I have this reoccurring vision for Christmas Eve in our house. The kids are sneaking snacks from the table, shaking presents, and ducking hugs and kisses. Close friends are gathering, light hearted chatter. Me? I'm pounding away on my keyboard trying to get that last thing done! I keep saying "one more minute" which really means to my family: "who knows when?"
When you work out of your home with a flexible schedule, it doesn't mean you are on call and available to work at all times. You are entitled to take time off. I have met too many people who ended up working longer hours and did more work to boot! This is especially true if you are just beginning in your own business. As important as it is to establish your business, don't forget why you started it in the first place. Independence and more free time. As often as you say, "once I get this up and running, I'll have more free time" is as often as you'll find something else to expand upon. Meaning you will never find that "free" time until you hire someone else to do the work for you. And, who can afford that in a new business? A good balance is essential. And, it's ok to have limits. Most people expect you to take time off during the holidays but if you aren't clear on deadlines and your working time, you could very well find yourself working during the party!
Here are some ways to avoid that:
Send out an announcement to your customers with your projected "Closed for the Holiday" dates at least 2 weeks in advance. Correspond with your customers a few days before your expected "closed" dates, you'll have a better forecast of their needs during the holidays or may get some extra business! If you are available for rush orders or emergency work from your customers, make sure you discuss a premium with them (you can outline your premiums in your announcement).
Many times, in small business, we don't feel we have a right to ask for a premium. We want our business to grow and be successful and we are quite prepared to work harder or longer to make it so! It's true, outstanding customer service is a key element in the success of your business, however, how long do you think you'll be in business if you don't have limits and basic rules? You'll run yourself ragged trying to please everyone all the time! Get to know your customer's needs before the holidays.
You may consider helping out a good, stable customer during this time. They'll remember that you came through for them at a time of crisis. That's great for your image! Customers that always seem to be in a "state of emergency" can drain your resources! These types of customers should expect to pay a premium for your services. Always make sure you discuss it beforehand to avoid any miscommunication. Besides, how are you ever going to get your Christmas shopping finished if you work up until the last minute?
Here are some of my easy and quick, favorite gifts to give:
Books-in-a-basket: Avid readers love to get books as presents. 2 or 3 books in a basket along with hot cocoa mix, flavored tea/coffee make a wonderful, customized present. These are also items you can buy here and there, a little at a time.
An updated picture of your family in a nice frame makes a great gift for your parents or grandparents.
Although gift certificates are impersonal, sometimes they are your best option. Wrap it up and place it in a box, then wrap that box up and place it in a bigger box, etc. It's a lot of fun to open! Gift certificates for massages, haircuts, manicures and pedicures are a big hit in our family.
Movie Lover's Basket: Jujubes (remember those?), microwave popcorn, and a six pack of soda coupled with a few movies make an enjoyable present. Select a theme (like Humphrey Bogart) or new releases.
Save your energy! Use your telephone to call and check stock on items you want to buy and the Internet for price comparisons on bigger things. Mapping out a route before you leave your house can also save you time during the Christmas rush.
Finally, enjoy your holidays! Your business and your sanity will be there when you get back to it!