November 25, 2017

Stress Less With These Busy Season Tips

Does anyone else feel like the end of year season just went from 0 to 60 in a week? While Black Friday seems to start earlier and earlier every year, the holiday rush still hits all at once. Hello December! For those of you with handmade gifts to promote and orders to fulfill, this can be the most hectic time of year. No matter how much prep you get in before, long hours are inevitable. But when it comes to closing out the year with a solid sales record, the work is worth it! I know you can do it, and here my top 10 tips to help you manage stress and round out the year with a happy, albeit busy holiday season!

1. Set a Final Order and Ship Date (If You Haven't Already).
I've already mentioned this a couple of times, but it's worth repeating. When people shop your handmade goods for the holidays, they are counting on getting their order in time to give. You need to be upfront about timelines so they know when they can expect to receive their purchase. All major shipping providers have started getting the word out about final ship dates to get gifts delivered. Factor in your production time and order volume so you don't have any unhappy customers.

2. Be Proactive with Communication to Buyers.
With the above deadlines in mind, know that you can't control everything, but you can keep your buyers informed so they are less likely to be unhappy should something come up. For example, if you run into issues with materials, let them know as soon as possible so they aren't left without a gift to give. If there are customization options and you need the buyer's input, don't be shy about getting answers. They will appreciate your proactive style if it means they get their gifts.

3. Efficiency Counts, Especially with Packaging.
For those of you already actively selling your handmade goods, you probably know this well. There never seems to be enough time in the day. Anything you can do to cut down on production without sacrificing quality, the better your process will be. I'm a big believer in the assembly line method even if every stage relies on you. In most cases, it's more efficient to handle things in batches. Find ways to streamline your making as much as possible. When it comes to packaging, your buyers will appreciate any touches that make your goods easier to give, so if you can wrap or box them creatively, that's a nice perk. This is also important if you're shipping orders. Consider how the packaging can be protective to save you time in packing orders.

4. Prioritize Like a Pro with To Do Lists.
I don't know about you, but I feel much better if I can see everything I need to accomplish in one list. It's not efficient to hop from task to task as things come up. You're also more likely to get stressed if you don't have a clear view of the tasks at had.  I have different categories so I know where to focus my attention. I recommend adding deadlines, sub-tasks, color coding, whatever helps you hone in on what needs to be done hour by hour, day by day.

5. Don't Let Perfect be the Enemy of Good.
You never want to send out a poor quality piece. But with that said, you also don't want to spend hours in perfecting little details that only you as the artist will notice. The return for that invest isn't worth it, and it will cost you. I've already mentioned prioritization and efficiency. You need to balance any perfectionist tendencies so you deliver beautiful work, but in a timely and cost effective manner.

6. Ask for Help to Lighten the Load.
While you may not be in a position in your business to hire additional staff, consider the benefits of short term help for really busy seasons. If you're lucky enough to have friends and family that will lend a hand, that's great! You can reward them with some of your work perhaps. If not, you can usually find part time support. Just be sure to spell out clearly the skills needed and expectations so you can maintain your level of handmade quality.

7. Know the Comforts that Will Make the Work Easier.
No one knows yourself better than you. What makes you happy and productive? Is it music, comfy clothes, snacks? When you know you're going to have to put in extra hours this time of year, prepare with what you'll need to keep trekking. Set up your space with the right lighting, sounds, temperature. You will find your flow much easier if you are content physically so you can focus.

8. Make Time for Breaks, Eating, Sleeping, Exercise.
No matter how busy you feel, you can't forget the basics. It may seem like you need to work around the clock, but breaks are a must. It sounds cliche, but it's been scientifically proven that we all need balance. Your quality will suffer if you don't sleep or eat. Your health and happiness are not worth sacrificing for one more order. Make sure you factor in this time to your schedule.

9. Don't Lose Sight of Your Long Term Goals.
When you're super busy, it's easy to get wrapped up in the monotony of little tasks and the overwhelming to do lists. If you feel like you're swamped with no end in sight, take a step back and think about your long term goals. Why are you putting in these extra hours? Do they contribute to your bigger picture? If so, you should find inspiration and new energy in knowing why it's worth it. Don't lose sight of what you are striving for.

10. Give Yourself a Much Deserved Reward.
When all is said and done and you've shipped your last holiday order, give yourself a big pat on the back. You did it! The light at the end of the tunnel has arrived and you can be proud of what you accomplished. It's now time for a break and some time of reward, big or small, something to give yourself credit for a successful holiday season! If you're the type that's motivated by this eventual reward, go ahead and plan it out now so you can strive for it. Maybe it's a vacation, more family time, a spa day, art from one of your favorite makers.