Somehow I always look forward to Christmas Eve. If it's not done by then, it's not getting done and I can sit down, put my feet up and have a much-needed eggnog -- spiked of course. You deserve a rest all the way through the day after Christmas. After that you had better start figuring out what you are going to do to get some business after January first!
Step One: Take a Day Off
You are not any help to anyone if you are sick or exhausted. Give yourself a break. Plan a whole day of pampering yourself. Go alone or with a friend, but do it. Schedule it right this very minute. Call up the local salon that has a day spa.
Go into the city that is closest to you and find a spa that can do the works. You know, facial, one-hour massage, manicure, pedicure, haircut and hairdo -- everything. Don't skimp on this as the New Year will start and you will be too busy making a living to treat yourself. Do it now!
Step Two: The Great Purge
The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is a great time to go through your files. Get rid of all the stuff that is no longer relevant to your business. For those of you into Feng Shui, this is great for your energy flow, or chi. (D&WC, January 1997; February 1997; April 1997.) If you don't need it, throw it out!
Don't forget your computer files. That hard drive won't have space on it forever. Get rid of unnecessary files or copy dated files to a backup floppy disk so there is lots of room to play with next year.
Next, put all the information that is necessary for your taxes in one box and mark it, in big letters, TAXES. This will be a great help to you as 1099 forms and other documents come in. When you sit down to do your taxes, everything will be in one place.
Go through your client files. Are there folders that can be put into storage? Why should these take up valuable, accessible space when they can go some place less critical? Surely you expect to be doing lots of new business come the New Year so make room for it now.
This effort should take one or two work days. Unless, of course, you haven't done this for five or 10 years, then you will need more time.
If you have more time and have gotten into the swing of the purge cycle, you can be really brave and tackle your resources files. I would be willing to bet that at least 50 percent of what you currently have in cabinets (or boxes) has never been used and is totally out of date. We designers are good at putting things into these files but not taking them out. Now is a good time.
Step Three: Take Another Break
Go out and see a movie. Have lunch with a friend. Go shopping. Do something that you haven't had time to do all this year. Whether it's just for the afternoon or for the whole day, give yourself one more breather. You deserve it.
Step Four: Develop Your Game Plan
How will you jump start your business on January 2? Will you just let it trickle in and get frantic about paying your bills? Or will you take charge and get it going for yourself?
Option A: Review Past and Current Clients. Whether you keep your clients' names on a computer file, index cards or just file folders, now is the time to check them over.
Make sure you have a pad of paper and a pencil. Read each name and think about the client. Was there anything else that client wanted done? Were there some ideas you had yet to mention that he or she might want to hear about in the New Year? Write it all down. Then review your list and prioritize the clients.
Plan to contact the ones who are most likely to want to go ahead first. If you have been doing your job, you will have a good feel for this. Think about what you want to say on the telephone. How will you get them excited? Make notes and get them organized.
Option B: Finding New Clients. So maybe you have done Option A and have found you don't have too many clients to call, or you want even more options to build your business next year. What do you do now? Collaborate with Businesses. Do you know florists, wallpaper hangers, painters, plumbers? They may know some names of people or businesses new to the area. Maybe you could offer them a referral fee or credit for these names. Offer Seminars. Put together a one- or two-hour presentation that you could give in your home, studio or store that will get people interested in what you can do. Invite past and current clients and ask them each to bring a friend or two. Go to the Courthouse. Your local courthouse keeps track of the sales of homes in your area or any area. It is public information and free of charge. Go down and do some research. Make a list of names, addresses and telephone numbers of new residents in the neighborhoods in which you like to do business. Call Past Clients. When you keep your clients happy they will return the favor. Call clients and tell them you have an opening or two for new clients and ask if they can think of any of their friends or acquaintances who might be interested in your skills and services. Ask them if you can use their names as a reference or referral. Go to Meetings. If you haven't already, join a couple of business groups. Chambers of Commerce, professional women's organizations, civic leagues and others are ways of meeting people you don't know. When you attend regularly, people will get to know who you are and what you do. When they need help or know of someone who does it will be your name that comes to their lips. Hint: The membership committee meets all the prospective and new members first.
Any and all of these techniques will help you build your clientele come the New Year. Use a combination to make your business base strong.
Step Five: Work Your Plan
All of the above steps will be a waste of time if you don't use them. Come January 2 you should know what you will do the moment you sit down at your desk. You should know how many calls you will make a day and how many appointments you will make each week.
Set reachable goals for yourself. Goals that are measurable such as: I will make enough telephone calls to talk to 10 clients each day; I will make three appointments each week; I will attend one meeting to network each week. Keep track of how you are doing. As you get better you can increase your goals.
By measuring and tracking your results you will see your skills, business and income grow. Yes it takes effort, but your success is worth it. Happy Holidays! And may your New Year bring you nothing but health, happiness and success!
Susan Dudics-Dean is an interior designer and owner of Celestial Designs. She currently works in the greater Washington, DC, area with residential and commercial clients and consults with other designers. She has had a successful business in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 15 years, and is active as a professional speaker in the areas of
interior design, sales and Fung Shui.