Well, we made it. We all (hopefully) survived the holidays! This has different meaning for everyone; survived the in-laws, the temper tantrums from the kids, the over-eating, etc. etc. For me, or you as a maker/creator, it means you made it through all the orders, all the customs, and all the vendor events and pop-ups. Congratulations!
So, now what? Hopefully you all had a successful holiday season that wrapped up a successful year of progress and growth for your craft, but now what? For most of us, as a small brand or company, the beginning or first quarter is typically a little slower than that of Q4 of the previous year. If not, that’s great for you, but for me it is almost always a lull in the shop.
If you’re like me, and things have slowed a bit, what do we do with the time? Do you take time off in the shop from building product? Do you get lax with your social media? Or trudge along building stock?
These slow times should be looked at a few different ways. For me, I always kick off the new year by laying out my new year plan. Planning, as I have hit on in the past is key for keeping myself on track. How do I do it?
First off, I like to look back at the previous year and examine what we succeeded at and where we fell short. This gives me a starting point. Then I set out a few goals for myself, personally, and for the shop/business.
- Year Long Goals- try to keep these as realistic as you can. Not “triple sales” but rather, what small steps can I make to triple my sales. A year is a long time, yet short time to throw out huge goals.
- Breaking down your Goal/s- Now that you have a Goal for the year, break it down into smaller parts to allow you’re to set deadlines and timelines. For me, I do this by setting Quarterly Goals. Breaking down a year into four chunks will allow you to get more specific with your overall goal/s.
- Finally break down those Quarterly to-dos into monthly and weekly. Deadlines are really an important thing for me. Doing monthly and weekly points to reach, make setting a deadline easier for myself, as well keeping me on track.
- Get a daily planner- This year I am trying a new planner. It is called the Self Journal by Best Self. It is structured for you to succeed at a goal in a 3 month format. So far it has been a great tool for myself both personally and professionally. Keeping track of your day to day will help to keep you on track. It is a great joy and feeling of accomplishment when you can look back and see all the checkmarks and wins as you progress.
Okay, we’ve taken some of our free time to plan out the year, now what? If you developed a good routine and schedule for yourself in the shop during the busy holidays, keep that routine in place! I’ve talked extensively on the importance of routines, and now is not the time to let them go. Just because you are not selling right and left or blowing up the road between shows, does not mean it’s time to take a break. Utilize your free time in the shop to develop new product, streamline production, or get on top of your administrative duties.
If you have set out your goal for the year, now is the time to get busy. Give your website or social media a once over. Now is a great time to look back over your social media account and study what did well for you in the past year and figure out how to use that to your advantage this year.
Have you been thinking of a new product or skill to try out? Now is a great time to start prototyping new product and try out new skills and techniques. While a lull in the shop allows a great opportunity to test new product, I highly recommend that you plan and schedule shop time throughout the year too, for product development. Its tough to try and ‘wing it’ in the middle of a full schedule and come up with a new item. Scheduling a block of time for this will help relieve some of the stress that can come along with over scheduling and being busy in the shop.
(I want to note, for those that are not familiar with my work schedule for Lost Penguin, I am not a full time maker in the shop. I work a 40+ hour a week job, am married and have an almost 3-year-old. Making time for Lost Penguin and the shop is a tough job and that is why I harp on scheduling and routines so much. I know a lot of you all are also part time makers, and finding consistent time to work on your craft can be stressful.)
I am starting to ramble now, so lets wrap this one up. What have we learned? Just because things have slowed down, keep your routines in place, and plan for what is next! Remember, we cant get lost time back, so make sure that you are utilizing each minute you have.
Let me know what you’re using slow times in the shop for in the comments below.
Also, if you are a maker and would like to be featured in the Interview Series, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we will be bring the interview series back in the coming weeks!