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Don’t Get Down About Downtime

If you rely on your studio for all or some of your income, odds are that you’re going to have downtime. It’s a reality for freelancers and the self-employed of all types, and it can be nerve wracking as you wait for more work to come in.

This helpful article from offers some excellent advice on how to deal with a slow period. Among other things, it says:

If ever you encounter this dry spell in your freelance career, do not take it negatively. Treat this downtime as an opportunity to improve your craft and to take a well-deserved rest. Instead of feeling downhearted, do something worthwhile to up your game, and be happier and motivated.

The article goes on to cite a bunch of suggestions for productive things to do with your downtime, and it’s all useful advice. However, since it was written for a general audience, it’s not specific to those of us who record in our own studios. If it were, what would such a list look like? Here are some of the things I do (or at least think about doing) when I have no projects going on.

Create better DAW templates. I’m always refining my templates, and when I have some time on my hands, I’ll often work on making them even more comprehensive. That will save me time when I’m busy.

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Get organized. I’m not OCD, so clutter and disorganization are gremlins that I’m perpetually battling. I love it when my studio’s all neat and everything is put back in its place, but over time, things inevitably start to deteriorate. So for me, downtime is not only an opportunity to clean up and put everything back where it goes, but it’s also a chance to improve my organization and storage systems. Because the back of my rack looks like a squid-ink pasta dish, one of my ongoing projects is to reduce the clutter by replacing overly long cables with shorter ones, adding cable ties to neaten up the spaghetti and so forth.

Get to know your software better. You’ve heard the statement that humans use only 10% of their brain power? It’s an enticing thought, but sadly is just a myth. However, it’s not mythical that many of us use only a small percentage of the features available in our software applications and plug-ins. I find that if I read the manuals, watch YouTube videos, or spend time playing with my music software, I discover a lot more functionality than I realized was there. That’s not something you can do when you face project deadlines, so downtime is the perfect opportunity for such explorations.

Learn more key commands. I try to devote some of my downtime to learning key commands for my DAW and other software. Using them is the best way to speed up workflow, so memorizing additional ones will undoubtedly pay off.

Practice your instrument (or instruments). It always makes me feel good to practice. No matter how good you are, you can always get better.

Update and improve your website, social pages or promotional materials. You’re certainly not going to have time to do this while you’re busy, so take this opportunity to bring everything up to date, add newer music examples, replace old photos, and generally tweak wherever possible.

And, it goes without saying that one should devote a decent chunk of any downtime to looking for new business. For me, that’s the least enjoyable thing to do during slow periods but is the surest way to make them go away.