December begins at the weekend – the month for opening advent calendars, unconsciously humming Christmas songs (I keep finding myself falling into ‘Let it snow’ – no really, don’t let it snow), and filling up on mince pies.
This year, one of my friends set up her Christmas tree and festooned her house in festive sparkle as soon as Halloween had ended and another super-efficiently finished her present shopping in September. Everyone seems to have donned their blinkers intent on the finishing line that is Christmas Day. I’m still in denial (apart from the mince pies).
But what about your business? Have you thought about Christmas preparations for that? How will your business handle the festive break?
Whether you’re a sole freelancer like me or run a medium sized business with staff, there are a number of common preparations that can help us all in the run up to Christmas.
Christmas closing times
When are you closed over the festive break? Personally, I’ll be closing up shop at the end of Friday, 21st December and not opening again until Monday, 7th January.
Every business is different and you’ll have many things to factor in when deciding on your closing times such as the industry you work in, your clients, your working practices and even your staff.
Will you split the festive break with open days between Christmas and new year’s day?
How are you going to make it clear when you’re shut? Is it sufficient for you to announce your closing times on your website or social media?
Do you need to contact your customers and mailing list to tell them when you won’t be working and responding?
Don’t forget your staff and suppliers.
How about new customers contacting you over the festive break? How will they know you’re closed?
You may even wish to set up an ‘out of the office’ autoresponder on your emails.
Making it clear when your business is closed removes any chance of a disgruntled customer or a missed order.
Schedule blog posts and social media
If you want to continue to publish blog articles on your website and posts to your social media accounts over the festive break, take advantage of scheduling.
Whether you use WordPress like I do, Squarespace, Wix or another provider for your website, there will be a way to schedule your blog posts for a future date.
So for instance, if you want to blog ‘Merry Christmas’ on 25th December, you can set that post up in advance to appear on the big day.
There’s a whole host of scheduling software for social media out there too, for instance:
I also use IFTTT to connect my social media accounts (e.g. Facebook to Twitter).
You can schedule posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter themselves too.
Of course, if you need help scheduling posts to your social media accounts, I’m always happy to take that workload off your hands. Just get in touch.
Re-assess your workload
What I mean by this is:
- What jobs and projects need to be finished before the Christmas break?
- What can be left until the new year?
- Do you need to make any preparations for work left until the new year?
A good way to approach this task is to divide your workload into work for customers, non customer work related to your business, and anything else.
What deadlines have you and your customer set? Do these need to be revisited?
What work do you need to complete on and for your business itself? Who else is involved in this work?
If you are leaving work until the new year, do you need to notify any involved parties about this?
Re-assessing your workload now gives you the chance to write up a plan for when you return to your ‘desk’ in the new year.
Chase unpaid invoices
Yes, I know, in the run up to Christmas you want it to be all mirth, and gin (hang on, maybe that’s just me), and joy to all, but you still have to pay the bills.
If you have any unpaid invoices that are past their payment terms (14 days, 1 month, etc), then chase them.
Once your customer is closed/on holiday for Christmas, you won’t be able to contact them about the money they owe. You’ll simply have to wait until the new year.
Contact them now, in a polite but firm manner, so you won’t spend the festive break worrying about your cashflow.
Look at your to-do list for the year
Remember that sparkling plan you put together at the beginning of the year with all those tasks? How many of those tasks have you actually completed?
If there are still outstanding tasks that you haven’t got round to, try to figure out why:
- Were they completely unrealistic from the outset?
- Have they, for some unforeseen reason, become impossible or difficult to complete?
- Has the task been delayed or remained incomplete due to the involvement of another person?
- Is the task a nitty-gritty job that you just don’t want to do?
The first three reasons for not ticking tasks off your to-do list are incredibly useful and will inform your plan for the new year.
However, if the final reason is true, decide whether the task is necessary and if it is, then do it.
It might be your tax return, backing up your computer, filing, or networking. Whatever it is, especially if you’re a sole self employed worker, get on with it.
The Christmas break will feel so much better knowing that you have a clean slate for the new year.
I don’t just mean the computer and the office lights. When you finally finish for Christmas, however many or few days you take off work, toss away your business hat and ‘be’ on holiday.
You’ve worked hard this year. You deserve a break. As much as you’ve committed to your work for the last twelve months, commit now to replenishing your batteries at home or wherever you spend the festive break.
If you can do that, you’ll return to your work rested, refreshed and still smiling from all that festive goodwill.