Oh the lovely summer months …
If you have just started your business you might get a bit of a shock when you realise that ‘everybody’ is on holiday, your inbox gets flooded with ‘out of office notices’, and nobody returns your calls:
The Summer Slump has set in!
Business goes quiet, so what are you supposed to do?
Here are 8 of our own suggestions:
1. Enjoy it
A lot of creatives work very hard. I come regularly across people who work most weeks 50 or 60hours, non-stop.
That’s a lot of hard work.
But, it’s crucial that you take a break.
As all marathon runners know: You need to have rest days to be able to perform at your best.
Working non-stop isn’t good for your health and relationships, and not very good for your creativity either (about that more under number 2!)
I regularly challenge creatives who work more than 50hours to take time off, to squeeze their work into just 5 days a week, to work less hours, to stop work at 7pm every night. They very often can, with great results!
So what’s stopping you?
Start enjoying the sunshine, go on a trip to the seaside or the deep dark woods, stop juggling both looking after the kids with your work.
Give yourself permission for a proper break. Stop muddling through.
Take a PROPER break from it all (and that includes social media and emails!).
Remember why you started your own business? Was it for the extra freedom, flexibility, being in control of your life more?
If your business is running you … then the summer is a good time to make your business work for YOU.
2. Feed your creativity
She compares creativity with having a toddler to look after. If you ignore or let the toddler go hungry they get really grumpy and resistant. The same is true for your creativity!
In Julia’s popular book The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self she explains how important it is to look after your creativity as it can ‘dry up’ and you can get stuck.
One of her methods she uses is the so called Artist Date, where once a week at least you go on a trip or do something that really feeds your creativity. Celebrate!
‘Artist dates are assigned play.’
Whatever takes your fancy (within limits!) – from visiting that exhibition or museum that has been on your to do list for ages, to rummaging around in 2nd hand book stalls in Camden, or watching 1950s movies.
3. Work on your 2nd Quadrant
The late Stephen Covey has written a lot around time management and the importance of work-life balance. He describes the concept of ‘First Things First’ in his popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where he also describes a framework or matrix to prioritise your workload.
The concept behind this framework is that all your tasks on your to do list are either urgent or non urgent, important or non important. He created a 2×2 matrix, and the 2nd quadrant has the tasks that are non urgent but are important. These are the tasks that he believes we are most likely to neglect and ignore, but if we focus on them for 25% of our time then they will make a far stronger and long term impact on our effectiveness.
For example business tasks that are often non-urgent but important are:
- Updating your website with new images
- Planning your marketing and social media
- Sorting out your office or studio to create a more pleasant working environment
- Starting or updating your database
- Creating a filing system
- Doing or creating regular paperwork e.g. templates for intro emails and invoices, a visual price list
- Review your product collection and decide what needs to go and what can stay.
- Review your costing and pricing, and increase your prices if needs be.
- Improving your business and marketing skills through courses, reading books or watching online videos and webinars.
- Build relationships with potential clients, journalists, influencers
- Add a ‘signing in’ box on your website for people who want to get more info
- Check your policies e.g. insurance, return, health & safety.
- Think about the big future and your legacy. Is your business still giving you what you originally wanted from it? If not, then now is the time to do something about it.
Obviously what’s important for one person, might not be important at all for somebody else!
Very often these are bigger project that we prefer to ‘park’ but are stopping us to create the business we want. They are often more strategic tasks or have to do with systems and administration. If you work on these important tasks regularly you will avoid that tasks become ‘urgent’. Quadrant 2 jobs also very often will help us with becoming more efficient and effective, making sure that we find things quicker or that systems go smoother.
So, what’s stopping you?
What is often irritating you?
What are the things in your business that could be automated or systemised?
What do you need or want to learn to get better and more confident?
Make a list of the things that you want to work on. Select 3 tasks that will make a big difference to your business and how you work. Allocate time in your diary now to do them this summer.
Start in these holidays to break down some of these bigger tasks into smaller chunks so they become more do-able. Prioritise jobs and allocate time in your diary to ensure that you will do them.
Allocate specific days of the week on doing these quadrant 2 activities. Friday afternoon is always a good time to work ON your business.
Our Business Club members can listen here to a powerful webinar with creative business coach Mark McGuinnes on getting your creative work done, and watch this webinar with expert Nichole Bachmann on stop procrastinating.
4. Get ready for Christmas
It might sound a bit silly as it is still more than 5 months away, but Christmas is often too important to leave till the last minute!
The summer is a good time to start focusing less on making and creating and more on planning ahead for marketing and sales.
Some marketing activities you can start doing now are:
- Plan your online shop for a September relaunch – update your collections, improve your key words for better search results, improve your ‘about me’ page and FAQ page
- Book a photography session with a professional photographer, or do your own photoshoot now so that images are ready in early September for your website or online shop. We have got various blog posts on photography on our site, and we highly recommend this book if you want to do your own photography.
