The off-season for any business can be a scary time, especially if you’re just starting out your business.
After all, how do you know what your slow season will be if you haven’t experienced a few years as a business owner quite yet?
On a personal note, my copywriting business often faces a dry spell during the holiday months, since clients are usually off celebrating the holidays or wrapping up year-end work. During my first year in business, I didn’t anticipate this would happen, so it was definitely a rough learning curve.
But I not only managed to survive, but I also learned a few valuable techniques to continue getting customers during those dry spells. Check out my top ways to get customers and survive your slow season, no matter what your trade!
Keep your social media alive and well.
Your social media can be a lifeline to customers during your slower months because they’ll be able to keep up with your important business updates. Plus, it’s a free way to reach out to customers, letting them know about sales, promotions, and special events you might have during your slower seasons.
A lot of business owners want to know what the right balance for posting might be. I usually give the recommendation of 1 to 2 posts per day, although that could change if you have a special event or sale coming up. Make sure each post is relevant and designed to spark conversation with your customers. If they’re feeling spammed by constant and generic updates from you, they might be tempted to unfollow you.
Don’t forget to use your slow season to tease what you’ve got planned for when your business gets busy again (more on this in a bit)!
Offer a seasonal service on the side.
There’s a reason why a lot of landscapers and contractors up north also offer snow plowing services during the colder months. As demand for warm-weather services dips, the need for snow removal becomes a lot more urgent. These businesses often supplement their off-season income with something more seasonal, which helps them make it through the slower months until work picks back up again.
That’s why I recommend finding a more seasonal service to offer that complements what you’re already doing. For example, if you own a restaurant in a seasonal town but you’re open year-round, considering hosting special events like weddings, functions, and even fun events like murder mystery parties (seriously, they’re huge now!).
One caveat: Make sure you have the right business insurance for the supplemental work you’re offering. To go back to an earlier example, if you’re a landscaper and you provide snow plowing services during the winter, your current landscaping insurance policy might not cover you while you’re plowing.
Ask others how they do it.
If you know another business owner who’s in the same trade or industry as you, don’t hesitate to ask for advice or guidance on how they survive their slow seasons. Asking others for their own tips is a great way to cut that learning curve in half, plus they’ll be able to offer you more specific advice based on your industry than anything you might find online (and yes, I’m including this article!).
Take care of that annoying work you didn’t have time for.
Whether you run a seasonal shop or specialize in seasonal work, there has probably been a time where you were so busy you didn’t have time to take care of admin work, or update your website, or plan upcoming events. I get it - I’ve had busy times where just meeting project deadlines took up all my time.
That’s why one of the advantages to the slow season is that you might have more time to invest in the things that will help you get more customers once work picks up again. Here are a few things you can focus on today that will make you a lot more money tomorrow:
Test out the speed of your website, as slow websites cause customers to lose interest.
Update your tools and inventory, or check out new small business apps that can help you be more productive when your busy season comes around again.
Plan out your calendar of events for your busy season now while you have the time. Bonus points if you set these event invites up on Facebook ASAP, as it gives customers time to see what special events you have in store.
On a similar note, plan out the sales and promotions you want to run during the season. Again, set up events on Facebook for each sale and promotion - it’ll tantalize customers and get them ready to start buying with you when the time comes!
Change up your business hours.
A lot of seasonal places and services shut down during the off-season for good reason: the expense of keeping a store or restaurant open is too much when compared to the revenue that’s coming in. That’s why, if you haven’t already, consider amending your business hours to cut down on these expenses.
Even if you run a seasonal business based in a trade like landscaping or pool work, you can still tweak your hours so that you’re minimizing expenses associated with tools, gas, and vehicle maintenance. For example, when I worked as a landscaper during college, we used to work every other weekday during the slower seasons.
One word of warning: Make sure you have open and honest conversations with your employees before making changes to business hours. Your employees depend on stable hours and pay for their livelihoods - and if you take that away by suddenly changing your business hours, it’s cruel. Keep them in the loop as much as possible so they’ll end up coming back when you need them for the busy season.
Offer up some sweet sales.
Whether you’re in the height of your busy season or in the midst of your off-season, sometimes a huge sale is all you need to get people to pay attention. Make an event of it, too; put an announcement up on social media, schedule special hours, and make the discounts too irresistible to ignore.
Keep in mind that one of the best ways to make this work is to offer discounts on products or services that your customer actually _ wants _. Customers aren’t going to go out of their way to shop with you if you’re only offering a small discount on one of your least popular items or services!
Cater to your locals.
If you rely on seasonal visitors to make your money, you may want to shift focus during your slow times to locals. For example, if you run a restaurant in a seasonal town, look into offers and special events that you can host just for folks who live there year-round. It won’t exactly have you swimming in cash, but it’s a good way to keep the lights on until you get busy again.
Learn for next year.
You’ve probably seen your fair share of online advice that tells you to tuck away savings for your slow season. But if you’re already in the midst of your slow season, that’s not exactly the most helpful advice in the world.
That’s why I think it’s worth mentioning that you should use this current slow season to learn how to better prepare next year. Whether that means tucking away more money during your busy season or finding other services to specialize in while work is slow, you’ve got the time now to plan it out.
How do you handle your slow season? I’m curious to know!
I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.
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