How to Make the Most of Your Off-Peak Season

how to make the most of your off peak season

It’s time, babes. Time to dust off the notebook, whack out your stationary, and start making ‘to-do’ lists. But don’t panic if you’re stuck for inspiration – I’m here to help y’all as best I can.

If you’re a wedding creative like me, this is probably your least active time of year. I hesitate to use the phrase ‘least busy’ because you can most definitely change that. However it’s undoubtedly the time of year that you’re least likely to be shooting weddings / baking cakes / creating bouquets and so forth. The busy summer can get hectic and tiring for wedding creatives, that’s true. So it’s easy to succumb to the sofa & box sets by January. Except when we give in to that compulsion to be lazy, this time of year can get very dull, uninspiring and unmotivating, right? I totes feel ya, sista. Let’s do summit about it!

It was about a month ago that I decided to sit myself down, cheese & crackers in one hand, coffee mug in the other, and write down my ‘get shit done’ list. This time last year I spent my winter / off-peak season avoiding work that I could’ve been getting on with, because I let the motivation seep out of me the minute my last wedding was finished with. “Not this time!” I defiantly whimpered, to myself & the dog. I cracked on with writing this list, stretching the boundaries of my teeny tiny lady mind (lol) to see what I could come up with. It just so happens, I found creating this list pretty damn useful. So useful, in fact, I’ve decided to share it with you lot in this very post.

Yes, it does involve getting off the sofa & maybe pressing pause on The Bodyguard for a bit. But, hey, most of it can be done in your jammies from home. So that’s a bonus.

Go on then, my lovelies, get stuck in…

1. Redesign, tweak & update your website
This, in my eyes, should be an immediate priority as soon as you have the time to do it. More often than not, your website is the gateway for potential clients to read about you, view your work and get in touch. So, just how up to date & relevant is it? Some of us can neglect our websites for months during the busy season, and clients end up reviewing our work based on year old images only. Get your current work in to your portfolio, update your hero images, and check that your information and “look” is still current.

2. Market the heck out of yourself
Create PDFs, create online campaigns, email vendors & venues, and stay present on social media. Cracking on with this will take up a good chunk of your time. There’s basically endless marketing opportunities out there if you do enough research, but these first 4 suggestions will keep you busy for some time. If you haven’t already, create PDF brochures to email every potential client with. Your online campaigns can be on Facebook, Instagram or Google. Email other vendors with photographs you’ve taken of their work / venue (or contact photographers to request them if you’re anything BUT a photographer), and never, ever disappear from social media. Post good content, interact and be active. It’s winter time, a lot of people are going to be at home browsing through their socials – don’t miss an opportunity to be seen.

3. Get to grips with all that SEO hype
Ranking on Google is a never ending battle, and if appearing on search engines is a priority to you, it’s worth spending the time on. I’ve known people that are fortunate enough to be able to invest in professional help when it comes to this, but it isn’t always an expense that a small business / wedding creative can afford. Good news – it’s achievable off your own back.  Do your research, and find out what you need to improve on. There’s hundreds of helpful blogs & websites out there at the click of a Google Search available to us.

4. Re-evaluate your pricing
Take a bit of time to do some maths at the end of your working year, to make sure that what you’re charging for your work, is still viable. You may find that new or hidden expenses have appeared that you hadn’t previously accounted for, and might need to incorporate in to a new & updated price. If you haven’t ever done this before, I recommend it. Breaking down your hours, expenses and creating an ideal living wage is a great way of finding out whether you’re charging what you’re worth.

5. Volunteer
If your business is simply something you want to take a break from (and that’s okay), volunteer your time for a worthy cause. For example, did you know you can sign up to a website whether you volunteer to take elderly people’s dogs for walks in your local community? Heck, I know!

6. Or, get a part time job
Instead of volunteering, you could get a part time or temporary job and make some money during the quiet season. I myself got a seasonal waitressing job this Christmas, in the hope of reconnecting with a working environment socially. I’ve missed the atmosphere of it since working for myself!

7. Educate yourself
Take the time to teach yourself new techniques. Take your camera out for walks, watch YouTube tutorials, invest in educational courses. Nourish your brain & reignite the flame for your hobby-turned-career within you.

8. Educate others
Use your knowledge to teach and inspire others. Host workshops, mentoring sessions, or blog about your unique knowledge within your sector.

