The holiday season is almost here—which means you’re either drowning in holiday business or trying to stay busy as non-holiday business slows.
Either way, you’re not alone. We talked to Top Pros specializing in everything from accounting and interior design, to pet training and house cleaning to learn their best tips for staying ahead when winter comes.
Business always picks up around this time of the year,” says interior designer Karen McCooey. According to Karen, the key to being prepared for the busy season is understanding when it’s going to hit—and doing your planning in advance.
“You have to plan knowing that this will be your reality, two—even three—months ahead of time. I always hire part-time workers starting in September so that they’re trained and ready by the time Halloween rolls around,” she says. Stylist Winstead Barnes agrees: “In the winter, I spend time making sure that everyone on my staff is up to par.”
Whether you run a full team or you’re a team of one, here are pros’ top two pre-holiday suggestions:
Update your Thumbtack profile: According to makeup artist Cynthia Mitchell, keeping your profile seasonal and in-style will help put you ahead when holiday competition picks up. And make sure you have what your profile promises—says Cynthia, “It doesn’t hurt to update your kit to ensure you’re prepared for any new fun looks.”
Check your supply: “I need to know what’s in my inventory at least a season ahead so we don’t take on orders that we can’t supply,” say Francis and Julio, the husband and wife co-owners of JR Party Supply and Rentals. This applies to items that are specific to the season like wintery makeup pallets and Christmas themed tablecloths, as well as business staples like forks and cotton balls (or anything your business needs on a daily basis).
During the Rush
If your business is seasonal around the holidays, surviving the rush comes down to how well you stay organized, says to house cleaner Serene Aandahl. “Everyone wants their house cleaned before they host a holiday dinner. Things get busy, fast,” she says.
Stock Up: Around the holidays, Serene—who employs a team of 22 cleaners—asks her workers (broken into groups of five or six) to handle their own inventory of cleaning products. Instead of ordering in advance, Serene’s team can adjust to changing demand in real time: no over-ordering, no running out. Just as important, Serene says, “No matter how busy we get, I’m really careful not to overbook my team.”
Schedule Wisely: Dog trainer Eric Pliner agrees with Serene about the danger of overbooking himself when things get busy. “It’s easy to overwork yourself in the middle of a surge. I’m very specific about providing time slots on my website and I stick to them so that I can maintain time off to rest and recover,” he says.
Update Your Calendar: “If customers hire me by completing a booking request but forget to mark me ‘hired,’ I always take the time to do it myself because I want it to be updated in my calendar,” says Serene. Keeping your Thumbtack calendar updated is really helpful for staying on top of appointments, she says—and as long as you’re marked ‘hired,’ Thumbtack automatically adds those appointments to your calendar for you.
After the Rush (or How ro Make the Most of Slow Times)
“Even while we’re crazy, any and all free time goes into marketing—because I know that after the holiday craziness dies down things can get really slow, really fast,” says Karen.
The January Slump: Even before the holidays begin, Karen works out a marketing plan to get her through both the rush and the slow season. January and February tend to be Karen’s slowest times, like many pros who see a boom around the holiday season. To stay busy, Karen combats the slow time with seasonal promotions that attract new customers—like New Year’s and Valentine’s Day specials.
If the Holidays ARE Your Slow Time: Not all businesses are busy around the holidays. For some, winter is a time to revisit marketing strategy, train employees, plan for the year ahead—and if there’s spare time—relax.
This is the case for accountant JR Gramstad, whose business spikes in January and February, around the start of tax season. “A lot of accountants use the holidays to get some rest after battling deadline after deadline,” he says. JR uses that time to brush up on new tax codes so he can continue to offer the best service possible.
“Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve the personal training business tends to slow,” explains personal trainer Ruby Pachall. She uses that time to prepare for January—when New Year’s resolutions kick in and her business swells. That prep includes updating her marketing materials and refining her schedule so she can fit in as many clients as possible.
All the pros we talked to agreed: keep quoting.
“A lot of people don’t respond to quotes in the winter,” says tennis pro Steve Conley. “But if you’re smart you’ll keep it up. When they’re ready to hire in the spring and summer, they’ll remember you. It’s a numbers game. If out of every ten quotes turns into one ongoing client, that’s a good return.”
Get your Thumbtack profile ready for the holidays with these five-minute profile updates.