With almost all schools now broken up for the summer holidays, parents who run their own businesses are - right about now - wondering how they ever thought working at home over the holidays was possible. The incessant rain isn't helping either with refrains of 'I'm bored' reverberating up and down the country.
I know. Because my own children have been off school since 2 July and we still have 6 weeks to go.... I've had many years of managing this juggle and have come to the conclusion that there is an actual small business condition called:
The Summer Holiday Effect.
The Summer Holiday Effect has many symptoms: increased stress, a sense of not being fully engaged with either kids or business, greater wine consumption, or simply stick-your-head-in-the-sand-itis. Typically it results in a reduced income over the summer months as parents scale back their work hours. But it’s more than that. The knock on effect caused by a lack of strategic business planning for several weeks or months means many business parents have to start from scratch in September, wasting valuable time and missing opportunities. The constant stop-start caused by school holidays can prevent many micro businesses from ever becoming more than just a hobby.
So how do you manage to run a business over the summer holidays? Here are my top tips:
And if you get to September and need a thorough kick up the backside to find your mojo again, book an appointment with me now for the first few weeks of September to create your marketing plan for the next six months.
Till then, take comfort that you are not alone doing the juggle.
I went to the hairdresser today for a long overdue cut and colour. My hairdresser - let's call her Fi - is self-employed. She pays 'chair rent' to the salon owner. She doesn't want to run her own salon with all the overheads and responsibility that that involves. And she doesn't want to be employed by the salon owner, as she would take home a fraction of what the client is charged.
She is in effect running her own micro business. She got her first clients when she moved from her old salon (where she was a salaried employee) and her clients followed her. But for the first time ever, she is having to think about getting her own new clients. She has too many gaps, which means she's not taking home enough money.
Fi, like many other micro business owners - stylists, beauticians, massage therapists, fitness class instructors - has little business experience. She is good at cutting hair. But she's never had to think about the business side of things. She hasn't had to.
But now she does.
We started to chat about what she could do to attract more clients. There are so many tools out there that it's really easy to get carried away with lots of grand ideas, but it always come back to this:
What's the problem?
If you start with what the problem is, you can focus your attention on solving it.
In Fi's case, her problem is: Not enough clients. Fundamentally she needs bums on her seat. Regularly. It's all well and good thinking up clever marketing campaigns like showing off images on Instagram or creating a beautiful Hair Styles pinterest board, but how is she going to reach people in her local area and turn them into clients?
While she snipped my hair, I came up with some ideas for her:
These are all pretty simple, low cost and basic tools. If she really wanted to create a pipeline of clients that are literally queuing up to see her, she could do the following:
Logo, tagline, branding and message
Many micro business owners will create a business card using a free logo generating site or a template from an online printer. They give little thought to the image they want to project. To stand out and create a brand customers want to recommend to others, you need to have something that sets you apart.
For Fi, I would suggest she has a tagline along the lines of: Hair that's true to you. Because she really does cut hair based on what suits her clients lifestyles and look. She could pay someone on Fiverr to create her a logo, business card and loyalty card that reflects her unique style. Everything she does - from her Facebook page to her loyalty programme - should carry a consistent feel and message. She could even have little creative touches to make clients love her - like a jar of fortune cookies that all contain a lovely affirming message, with random cookies containing gifts like a free blow dry.
Many micro business owners are terrified of PR. They think that they're too small wouldn't know what to say and don't know how to reach out to the media. But if you can write a short snappy blog post for a local blogger or perhaps a press release/pitch that you send to the local paper on an award you've won or Styling Tips for summer, with pictures, it can have impressive results. If you are good at a thing - whether it's hairdressing, cleaning, massage or fitness - you are an expert and can provide useful content. If you need help on how to do your own PR, look at my online PR course which takes you through this in a step by step, easy to understand process.
Videos and images
Admittedly, this will reach well beyond your local audience, but 'How To' videos are REALLY popular as are pictures of things people can try themselves. Simply snap an image, use a tool like Picmonkey to add your logo and contact details to it and share on your Facebook page or other social media outlets.
All of these tools are very low cost. What they require are a bit of time and creative thinking. If you would like my help creating a marketing plan for your business, take a look at my bite-size coaching videos for more low cost advice.