One reason why many creative businesses fail is because entrepreneurs expect regularity.
They assume they’ll make about the same amount of money they did last month and last quarter and last season.
Creative businesses don’t work this way.
You have periods of time where you have big spikes in sales and you have lulls.
Same with attention.
If you host a webinar in mid December when your ideal customer is extremely busy and not paying attention, you’ll probably have a lot less attendees than if you wait until around January 5th when your ideal customers are back in front of their computers and ready to make big changes for the year.
I have many clients who ask questions like, “How can I get more consistent sales?” or “How can I figure out how much I’m going to make every month so I can budget things out?”
When you’re running a creative business, the answers to these questions are you really can’t.
If you sell handmade jewelry, you should have a huge increase in sales around holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas.
If you sell digital courses, you’re going to notice that less people are in front of their computers and less willing to take online courses at certain periods of time such as around holidays and in the summer, especially if they have kids home from school. People get fired up to learn new things in September and October and in the beginning of the year.
If you sell knitting patterns for scarves, socks and hats, you’re going to have a lot more sales in fall and winter and a lot less sales in late spring and summer.
Knowing what to expect in each month, quarter and season of your business helps you to plan well, launch new products when people will buy and launch your best content when your ideal customers are paying attention.
If you don’t think about these things and just put out new products whenever, expect hundreds of webinar viewers in your slowest month and hope to grow your email list when no one is paying attention, you’re going to end up frustrated and with an empty PayPal account.
Instead, you need to make the most of each season of your business and this is how you do it:
Step 1: Analyze your business.
If you’ve been in business for at least one full year, make a list of your biggest promotions, launches, ads, webinars, blog posts, etc. for as long as you’ve been in business (or the last three years).
Now, get three pieces of paper. On the first one, make a list of all twelve months. Separate the second one into the four quarters (quarter 1: January, February, March; quarter 2: April, May, June; quarter 3: July, August, September; quarter 4: October, November, December). Separate the third piece paper into four sections, one section for every season: winter, spring, summer, and fall.
Now place the first list you made of all your promotions and launches and everything else into where they belong. Put each launch, promotion, ad, blog post, etc. into the month they took place, the quarter they took place, and the season they took place.
Next, pick two different color highlighters or markers and assign one as successful and one as “could’ve gone a lot better.”
Highlight or mark each event that was a success. Highlight or mark each event that could’ve gone a lot better.
Are there any big themes?
Have you noticed that almost everything in the month of July “could’ve gone a lot better” or everything in the first quarter is a success for you?
Maybe you have a mix of things but most of your successes lie in the fall and in January.
This is how you decide when to plan your launches and which months you should put a lot of emphasis on growing your email list.
It also shows you that in particular months you’re going to have to be extra creative to keep your ideal customers’ attention. And, since many of your followers will miss the content you put out during these months that you should reference it or even re-post it during your best months.
P.S. If you haven’t been in business for more than a year, you’re going to make your best educated guesses on your busiest and slowest months, seasons and quarters. Then, as you go through your first three years, pay attention to the themes.
Step 2: Make a financial plan.
One of the hardest issues creatives deal with is the financial ups and downs.
But, the good news is that if you plan for them, they won’t hit you hard. You’ll know they’re coming, you’ll know you have to save until the next big pay day and you can even plan products or services that will sell during your slow months to get you by.
I’ve had multiple clients who save their one-on-one spots for their slow months and only coach or consult during those months/seasons. They keep a waiting list open and have clients who are ready to sign up as soon as they open up the spots.
Maybe you offer your one and only sale during your slowest quarter of the year to get a big payday to help with the downtime!
No matter what…you need a plan.
You need to know which months, quarter, and/or season are your slowest. You need to know how much you need to save to pay your bills and your employees and not have to eat ramen noodles every night for dinner.
Most importantly, you need to expect this to happen.
If you sell handmade handbags and have a rush of sales before Mother’s Day, you can’t expect to have the same sales the next month.
Set your expectations accordingly and you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of running a creative business.
Step 3: Plan your launches and big promotions during the time they’ll be most successful.
Now that you know when your launches will get the most sales and your content will attract the most eyeballs, you can plan respectively.
Get one of those huge twelve-month calendars where you can see all twelve months at the same time. Highlight your best months with one color and your worst months with another color. If you have some months that fall in the middle, you can pick another color for them.
What upcoming products and services are you planning to launch? Pick a month/season/quarter that will work best for you.
Also, consider holidays. Do they work well for your business or do they work against your business?
For instance, if you have a product-based business that sells something that would make a nice gift, holidays probably increase your sales whereas in a consulting, teaching or service-based business like mine, holidays decrease sales.
Put a star next to holidays that give you a spike in sales. Put a cross next to holidays that always impact your sales poorly. This way you know whether or not to plan promotional material around those holidays.
This visual will help you consider when to invest in ads, when to host webinars, when to post your best blog posts, when to post more frequently on social media, when to invest more time on live videos and more.
Step 4: Decide how to use your downtime wisely.
When you don’t have sales rushing in, you might think it’s the time to sit back and relax.
While this is a great time to plan a vacation with your family, that’s only a week or two. What about the rest of your slowest quarter?
This is the time to take a bit of a creative sabbatical and develop your next line of fabric designs. It’s your chance to write 10 blog posts to use during your busiest time of the year when the last thing you have time for is blogging. It’s perfect for creating content for your next launch.
Want more ideas and more details? I wrote an entire blog post on 18 Smart Ways to Use Your Business Downtime that you can find right here.
It’s just as important to plan this time as it is to plan your busy time. If you don’t use this time wisely, you’ll find yourself frantic when the sales rush in.