As a creative entrepreneur, you probably have mixed feelings about this season in business, especially when it comes to Black Friday.
Black Friday can either set your business abuzz with activity or leave it eerily quiet which means right about now you’re either feeling frazzled or wrestling with an unsettling calm.
Depending on your industry, niche, product, or service, this season can significantly impact your sales, for better or for worse. The holiday season casts a wide net, affecting almost all businesses in some way (there are a few exceptions, but that’s rare!).
For some businesses, this is their prime time when they rake in most of their annual revenue. The hustle and bustle of shoppers searching for deals and the perfect gift can be a windfall for these businesses.
But, on the other hand, some creative businesses experience a sharp slowdown, and for some, it’s as if the tumbleweeds are rolling through until well past the New Year.
Rarely does a business remain entirely untouched.
That’s why in this week’s blog I’m going to address what’s causing this huge seasonal shift in your creative business as well as strategies to help you lean into whatever this season looks like for you, whether you’re business is jam-packed with activity or hearing crickets when it comes to sales.
While both scenarios come with some pros and cons – either business is booming but you are overwhelmed, or things are quiet and you are nervous about where your next paycheck is coming from – there’s no right or wrong way to approach this season.
Truth be told, it’s often out of your hands.
Here’s what’s actually dictating the state of your business this season.
It all boils down to shifts in consumer behavior and how your audience chooses to allocate their hard-earned money.
Often, during this time of year, people divert their money toward holiday celebrations instead of products and services they might otherwise be interested in throughout the rest of the year.
Aside from how people spend, the holidays are a whirlwind of activities, leaving buyers with limited time and short attention spans, meaning they probably aren’t looking for your offer right now.
People are just plain distracted during the holiday season – and understandably so! From family gatherings to travel plans, they may not have the bandwidth to make their usual purchases.
Budgets change too! Some are entirely spent before December 1, while others are rapidly dwindling as we inch closer and closer to the end of the year.
On the flip side, some corporate businesses are in the “spend it now or lose it forever” mode, as they finalize their tax strategy, allocate the last of their budget dollars for this year, and begin strategically allocating it for future years.
The situation of your ideal client will significantly shape these purchasing decisions and trends.
Sure– there are a lot of things you can’t change or influence this time of year, but how you use your time is something you absolutely can control…
Here are a few examples:
Your personal priorities, values, needs, and circumstances during this season can influence how you run your business.
It’s important that you understand these dynamics and adapt your strategies and expectations to make the most of this exciting yet challenging period.
So, what to do if Black Friday— or the holiday season in general— tends to feel a bit (or a lot) sluggish?
This is the case for many service-based businesses that don’t have holiday-specific offers.
What do I mean by that?
Well, some service-based businesses naturally see an increase in sales because their offers align with the season.
For example while a holiday photographer might be booked solid with shoots from November on (and often even earlier) as families get ready to send out Christmas and New Year’s cards, a web designer with a more year-round business may see a decline in sales during this time!
Okay, so if you fall into the category of a creative business (service-based, product-based, or a combo) that sees a decline or a stagnation of sales during the holidays, here’s the deal.
First of all, let’s reframe this idea of a holiday slump. I totally understand that a slower sales season can be overwhelming if not nerve-wracking. But instead of fighting against this trend, why not learn to work with it instead?
This takes time, intention, and planning, but it can be done – and done well – in a way that supports you and the long-term health of your creative business.
Instead of just finding yourself twiddling your thumbs and praying someone– anyone – reaches out about your products or services, it’s time to reclaim this season and take advantage of the quiet!
Here are some ideas to get you started!
If your clients, customers, and audience members are checked out this time of year, maybe it’s wise for you to do the same! Your slow season is a perfect time to take that vacation getaway, carve out some “me time”, or spend time with friends and family.
It’s also a great opportunity to give your team members some time off to recharge their own batteries! You’ll all come back in the new year feeling refreshed and recharged!
Your time off can be entirely for you– hello, self-care!
I am a firm believer in seasons of hustle and seasons of rest. And while you may feel like you always need to be hustling to get ahead (I blame hustle culture), the truth is when you slow down and fill up your cup, you’re actually able to accelerate your progress and move the needle toward your business goals that much faster.
Set yourself up for success when your business picks up again!
While this might be a great opportunity for some much-needed and well-deserved “me time,” it can also be a good time to pour into your business. This is an opportune moment to get strategic and work on your business instead of in it!
Consider setting aside some CEO Time to wear your visionary hat. You might choose to map out a plan for next year, reflect and celebrate the progress you’ve made over the last several months, or get ahead on some of those to-do list items that were abandoned during your busier seasons.
It can also be a time to finally bring those dreams or ideas to life (or at least get the ball rolling, distraction-free)!
Maybe there’s a new product you’re been noodling on, a back-end system your business so desperately needs, a continuing ed class you’ve been interested in taking, or a big project you’ve been itching to tackle.
Now is the time to set things into motion– you’ll thank yourself later!
