app that will allow you post from your mobile device. Or you can post to your blog via email. Email management providers like Mailchimp have their own apps as well so you can manage your email list on the go. I use the Sell on Etsy app pretty heavily to help manage my shop on my phone and of course I couldn’t do without Evernote.
Plan your lunch-time tasks. Decide what you want to do ahead of time and put them on your to-do list or calendar. You’ll make a lot more progress in your business if what you’re doing during lunch is part of a well thought out plan instead of aimless puttering around. Be intentional about what you’re doing and you’ll see these small steps will turn into big progress.
Starting or running a creative business while you have a regular 9 to 5 can be a challenge. But with some planning and some smart use of your time, it can be done. Now, it’s your turn! Are you building your business while working a full time job? What are your strategies for getting things done?