You've just finished up Phase I of a project at a client, but the budget for Phase II hasn't been approved yet. You have no other clients in the pipeline at the moment. All of a sudden you find yourself on the bench, as it were, waiting to get back into the game. You're not billing any hours, yet you're still getting paid. How can you be useful to your company until the next client project comes along? Here are a few ways to do that.
• Take a vacation. Seriously. It's been my experience that Developers, Tech people, and consultants rarely take time off, partly because they love what they do, but also because (and I have felt this way), the place won't function without them. You're not doing anything now, so take advantage of the downtime. Go somewhere, hang out at home, relax, refresh, recharge. You'll feel better when you get back into a billable project.
• Learn something new. If you're working in the SQL Server world, there is a wealth of free information out there on all aspects of SQL Server. SQL Server Central is a great place to start. There are "Stairway Series" on several different topics, and they are very informative written by many respected people in the profession.
• Study for a certification. Your company only stands to benefit if you're able to put a few acronyms after your name on your business card. It helps your company if it is striving to become a Microsoft Partner, or any other software partner, for that matter. It also might raise your billable rate.
• Put together a presentation. If you're a consultant, or, even if you're not, you know things. Probably things that other people don't know or are not too familiar with. Why not put your knowledge to paper, and then from paper to PowerPoint, code a few demos, and present on what you know! Local user groups are a great place to get started as a speaker. The more you present, the easier it gets, and it's actually fun sharing what you know with others.
• Write a blog. This is like putting together a presentation, but on a smaller scale. Not ready to get out there and speak? Jot some notes down on a topic you're interested in or good at, do a little research, and start writing. You can publish your blog for free on Wordpress.com, or perhaps your company has a newsletter or a blog of its own where it can be posted.
There are several ways to stay busy during your downtime. Hopefully the downtime doesn't last long, but while you're "on the bench" you can still stay busy until your name is called back up again.