This might surprise you, given my witchy nature, but Christmas is by far my favourite time of the year. I just love absolutely everything about it, and you can find me at my local garden centre picking out tinsel and colour matching baubles as soon as Halloween is over. But since I became a business owner, the festive season has presented a bit of a challenge and so I want to share with you a story about what made me decide to take the whole of December off every year and show you how you can manage your client’s expectations over the festive season – and actually take a break!
The Most Stressful Time Of The Year
Back in the first year of my business, I took on a client who was a bride to be (looking back – she definitely was not my ideal client) and so she hired me to design and create lots of wedding stationery in the run-up to her big day. In the beginning, it seemed fun, but as we drew closer to Christmas, things got a little stressful and I had my first experience working with a Bridezilla!
This bridal client of mine was hellbent on getting her wedding invites printed and sent to her before Christmas, bearing in mind she wasn’t getting married until another 18 months – and so I raced around like a blue arse fly begging local printers to print her invites on silk vellum paper (which is such a unique speciality and very hard to come by) luckily, in the end with only 2 days away from Christmas I managed to pull it out the bag and deliver the goods. After that, I vowed to never work around Christmas or brides ever again!
You see, I used to be such a people pleaser and would feel guilty for taking time off, and so I regularly ended up working when I should have been relaxing. I shortly learnt a great mantra from my business besties, that “someone’s urgency isn’t my emergency” – and it took me a long time to digest that, especially when I’ve been a people pleaser all my life. One word – boundaries! I need them in place for my clients, but also for myself.
From that moment on, I wasn’t going to let another Christmas go by as I scrambled to do client work while the rest of my family revelled in our favourite holiday traditions! I put some plans in place to make sure I could actually take a break and enjoy myself, and now I want to share them with you so that everyone can have a nice, relaxing Christmas!
Planning For Christmas
Christmas is a busy time for everyone, and December tends to go crazy for a lot of businesses. But once Christmas eve arrives it should be a stress-free and enjoyable time, without having to worry about anything but family and relaxing for a little while.
To get that level of relaxation, you need to do some planning. You need to work out what time you would like to take off, and what you need to do to make that happen. Do you need to adjust some deadlines? Do you need to hire a VA to manage your emails and calls during the break? Or do you need to put systems in place to make sure everything runs smoothly in your absence? Sit down and plan out what December looks like for your business, and what you can do now to buy yourself peace of mind later.
Time Off Is Non-Negotiable
For the last 3 years, I have taken a non-negotiable, multi-week break from my business over the Christmas holidays. Now I have a full month off, and I don’t feel in the least bit guilty! We all know how tiring, stressful and hectic running a business can be, and you need some time to just be you for a bit.
Having the mental space to put aside work and focus on your family, friends and your own wellbeing is good for your mental health and your soul. And ultimately good for your business as well, since you can start the new year fresh. So consider this your gift from Infinity Creative this year – I am giving you permission to take time off this year, and enjoy it!
Set Clear Boundaries
Be honest, how many times do you answer emails when you shouldn’t? We all do it – especially since smartphones means we have access to client communications in our pockets at all times. But if you don’t want to be disturbed during your time off, then you need to set some boundaries. With your clients and yourself.
Make sure that you limit the projects you take on in the run-up to Christmas, so you’re not scrambling to get things done before the break (or worse, stuck doing them when you should be taking time off). Be firm with yourself now so that you can be gentle over the holidays. Let clients know what your plan is going to be, and set clear boundaries about things like contacting you over the break and what will happen if they do.
Manage Your Client’s Expectations
This sounds like a simple thing, but honestly, I found it so hard for so long! You always want to be able to provide the best service possible for your clients, but you also have to take care of yourself. One of the ways you can avoid disappointing anyone over the Christmas break is to be proactive in managing their expectations.
Let them know in advance how long you will be taking off and when you will be back in the office. Tell them how you will be looking after them in the run-up to the break and what systems you’ll put in place to take care of them while you’re away. And add that info to your out of office email as well, so you know they’ve got it and know what’s going on. This means you enjoy a disturbance-free break, and your customers feel well taken care of.
Make Your Break Work For You
Because I take a nice long break to recharge over the Christmas period, I’m usually out of communication for several weeks. This is great for me, but I know some people might be a bit impatient to connect with me before I’m back. I don’t want a potential client to lose interest in my brand and go elsewhere, so I have a little trick I use to keep them engaged until I’m back in the office.
When I’m designing my email autoresponder, I’ll include a few links to some of my latest or my best content. Maybe one of my more popular blogs, or a YouTube video. If you have content you’re using to promote your business, including it in your autoresponder is a no-brainer. This way, my content is building a rapport with prospects for my brand on autopilot. So while I’m sleeping in, watching The Holiday (hello Jude Law 😍) for the 12th time, or overindulging in the festive food and booze, my email is keeping people interested and engaged in my brand, ready for when I get back in the New Year.
. . .
And that’s it from me this year! As I hit “post” on this blog that marks the start of my Christmas break, and I can already hear Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey are defrosting ready to emerge from their hibernation and sprinkle their Christmas magic.
And if you’re one of my clients then you will have already heard from me about what that’s going to look like and how it will all work. In the meantime, I hope each and every one of you has a holly jolly Christmas break, and an amazing New Year – I hope next year is full of health wealth and prosperity.
Until next time,