- Update your database, check and delete old data, research potential new stockists and add them too. Update social media details. Our Business Club members can watch here a very useful webinar on creating and making the most of their database.
- Make a list of 25 potential new stockists, research them if they fit with your work and who else is showing with them and at what price. Create an intro email or find other ways to approach buyers that are more suitable. Our Business Club members can watch here a webinar with expert Clare Yuille of the Indie Retail Academy on how to approach retailers successfully.
- Create a wholesale brochure with stunning images and wholesale price lists.
- Create a marketing and social media plan.
- Plan ahead for any Christmas events or Open Studios you might have. Think about the display, pricing, promotional material. Plan your marketing and social media activities in advance. Our Business Club members can watch here a webinar on how to make the most of your Christmas event.
If you want to learn more about selling to shops and small retailers then check out the Indie Retail Academy What Retailers Want – this ebook and online programme is a fantastic resource to answer all your retail questions, and to help you get ready with practical worksheets and templates.
5. Check up on your New Year’s Resolution
First she talks about Christmas, now New Year!
Ahrghhh, I hear you think!
And that in the middle of the summer …
But, let’s go back to the early days of this year.
What where your plans for 2014?
What did you want to achieve this year?
Did you set a financial or sales goal?
Get into a specific show or be featured in a magazine or on a blog?
What did you want to do, have, learn by the end of this year?
Now is the time to look back at this New Year’s resolutions and get yourself back on track.
Imagine that by the end of this year you will have what you dreamed about in those cold and especially rainy January days (if you were in the UK that is).
What’s your goal for the next 5 months?
What do you need to do by the 1st November, by the 1st September?
Break your goals down in monthly goals and actions, and then weekly goals and actions. And then just do them and get back on the road.
If you want to get some help with doing creative business planning then check out our 5 recommended creative business books.
Our Business Club members can also watch this webinar on Business planning? The Creative way! or getting started with business planning and setting goals
6. Give your work space a spring clean
We mentioned it above: make your workspace a nicer place to work!
What kind of space do you work in best? Light and airy? Colourful?
What can you do to make the space work better?
Can you file your papers away?
Is it time to throw that last decade of magazines away (oops I admit to this one … guilty: tick)?
Can you get a new table, rearrange the space or give it a new lick of paint?
Can you do a quick sale to get rid of stock that has been sitting around for the last two years? It’s clogging up too much space and probably also finances. Get rid of it now to make space for the new!
So often I suggest this exercise to clients, and it’s always amazing the impact it creates:
If you love working in your space, working becomes much easier.
So, what will you do? Share it with us in the comments box below.
7. Work on your business: read a book (or watch a webinar or online course)!
The summer is a great time to get inspired again or to learn new skills.
Who are your creative role models? Read interviews about their career and business, read blogs and interviews about them, watch online videos about their work, or find places where you can see their work in person.
What do you want or need to learn? Technical, creative, bookkeeping, social media?
Find a local or online course. There are so many interesting organisations providing online courses for creatives: Check out our selected creative business training listings here.
You can find some of our recommended business books and e-courses in The Design Trust School & Shop.
8. Do your tax return
OK, I think this might be pushing it a little bit for some of you, but actually … it’s a great idea to do your tax return NOW.
The tax year in the UK normally runs from April to April, so you can now do your bookkeeping and tax return for the period April 2013 – April 2014, which needs to be returned and paid by 31 January 2015.
There are three major advantages of doing your tax return right now:
- Summer is a quiet time so you can do it now, organise your finances, without the stress that you need to do it urgently and stressed out after Christmas.
- If you have got any questions now then the advisers of HMRC or any accountant or bookkeeper are more likely available and willing to help and advice you. If you are looking for any advice at the end of January then you will find it very hard to get it.
- You can do your self-assessment on line now and find out exactly how much tax you have to pay by 31 January 2015. You don’t have to pay this amount till this date, but it will really help you to save towards that amount if you haven’t done so already. Many creatives panic at the end of January as they haven’t saved or don’t know how much tax they have to pay, which can cause a lot of cash flow issues, let alone sleepless nights. If you do it now and put money away you will be able to enjoy your Christmas more.
To get started with your financial management our Business Club members can watch here a very practical intro to financial management for creative webinar, and you can learn more about how to do your tax return here with a webinar with creative accountant Dean Shepherd of Tax by Design.
If you want to read a good intro business book (which includes very useful and practical info about fnancial management) then we recommend this book ‘The Essential Guide to Business for Artists & Designers’ by start up adviser Alison Branagan.
So, there you have it! 8 actions (with lots of other ideas too!) to help you make the most of these ‘quiet’ summer months!
What did you learn? What will you be working on? What was most useful? Share your comments and feedback in the comments box below.