It’s that time of year, where we all finish up our client work, start slipping into our footie pajamas and cozying up with hot chocolate and more christmas cookies than we’d care to admit. You’ve hustled all year – you’ve earned it. But, there are a few things you should do to set yourself up for a successful start to the new year before you call it quits!
So, here is a step by step action plan of exactly what I plan to do to make sure that I’m all set for next year!
Hopefully, you’ve been collecting receipts for your accountant (even if your accountant is you) throughout the year so that you have everything squared away come tax time. This can be done through your client management program, or through programs like Quickbooks or Wave. This can also be done in a spreadsheet, but keep in mind that while that may be feasible when you have only a small amount of transactions, as your business grows that will not be sustainable. Automating that process leaves you with time to do the things that make you money, and that you love doing!
2. Profit / Loss
While you’re taking a look at your taxes, dive into your profit / loss ratios. I’m the first to raise my hand to say that I’m no economics expert, but I’d venture to say that while this work is fun, we don’t do it solely for fun. I like to eat, and I eating costs money. So, ensure that your hard work is making you money. You should be doing this throughout the year as well, but taking a deep dive at the end of the year is a great way to know holistically how you’re doing.
3. Evaluate Your Pricing
If you just took a look at your profit/loss ratio and realized your business isn’t making money – you need to either raise your prices, or lower your costs! I’m always a proponent of charging what you’re worth, but that has to be tempered with what the market/your clients will pay as well. If you can’t raise your prices, find costs in your business that can be lowered or cut. Consider paying yearly for the client management program instead of monthly, or finding a new wholesale supplier for one of your supplies. Did your envelope supplier raise their prices? Make sure that is factored in to your pricing for the new year.
4. Business Plan & Goals
Now that you’ve evaluated your pricing, and have a good understanding of what products have been successful and which have not, use that to inform next year’s business plan. Start with the figure that you want to make. Now, you might be saying “but Lauren that’s a silly thing to say, I just want to make as much as I can”. This is called a scarcity mindset, and for all you Type 3 Enneagrams like me – this is the root of all your anxiety, and a whole other blog post about feeling like nothing is ever “enough”.
If you do this full-time, the figure you want to make should be what you need to keep a roof over your head, put food on the table, etc. If you’re married or not the sole-provider, factor in your spouse’s income into this. If you need 100k to keep things afloat and your spouse makes 50k, your figure should be 50k. Keep in mind that taxes mean if your business brings in 50k, that doesn’t mean you take home 50k. Factor that in to your number! If you do this part-time, your figure might be what you would need if it was your full-time job if your goal is to eventually quit your day job. Or if you’re like me and plan to always keep this your part-time job, you can set your goal to have your business pay your monthly mortgage, pay for a special trip, ballet for your children, etc. The important thing is to have a specific number in mind so that you can set goals to meet that number. If you only needed to shoot 10 weddings to meet that number, and have the opportunity to shoot 12 – those extra two are just icing on the cake! You can make a decision to take on those extra 2 to have a little extra (and celebrate), or you can stick with 10 and spend that extra time relaxing, confident in knowing that you met the financial goals you needed to.
Create a plan that includes quantifiable goals for your sales next year. For me, this means to meet my yearly goal I may set a need to book 200 envelopes a month, 12 invitation suites a year, etc. As you can see, these goals can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly. It all depends on your business! I, as many other vendors in the wedding industry, find I have a “busy” season and a “slow” season, so setting a goal for a certain number of invitation suites a month may be setting myself up for disappointment in the months where I’m typically more slow.
When setting these goals, make sure you are also taking into account the amount of work you can feasibly do. You may love the $$ budget figure that comes from setting a goal of 10 weddings a month, but if you can’t shoot/cull/edit 10 weddings a month, you’re quickly going to fall behind and get burnt out. You also want to set goals that you think are attainable – that doesn’t necessarily mean safe, just attainable. If you booked 2 weddings a month last year, setting a goal for 10 a month this year (unless you drastically change other pieces of your business) is a big ask. Pick something that is a stretch, but within reach, and consider shooting for a goal of 4-5 weddings a month.
5. Marketing Plan
Now that you know you want to sell X products per month, or shoot X weddings per year, how are you going to make that happen? This is when you need to take a look at your marketing plan. Are your mini-sessions selling like hot cakes? Consider adding on additional days, or offering them throughout the year. Did you create a product that very few (or no one) purchased? Think about why – does the price match the perceived value of the items? Consider a marketing shoot to get better images of the product. Did people see it but not purchase, or are most of your target clients unaware that it is available? Consider adding extra umph to your marketing efforts on social media to get the word out.
6. Update Website
When all of the wonderful people from your fab marketing plan come to your visit to see your past work, make sure that it is up to date! This goes for other sites like your Wedding Wire, The Knot, or Google listings as well. Double check that any pricing information you include on your website is also updated. These locations should have your best, most favorite work – not the stuff from 5 years ago when you were just starting out since that likely won’t match what you are charging now. Remember – your pricing and the perceived value to your clients needs to match, or people won’t want to invest in you.
7. Archive Old Work
I feel ashamed that I’m telling you all to do this, and if you could see the state of my hard drive, you’d know why. If you’re like me and keep every sketch and scan of work you did in TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN, it might be time to deep clean. Clean up old files, keep only what is needed, and consider archiving them to somewhere (that is still safe) like an external hard drive. This will help your computer run quicker, and help you find what you are looking for faster. If you have something in your contract that states you will keep certain things for a certain amount of time, make sure you’re honoring that before you start deleting anything!
8. Replenish Common Supplies & Clean
I wish I had taken a photo of my studio last week after 1,300 pieces shipped out – it looked like a paper tornado struck! As you prepare for the new year, stock up on any commonly used supplies (for me this is calligraphy nibs, watercolor paper, etc.) and clean out and organize your workspace. I’m even going to re-arrange a few things to be more efficient with how I’m storing some of my supplies. Starting the new year with a clean space just puts you in the right head space to get excited to be creative after you’ve had plenty of time off to rest!
There are of course plenty of other industry-specific things you might need or want to do at the end of the year, but if you follow these tips – you’ll be sure to be set up for success. And with that – I’m off to take my own medicine and finish this list myself, before the stretchy pants go on and I settle into a christmas-cookie coma!