Finally, your time can also be used for both you AND your business.
Creative Time not only fills up your cup but it will likely give you new ideas and perspectives that you can bring back to your creative work or your business!
I encourage you to get curious, try new things, and be a beginner!
Now it’s time for us to tackle how to handle the holiday rush if your creative business tends to experience an overwhelming surge in business, sales, and activity!
First of all, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Being in high demand can be a wonderful feeling, and it lets you know your offers are viable and your business is moving in a solid direction!
That being said, busy isn’t always a good thing, especially if you don’t have the right systems in place to manage it all!
Here’s my best advice to help you get a grip and handle this season as best you can without burning out!
If Black Friday and the holidays are your busy season, know that a season of hustle where you need to roll up your sleeves and dig into work is okay!
Give yourself grace while doing what you can (within reason) to make the most of the boom in your business right now.
Just be sure you are creating space in your business so you can lean into a season of REST later on in the year.
Keep in mind, not all seasons of business can or should be hustle seasons (it’s a surefire way to get burnt out)! I highly recommend taking time during your annual business review to seek out opportunities for “rest” in your business.
Notice when sales tend to dip or things quiet down a bit and try to intentionally carve out CEO Time and some vacation time during those windows IN ADVANCE.
While seasons of hustle are often necessary (you’ve gotta put in that sweat equity), the way to break out of toxic hustle culture is to balance those nose-to-the-grindstone seasons with time for rest, reflection, and proactive planning.
During these crazy seasons, you’re going to have to prioritize. You can do it all, but not all at once. Some things will have to take a backseat for the foreseeable future so that you can keep up with the holiday demand.
That being said, identify what you absolutely need to get done so you can focus on what matters NOW and cut the fluff, any optional or “nice to have” tasks, or non-urgent items that can wait until the end of your busy season (most likely the new year).
Basically, take any unnecessary pressure off so you can show up during this busy season as focused as possible.
Over time you’ll probably put things in place to proactively adapt and respond to the busy seasons in your business. Every year is an opportunity to reflect on what works and improve what doesn’t so you can come back stronger each season.
Then, once you set a plan to handle your busy season, stick to it!
When you’re in the height of the chaos it can be tempting to throw all your well-laid plans out the window and go into reactionary mode.
But I urge you to PAUSE!
As the expression goes, “Don’t dismantle the machine to fix a cog!”
Stay the course and let your planning support you.
This is the time to remind the stressed, busy, overwhelmed version of you to trust the calm and strategic you who already prepped for this time.
You laid the plans & put the systems in place before things got crazy…trust that! Now is not the time to scrap things or reinvent the wheel. Now is the time to implement (you can assess and refine LATER).
And if you DON’T have these things in place, this is your sign!
It may be necessary for you to pause and get the most critical systems and processes figured out before things spiral more out of control.
I know it may feel impossible to pump the brakes when things are steamrolling ahead, but in this situation, it’s wise to slow down so you can speed up.
Once you’ve put out the fires and feel like you’re back on track, you can make a note for yourself to carve out time to properly plan before the next busy season!
Especially in your busiest seasons, you need to have a clear understanding of your boundaries and what you are and are not willing to do or endure.
When setting boundaries, be careful to balance financial gain and opportunity with your own needs such as your health, relationships, and emotional well-being.
Your priorities and core values should lead here!
Keep in mind– self-care is important to prioritize all the time, not just when it’s convenient. That being said, if the holidays are your business’ busy season, jet-setting on vacation or taking time off may not be in the cards for you right now.
A great way to combat this is to schedule time off after the holidays. Sometimes just knowing you’ll have the time to yourself to look forward to can be the incentive and motivation you need to stay the course and push through.
Finally, take the initiative to better plan and prep for next year. Ideally, each holiday season and each Black Friday sale will offer you an opportunity to learn and grow so things get smoother and smoother every year.
One of the best ways to do this is to go to the source and hear from your customers. Get up close and personal with your Client Experience.
After the holiday rush, stay connected with those who made purchases. Ask for feedback, encourage reviews or testimonials, and maintain momentum by actively supporting clients and continuing to engage with prospective customers.
Don’t forget to offer them valuable upsells, special deals, and goodies that can make their holiday purchases even better.
The holiday season is a whirlwind of bustling activities, shifting consumer behaviors, and emotionally driven buying patterns.
As a business owner, this time of year can be a mix of joy and overwhelm, and it undeniably impacts not only your business but also your personal life and well-being.
I hope that this blog has helped you better understand the type of activity you experience in your creative business – whether busy or quiet – so that you can maximize the season, make smart data-driven decisions for your business, and set healthy boundaries in your life and work during Black Friday, the holidays, and beyond!
And if you want to have a business coach in your back pocket to help you navigate these tricky seasons, be sure to join my email list where I teach creatives like YOU all the stuff they didn’t teach us in business school. I provide business tips, tricks, and inspiration specifically for creatives, delivered right to your inbox every single week!