Managing a seasonal business can be a tricky thing. For me, while there are absolutely still ways I can generate revenue throughout the year (bridal orders, overseas racing events, the autumn carnival etc), at the end of the day, it’s the Spring Racing Carnival that pays the bills. Having said that, there are definitely pros and cons to having a seasonal venture!
This is probably the obvious one. Earning majority of your income over a short period of time requires a lot of budgeting, planning, and management. But this should only be a struggle if you don’t have the right plans in place.
Of course, when managing a seasonal business, there is less opportunity to tweak product throughout the year in response to customer feedback – you are, to a certain extent, ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’, and hoping that when the peak period hits, your product resonates. To combat this I seek feedback from my community throughout the year to keep me on the right track, and I always make sure to budget conservatively.
For me, the seasonality of millinery means that there is a sizeable chunk of the year where I don’t have time to do much else aside from work. This obviously has an impact on social and family life, and means that I have to miss out on a few things. This was something I found really difficult in my previous job, but now that I work for myself (and love what I do), I find it easy to make the sacrifice. Having said that, burn-out is something that I’m always aware of, and I make a conscious effort to draw a line if I think I might be putting myself or the business at risk.
BUILDING YOUR BRAND
Continuing to build your brand during off-peak times can also be a challenge. During the spring racing period, I have so many offers for collaborations, and so much more awareness generated towards my work. While it’s incredibly exciting to see such a notable increase in brand exposure, it also adds pressure to make the most of it, and to say yes to every opportunity (no matter how much work it may require).
During off-peak times, there is always a drop in engagement. My goal during these times is to nurture and grow the new connections I made during the peak period. I want my followers to relate to me on a personal level, so that my brand remains front of mind come the new season. I try to achieve this by remaining consistent on all of my platforms – social media, blog posts, email newsletters, and I make sure I take my community on a behind the scenes journey throughout the year.
THE GOOD STUFF
The very nature of the lifecycle of a seasonal business means that you get to work on a variety of aspects of the business at different stages of the year. I love that I get to move from planning to designing, to photography, to marketing… right through to opening a pop-up store during spring peak (stay tuned for details on the 2019 pop-up!!). I always find myself enjoying what I’m currently working on, but looking forward to the stage ahead.
I’ll be honest, this is a bit of a fickle one. If you’ve read my post on 12 Months in Millinery, you’ll know that my job keeps me pretty busy all year round! But while in any business there will always be something more that can be done, having a seasonal business means that there are times of the year when (as long as you plan effectively!) you can take a break without having to take work with you, and without having to worry that the wheels will fall off.
Seasonal businesses provide a very clear opportunity to evaluate the season just gone, and to plan for the season ahead. Many small business owners who run more consistent ventures may find themselves putting off this important step in favour of something more immediately pressing, but in a more seasonal business there are very clear opportunities to work through this. Even though I’m a little drained post spring carnival, I always find that I’m motivated to tweak my plans and strategy for the season ahead at this time. Having this plan in place is really invaluable to the success of the year ahead.
Budget, budget, budget! If you have 12 months of revenues and expenses under your belt already, use these to put a plan in place for the year ahead. Refer to your budget regularly to make sure you’re staying on track!
Use your community to test your product (or service) during your planning phase to ensure that you are giving your customers what they want when the peak period hits. Instagram stories are a great way to poll your audience.
Be consistently present throughout the year. Keep your community up to date with what is happening within the business. Sharing your personality through your brand is a great way to build relationships with your customer base, and ensure that you are front of mind when your peak period rolls around.
Be aware of burn out. Be smart about what you agree to during peak periods, and allow yourself some R&R during the off-season. Work smarter, not harder!
Take time to analyse what worked and what didn’t – incorporate these findings into your new 12 month plan.
So there you have it. I suspect the way you feel about running a seasonal business probably has a lot of do with differences in personality. For me, I’m all about organisation and forward planning, so I actually feel that I’m more suited to a seasonal business than to other models.
If you’re interested in hearing a little more about this topic, I’ll be on the panel at the Her Drum ‘Lunch, Laugh & Learn’ networking event on Thursday August 29. The theme of the day is ‘The Seasonality of Business’, and I’ll be joined by some other Lady Bosses to share our tips and tricks. You can find all of the details here!