What to do when business is slow in summer (hint: the answer’s not panic!)

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Ahhh, it’s summer! The beach, the lake, or just sitting outside with a cold one. Is there anything better? Not in my book!

But there’s a dark side to summer too. For independent creative professionals and business owners, things can get pretty quiet. And I mean, crickets quiet. We all know it happens, yet we still get freaked out by it. I know I’ve been there and I bet you have too.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were something you could do about that?

There is!!  You can plan for it.

If you’ve found yourself in a summer slump and suspect there’s more you could have done to plan for it, the first step is this.

Let yourself off the hook.

You’re not alone, so let’s use wherever you are as the starting point for your evolution as a creative business owner.

Sound good?

And because I know planning doesn’t help you now, I’m going to share a bonus tip for making some sales now!

1) Accept the ups and downs of owning a business

So often, we look at quiet times as a failure on our part. But here’s the thing. Ups and downs are natural and healthy. Nature is cyclical, and we’re supposed to be too. With that in mind, look at your business over the course of one full year with a cool calm eye.  What do you notice? Are there months you’re always quiet?  For many, July and August are quiet summer months, while January and February are quiet winter months.  Knowledge is power so when you know how a typical year might flow for you, you can take steps to work with the natural ebb and flow of your business, rather than trying to work against it.

To do: Look at your year as a whole (you can do this anytime) and call out your quiet months. Congratulations, you’ve just taken the first step to no more scary summers!

2) Start marketing

Let’s start by saying, if you’re not marketing don’t beat yourself up for it. You’re not alone; but, you do need to start! Like eating well, exercising, or saving for retirement, it’s just one of those things you need to do if you’re going to have the kind of life you want.

I’ve been marketing for a while (and I can help you too!), and it’s definitely a work in progress. Here’s what I did this year that I really found helpful: I looked at the year as a whole and mapped out a simple plan. I jotted down ideas for marketing activities and ideas I could do throughout the year, shuffled the ideas around into monthly themes and voila, a marketing plan.

To do: Look at your year as a whole (I love these year-at-a-glance calendars by neu year. They’re functional and aesthetically pleasing to us creative folks. Look for themes and patterns. For example, if you know your clients are planning their holiday campaigns in August, why not create a summer e-blast showcasing all your holiday campaign work with a direct call to action to hire you for their next one?  If you know there’s a big industry conference, perhaps it’s something you could attend/write about. It doesn’t take much effort or time to look for these patterns (you could do this in an hour!), but the impact of that time will be huge.

3) Start building a financial cushion

As a recovering financial ostrich, I don’t mind sharing that one of things that used to freak me out the most was hearing successful business owners talk about the importance of having 3 months of business savings at the ready. Just thinking about that big number made me dig my head in the sand even further (and we all know how that turns out!).  And so, I decide to take a different route. When money comes in, I transfer 5% into a high-interest savings account that is not connected to my bank account (meaning, I can’t easily get to it). It’s easy! The amount is small enough that you don’t feel it and my cushion is steadily growing.

To do: Set up a business savings account and siphon 5% of your receivables into it.

4) What to do to bring in money right now

Not getting any luck with the “Hey, just checking in” emails?  As creative entrepreneurs, we thrive when we’re using our creative minds to solve a problem we see in the market.   Instead of thinking about how you can persuade a client to buy a service they may not need right now, start brainstorming services or offers that are an easy “yes.”

  • Could you do a mini-version of a service e.g. a website audit or strategy session to clients that (a) solve a problem they have (b) showcase what you can do (c) give you an option to talk about how they can work with you at a deeper level?
  • Perhaps you can offer your clients an in-person strategy day where there’s a distinct deliverable at the end.
  • Come up with an idea, make it look and sound beautiful (because that’s what you do!), and deliver great results.

This really works AND being proactive shifts your energy from desperate to client-attractive.  Win-Win.

I’d love to hear from you! What months are quiet for you? Have you discovered ways to deal with, even benefit from those cycles? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know!

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