Small Business, Kids and Summer Holidays - How to Make It Work For You
Are you starting to feel Summer Holiday Overwhelm as the holidays start to approach? This time last year was a bit manic to say the least. My business was 4 months old, my website wasn’t quite ready, my office was still the kitchen table (the spare room still needed sorting) and I was busy adjusting to the working from home lifestyle. This year is totally different and whilst it will still be hard work, at least being in (slightly more) control and having a plan, makes managing so much easier. This ultimately means you can enjoy special times with the children.
So, I thought it would be good to pass on some top tips on how to prepare and manage your small business for the summer holidays.
For any major holiday, I work around a strategy - plan, prioritise, focus and communicate. All of these concepts are talked about below but the key to all of this is communicating with your clients and ensuring they know exactly what your plans for the summer holidays are.
For some people this method may mean changing the way you work and if you haven’t done so, creating processes and templates that streamline your business. What I mean by this is using technology to help you automate and make simple tasks easier. There are loads of free tools to help, so please see my blog. These might take some to set up, so perhaps this is one to think about for the autumn holidays.
PLAN - The first step is have a clear idea of exactly when you are planning on working. For some families like me I scale down my working hours considerably in order to look after my two children (one has Asperger’s so holiday clubs are not an option) On some of the days when I'm not working I still get up early and spend 2 hours working. Email your clients and let them know the summer holidays are approaching and let the client know when you are available – can they hand over any work now rather than later? Ask them if they do have work for you and do they have an idea of what it might be and timescales so that you can schedule it in.
PrIORITISE – Write a list of the things you know will need doing during the summer holiday period that are business-related ie invoicing, mailshot, social media, networking etc. Think about what actually needs to be done and what isn’t essential and can wait. Missing out on a couple of networking events is not going to ruin your business. If you have a mailshot, do it before the kids take over the house for the next 6 weeks. I know this can be difficult when you are trying to work at the same time but putting in that last mighty push will be so worth it, and most email services offer a scheduling system. This goes back to the processes bit. If you have a template email system set-up, like Mailchimp, you simply gather the contents, populate, schedule and you're good to go.
Social Media is a big one as it takes time and effort but there are ways to deal with it. If you’re not already using an automated system, then DO IT. Hootsuite and Buffer are free and really easy to use. Set aside time (I’m planning on doing this Friday at 6.30am - marvellous) to schedule your social media content. It will take an hour and a half but it’s worth doing just for the peace of mind. You still need to respond to comments, replies and new followers but this can easily be done via your phone in one go, for example at lunch time and later in the evening when the little ones are in bed. I love participating in Twitter hours but unfortunately in the summer holidays, these just won’t be happening. Accepting that you have limitations is really important.
Email - If you're going away on holiday and you're not going to be checking emails, remember to add your auto-responder or out-of-office. I have email on my phone so it's easy to check but I'm still quite ruthless. Create a filing system for after the holidays so that you can read and digest everything then.
Focus - I will literally create a timetable of working slots so that I know exactly what’s going on. I will then allocate work to those slots. However, this system relies on you being realistic about timescales. Don’t hope you will get it done in that time, err on the side of caution, and if you have time left over, then great.
DOn't Multi-Task- Bit controversial I know but this practice does not work when you have time constraints. If I have allocated 1 hour to design some social media graphics for a client that’s my focus. Block out emails, Facebook etc and FOCUS on that one task. Be warned this is hard to do at first but you will get used to it. I used to put my phone in another room!
Last Minute- What happens if someone asks you to do something last minute? This is really a personal choice and will differ depending on your circumstances, timescale and how important the client is to you. In my experience nothing is really urgent when you actually get down to it and perhaps you can break the urgent task down into non-urgent and urgent parts? If you can organise childcare, even for a couple of hours, that may help. If you can’t then you have to say NO. Learning to say no in business has been my hardest and biggest lesson. For me, it doesn’t work trying to work around the kids. They need my 100% attention, they’re too old for naps and if left unattended would probably end up covered in chocolate spread! If you lose business over it then perhaps they’re not your ideal client anyway.
Outsource?- Is there anyone you can get to help, a Virtual Assistant like me, for example? (shameless plug)
So, what I’m hoping is that by helping you get prepared you will know what needs to be done, when you're going to do it and can deal with situations if (and when) they arise. And you might find this way of working becomes a habit. So, remember plan, prioritise, focus and communicate but above all, don’t worry and have a great summer. They'll be back to school before you know it. See you other the side!