The holiday season is a time to celebrate, be grateful and connect with friends and family. At least, it’s supposed to be. But for many small business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers, the holiday countdown can be the most stressful.
It’s not that small business owners lack the holiday spirit, but holidays can be tough. Business gets interrupted and books need to be closed. Either work slows to a grinding halt and puts a strain on the checkbook, or December is an endless string of hard deadlines as clients rush to complete projects before the end of the year. Then, there are holiday parties, shopping, friends and family. It can feel like you need to squeeze a year’s worth of socializing into a single month or week.
If any of this sounds familiar, don’t despair. I’ve survived nearly 20 holiday seasons as an entrepreneur and there are things you can do to not just survive, but also thrive this year.
Chances are, some clients will expect you to disappear sometime before Christmas Eve until the New Year. Others might expect you to be around for any last minute tasks that need to be done before businesses close on December 31st. You can prevent a lot of unnecessary stress by locking down your holiday schedule and communicating those dates to your clients as far in advance as possible.
The bottom line… if you’re planning on taking time off for the holidays and haven’t communicated that plan to clients yet, tell them now.
For some business owners, December can be a slow period. Clients might be on extended vacations or just waiting for next year’s budget to kick in. If things are slow, use the time wisely. For example, set aside a day to organize your expenses to get ahead for tax time. You can even tally your projected profits for the year. If you’re projecting more profit than usual for the tax year, it could be a good time to pull the trigger on a last-minute business purchase.
In addition, don’t forget to keep up with your invoicing, collections and legal obligations. Make sure any local permits and licenses are up to date for the year to come. If you have been thinking about forming an LLC or corporation for your business, this is an opportune time as it lets you start next year fresh with the new entity.
Business owners work in order to provide for their families. Yet with all the year-round responsibilities of running a business, they end up spending less and less quality time with the people they love. This holiday season, be sure to make some time for family and friends. If you’ve been freelancing or running a business for awhile, you know how hard it can be to completely separate yourself from work.
If you do need to keep tabs on email over the holidays, set aside blocks of time in the day dedicated to work. During this time, it’s okay to check your messages, respond to any urgent issues and correspondences. Then, put aside your phone and enjoy some good company.
You might be feeling financial pressure this time of year. But, this isn’t the time to be cheap. Get into the holiday sprit with your employees, clients, and contractors: give gifts, splurge on a nice lunch, show up with a plate of treats. Most importantly, take the time to say thanks and show your heartfelt appreciation to those people who contributed to the success of your business this year.
This is a good opportunity to be in touch with all of your clients, whether you have any active projects going or not. Get on their radar and start talking about how they can use your services once the holidays are over.
When business over the holidays is busy, you may need to wake up an hour earlier or stay up later to get everything completed. Losing an hour of sleep isn’t ideal, but remind yourself it’s only for a few weeks. If you have kids, you’ll undoubtedly be busier since they’re home from school. But enjoy the time with them as much as you can, (they’ll be back in school in January!).
Another effective strategy is to create a few “work ahead” days in the weeks leading up to the holidays. During these days, you can either work a few extra hours or just zone in, cut out all distractions and get more done than usual. This will allow you to get ahead so you can take some time off at the end of the month.
And lastly, my best advice for surviving the end of year and holiday season is to embrace the madness. Things will be busy, and often chaotic. But if possible, tap into this buzz and let it energize and inspire you as you cross into the new year.