That time of year is here again – warmer weather (mostly), longer days and the summer holiday season.
Whether you’re a parent juggling self employment with the demands of kids off school or a freelancer doing their best to keep your business ticking over while your customers are away on holiday, one of the best things you can do, both for your business and your sanity, is to plan ahead for the summer season.
First off, whatever your plans over the summer break are, it’s important that your clients, prospective clients and suppliers know when you will be available.
It might be that you’re working your normal hours through the entire summer break. On the other hand, you may close your business to jet off to warmer climes for a holiday. It might simply be that you need to move your working hours around to accommodate the added childcare demands of the summer break from school.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, make it clear to those who need to know.
Often a simple, friendly email or phone call will be enough. A client can always look back at an email to check your summer opening hours, rather than having to remember your phone conversation, so personally I’d always go with that.
You might want to post any change in hours on your website and social media too.
On the flipside, what are your clients doing over the summer break? Are they taking time off? Where you work on a retainer and/or receive regular work from them, will that workload ease off over the summer?
What about your suppliers? Are they closing down over the break? Will staff holidays affect their delivery schedules?
For some businesses, summer is a quiet period, but not all. Never assume. Always ask.
Like the festive break, the summer holiday season is rarely a straightforward time for the self employed. Of course, you are always reliant on the plans of your clients but the summer holidays can throw up extra complications:
- client holidays
- supplier holidays
- your holiday (even a freelancer needs a break)
- children off school (yours or your client’s)
- the opportunity to take advantage of the sunny weather
There’s no getting around the fact that the summer break can be a bumpy ride, unless you make a ‘realistic’ plan.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What time do you want to take off?
- What time can you afford to take off?
- What is your summer workload like?
- Are you going away on holiday?
- If you have children, what are your childcare demands?
The answers to these questions, and any others you want to add to this list, will inform you on how to plan out the summer break.
For instance, you want to take a week’s holiday in August with the family. Brilliant! Who do you need to tell and what do you need to get done before you go?
You need £x,xxx amount of money to cover bills for July and August, so you need to work xx number of hours or days.
You know your main client is taking time off in July. Would this be a good time to take time off yourself?
One last thing – realistic always works best when combined with a level of flexibility. This is the summer holidays after all.
Prepare, prepare, prepare (or in other words, get the admin done)
If you can clear the decks, or even just clear half the decks and give them a polish, then you’ll be better prepared not only for taking a break but also for when you return to ‘normality’ after the summer season.
What ‘admin’ means to you will vary depending on your business and your personal situation, but it could include:
- Your tax return – is it done yet? Have you paid, or worked out how you are going to pay, your tax bill?
- Blog posts and social media content – could you schedule this ahead of the summer break? There are plenty of scheduling tools out there like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.
- Do you have any unpaid invoices? If so, get in touch with the relevant client before the summer break begins because once it’s underway, they may not be available until the autumn.
- Filing – ok, this may not be at the top of your to-do-list but wouldn’t it be so much nicer to start the post-summer season with all your filing out of the way, rather than it loitering in a corner of your office?
Do you have work lined up for after the summer?
If your books are full for September and onwards, brilliant. If you’ve gaps though, or you’re likely to return from the summer break with no workload at all, then starting the search before your prospective clients head off on holidays is a must.
I’m not about to even start to tell you how to find work because there is already so much helpful advice out there, but why stress yourself out in a frantic search for work in the autumn when you could secure it now?
Whether you speak to current clients, make your autumn availability known in your networking groups, or contact prospective clients, securing your autumn workload before the summer means that you can relax over the holidays.
However you spend it, be that working normal hours, days out with your children, or heading off for a holiday jaunt, don’t forget to enjoy the summer.