For most creative businesses, the commercial year includes two fallow periods – the Christmas/New Year break and the longer summer holiday stretching from the end of July through to the August bank holiday. If you’ve been working flat out for the rest of the year, taking your foot off the accelerator pedal, booking a holiday, permitting some down-time can be a welcome relief. I find easing off my client work and my demanding diary during the relaxing warmth of the summer allows the mental freedom to think about my business. With the pressure released, my brain takes me to new different places seeding ambitious, imaginative plans.
And I’ve noticed how many of the business owners I work with also come back from a summer break fired up with excitement and new thinking. So what plans could you be making to get you ahead of the game come September?
- Allow your mind to wander
During the relaxing weeks of the summer, allow your mind to wander. Let it seize on interesting and different ideas, gather influences, thoughts and ways of working from what you see and hear. Read widely – both about your world, and others. Go to events and galleries you would normally eschew. Unlocking the tight controls you keep on your time and mind allows other influences to percolate.
- Spot useful themes and trends
As you stop regimenting your thoughts around the day job, you will find yourself open to identifying other ways of working, whispers and the beginnings of trends. By not searching for them, you give your sub-conscious room to help you out. When you realise you’ve spotted interesting themes, note them down.
- Review what your business offers
The summer break is a good time to ask yourself if you are really selling what you want to be selling? Do you feel you need to tweak what you do, or add new services? Reframing your offer adds opportunities to approach new markets and audiences or go back to past clients to re-ignite those relationships.
- Research events, conferences, networking opportunities
The September-November calendar in every industry is jam-packed with great events. One of my autumn highlights is the September London Design Festival. Do some thorough research as to what is happening in your world – and just outside your world. Could attending these events open new doors, generate new leads? Could you apply to speak at them, to run a workshop? Put some real cherries into your autumn calendar. Now is the time to seize your ambitions and diarise those plans. Once you are back into the run of everyday working, there just won’t be time!
- List the people who gladden your work world
If you make a note of who makes your work world a brighter place – ask what you could be doing with them. Is there a joint project you could initiate with them? Do your combined services add up to an interesting new offer? I’ve got two new small ventures launching with two totally different people – one starting late August, one in mid-September. And yes, I do realise I planned these in June/early July, but it only took a week to get each nailed. If you focus, it’s surprising how quickly you get new ideas to market.
- Get your marketing calendar sorted
Companies tell me the whole time how they never ever have time to focus on their own marketing. This is understandable but also disastrous. If you are too busy working and can’t market, at some point your business flow will peter out.
I try to use the summer to come up with a coherent marketing plan – for my business. Because I’m not flat out, I’ve got time to imagine some delicious, inspirational ways of reaching those audiences I want to work with. I can create content with time to spare, build small campaigns, plan social media posts well in advance, formulate my newsletters without pressure. It becomes a real creative delight, rather than a chore. And with the planning tools we all have available to us, you can even get your scheduling done. A three-month marketing plan and all collateral in the bag by the end of August? Check!
- Quick financial health check
The end of September heralds the financial year’s half-way mark, if you mirror the tax year. Why not run a quick check to see if you will be where you want at that half-way point. If not – how can you trigger some fast growth once you re-convene late August to get you to where you want to be. Ask yourself if there are any low-hanging fruit or easy wins you could develop to hit that target. And if you are ahead of your target – give yourself a pat on the back.
Take it easy in the heat, enjoy the sand between your toes and the time to chill out, unhook your brain and let your mind ramble freely… You never know it could provide you with the best ideas for your business you’ve had in months. Enjoy the summer.
Written by Erica Wolfe-Murray
Erica’s new book ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business’ is out now. Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business. Available to order from Amazon and all other good bookshops.