9. Schedule & shoot engagement sessions
If you’re a photographer, you could use the off-season to catch up with your couples and shoot your engagement sessions. It avoids potentially overcrowding your calendar during the summer months, with back to back weddings already in the diary. If you’re not a photographer however, you could simply use the time to hold consultations or coffee dates with your clients.

10. Submit, submit, submit
Get your stuff seen by wedding blogs! Most blogs accept wedding submissions from all types of suppliers – it’s not just down to the photographer or the couple to submit them. If you’re particularly proud of a piece of work from the season just gone, share your genius with the world!

11. Just sit down & crack on with that pile of admin
Catch up with your email backlog, do your taxes, record your mileage – whatever requires attention, just do it. Keep the kettle on, obvs.

12. Create / rewrite email templates
Make sure that your email templates are still relevant, and tweak them where possible. If you haven’t yet created email templates, they’re an absolute lifesaver. It’s helpful to have – as standard – an ‘available’ response, an ‘unavailable’ response and a ‘what to do next’ template. Everything else you usually find yourself repeating again & again, should probably be put down in a template too. Provided you don’t write it to be, they don’t have to be stuffy & formal & disingenuous. Make your templates read as if you’re speaking face-to-face with your clients!

13. Reorganise your office
You probably have an office if you’re a wedding creative. And if you do, by the end of wedding season, it probably looks like a child just ransacked it in the search for candy. Get it organised. Find a new place for things that linger. Alphabetise stuff. Filter things by date. Do what you want to do to make your office space, a calm space.

14. Network with others
Networking with other creatives is one of my favourite things to do, and I squeeze in as much of it during my off season as I physically can. I host brunches, I attend brunches, and I ask other creatives to go for coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks. It’s important to get together with people that understand both your strife and your pleasure. And it’s also nice to build relationships in this industry, because paths always get crossed, and what you have to offer can sometimes benefit others.

15. Blog on your own website
I bet there’s a tonne of work you did this year that hasn’t been seen yet, huh? Like that rad engagement session you did? Or that amazing styled shoot you were a part of? Get that stuff on your website, honey bee! It’s your hub. It’s your ‘self’ space, where you tell the people that find you that “this is who I am” and “this is what I do” so give them plenty to gawp at.

16. Update your contracts & invoices
We should all be sending out well written, relevant and ‘proper’ contracts and invoices. Are yours still in good order? Does everything still read the same?

17. Start a newsletter
This is a fab (albeit, relatively time consuming) way of keeping in touch with followers and clients, if social media isn’t your bag of tricks. It’s totally thrilling to see you subscriber list rise & rise as your newsletters become increasingly popular. Create content that’s worth reading, relevant to your clientele (or those you want to teach), and stay in touch. If newsletters seem like a lot of faff considering all you do already, simply give people the option to subscribe to your blog posts instead.

18. Remind clients to review you
Send an email out to your clients to politely encourage them to support your business with a review. Google Reviews are hella important, so rack them up if you can. Otherwise, simply receiving a written testimonial in response from one of your clients, is enough to share on your website. Potential clients value good feedback from people that were once in their shoes.

19. Consider reinventing your brand
Need a face lift? No, not you – no one needs that. I mean your business, of course! Does your business need a rebranding? The answer is – probably not. But if there’s that jelly belly feeling right in the pit of your tummy that kinda tells you that something needs to be done, do it. Take the time to really plan it properly, because there is SO much to consider with a rebrand. It’s probably worth dedicating an entire blog post to itself. However, a good place to start is with your fonts on your website, lingo on social media & your logo. They can all make a hell of a difference.

20. Inspire yourself
Do something you haven’t done before. Follow new creatives on social media that excite you. Pick up new gear and create something. Talk to people that inspire you. Go on a journey. Have a weekend break. Be kind to your passion by trying new things, and accepting things sometimes don’t work, but when it does – it’s really f*cking thrilling!

Well, guys. Do you know what I realised after I created this list of 20 things to do? I could easily curate another list of 20. Which is exciting, because it means there’s always something you could be doing. And whilst that prospect might be intimidating to you, I propose that you see it as something to be excited about, instead. The depths to which you can explore your creative passion / career are endless. Get going, kid.

But remember – never, ever feel guilty for taking the odd evening out of the hustle to just dunk your custard creams in to your cup of tea and think about absolutely nothing. To recharge. Cos that matters too, boo.

WITH LOVE
G