I’ve been thinking about Christmas for months, as is the life of someone who makes and sells things for a living. The Christmas sales period (mid October to Christmas Day, and then the New Year’s sales period in January) usually accounts for around 35-40% of my product based business’s annual turnover. It’s a ridiculously busy period and I start preparing for it months in advance.
I don’t do many special products for Christmas, besides some personalised Christmas tree decorations that’ll hit the shop towards the end of this month, so the majority of my preparations are to do with keeping my business running smoothly during the Christmas period.
Here’s how I prepare for Christmas…
1/ Take Stock
The most important thing to stop me burning out and going completely insane during the weeks leading up to Christmas is to make sure I have plenty of buffer stock on hand. I’ve been making lots of my most popular designs over the past few weeks, and will continue to stock-up during the coming weeks.
It can be hard to figure out how much of any one thing to make, especially if you’ve released new products or haven’t had a festive period before, so take a look at your sales over the past year and see what was selling best. If you’ve got anything that’s going to be featured in the press during the run up to Christmas, then definitely stock up big on that product!
2/ Book fairs and markets
All of the fairs and markets I’m attending over the festive season have already been booked and paid for, my accommodation and travel has already been sorted, and I’ve got a list of dates and details in my google drive. Most festive fairs start booking during September and October, so you need to think well in advance to be in with a shot of booking them.
3/ Order packaging & other printed items
I place a big order for packaging and other printed items (return labels, business cards, promo cards) during September/October in readiness for the Christmas rush. This usually keeps me going until March or whatever, but it means I’m not having to reorder during the busy periods!
4/ Pre-buy postage
My items are sent by Royal Mail large letter rate, which means I can just fix a regular postage stamp to the majority of my parcels (except the international ones, or ones weighing over a certain amount/requiring insurance). I don’t have the volume to use a business pick-up from Royal Mail, so instead I’ve started bulk buying (by the hundreds) royal mail stamps. I can then just drop them off at the post office or pop them in a post box.
5/ Release new items well in advance
Trust me, you don’t want to do a product launch in December! You’ll be rushed off your feet with orders for your current items. I’m probably going to be launching the last of my new items towards the middle of November (due to lead times). However, do use the Christmas period to highlight your newer items to your mailing list and previous customers – they might not have seen the initial launch, but will be more receptive to gift advertising at this time of year.
6/ Get on the PR wagon
I’m currently sending out product samples and emailing back to press requests like a demon! Everyone’s compiling their Christmas gift guides RIGHT NOW so it’s time to keep an eye out. Follow your favourite bloggers on twitter, keep an eye on the #journorequests hashtag & be ready to send out hi-res images and samples.
7/ Warn Relatives
Social events are pretty much off the calendar for me during November and December. My weekends are taken up with fairs, and Adam & I usually end up marathoning Netflix while packing up orders on an evening. My friends and family are pretty used to this now!
8/ Slow up on other work
I try and restrict the number of web design projects I take on during the busier times, freeing up that bit of time gives me way more headspace! If you’re able to reshuffle your work priorities like that, then do it! If not (and I’ve been there, when I had a 9-5 too), then it might be worth booking a day off here and there throughout December so that you can get everything up to date.
9/ Clean & organise my equipment
Giving my laser cutter a good clean, making sure my pliers are all in working order, and cleaning up my workspace- all these things make sure I stay organised and (usually) don’t have any bumps in the road during my making process.
10/ Give my social media a once over
This is something I do periodically anyway, but I make sure my profile images, descriptions, URLs etc. are all up to date and working correctly. If I do have any Christmas items I want to promote then I’ll make sure I’m putting them front and centre on Facebook.
11/ Give my website a once over
Similarly I’ll make sure my website’s all in good working order, and I’ll start to make some curated gift categories to make Christmas shopping even easier for my customers.
12/ Order presents and goodies for my customers
I’ve been popping sweeties in with my orders for the past few months, so to make things a little more festive I’ve ordered hundreds of tiny candy canes! I have a few other tricks up my sleeve that I’ll be popping in with customer orders, too.
13/ Get my accounts up to date
I generally do my accounts on a monthly/bi-monthly basis (or when my accountant shouts at me!). My year-end if actually at the end of October so it’s a good chance for me to make sure everything is 100% up to date with my accounts. Over the busy festive season I try and do my accounts a little more regularly so that I’m not left with a huge number of things to input during the new year!
14/ Load up on healthy food
At this time of year, where colds are rife and work is pressing, I make sure that I’m eating properly and taking some additional supplements if I feel a bit icky. Anything to ward off a cold!
15/ Take an early season break
If you can, try and take a few days off just before everything kicks-off in ernest. I’ll be popping over to New York for a week this month to recharge my batteries and make sure I’m fully rested (yeh, right, as if I’ll be resting in NYC!) before I turn into a making machine!
16/ Connect with Stockists early
Connect with your stockists in October and ask them if they want to place their Christmas wholesale orders with you. Getting those out of the way early will free up your time for buffer stock and packaging all your customer orders. They’ll be just as busy as you at this time of year, and will appreciate the chance to cross that off their list early!
Do you have any top tips for Christmas prep? I’d love to hear them!