Most businesses have slow seasons, but they tend to be felt more by small and microbusinesses. Winter is slow for many service businesses. For example, landscaping, construction, and similar outdoor, manual work are often hit hardest. On the other hand, folks who offer music lessons and tutoring may see the summers slow down considerably when kids are out of school and free of homework.
No matter what service you provide, there's often special times of the year when the jobs just aren't rolling in.
We've gathered 6 helpful tips from the pros on how to prepare for slow times, plus how to stay busy and keep income coming in when work is a little hard to come by.
1. Know when your slow season hits
Chances are, if you've been running your business for a year or two, you already know when your slow season happens.
If you're just starting out, it's important to anticipate and prepare for a slow season, because chances are when you find it, you won't be expecting it.
For those of you building a new service business, reach out to others who do the same kind of work to get an idea of when work slows during the year. Just about anyone you might know or meet can help give you an idea of when to expect the jobs to slow down. Once you know when your slow season will hit, you can prep for it so it doesn't hit you so hard each year.
2. Save for a rainy day
Everyone that has a slow season should prepare by saving money when they're busy and pay checks aren't a problem. Saving is always a difficult thing to do when you're running a business—equipment breaks, weather happens, and you can't predict any of it. But if you can be disciplined and hold off on spending, you can probably float through your slow season and relax.
The best way to tackle saving for the slow season is to first know when it will hit, and then plan out how much you need to have in the bank to make it through. Figure out what your monthly bills cost you, add a bit extra, then split saving that up over the busy months.
You need $3,000 per month to make it through the slow times. Your slow season is 2 months long.
You only need to save $600 each month during your busy 10 months to free yourself of worrying about how many jobs you take on when it's slow.
Best of all, if you pick up a few jobs here and there when things are slow, you'll find you still have some money left when things pick back up. You just scored a nice little bonus!
3. Be creative and branch out
A lot of service business owners branch out and do other things during slow seasons. A landscaper in some parts of the country does snow removal during the winter. We've also heard of contractors doing interior renovations, and handymen hanging Christmas lights and setting up decorative displays during the holiday season.
Thinking outside the box might be your best bet to never worrying through the slow season.
Branching out is also a great way to build relationships with new customers. You might even turn those slow-season relationships into new jobs for your core business when things pick back up.
4. Reach out to existing customers
Just because you know or have heard that there's a slow season in your area of service expertise, it doesn't mean that your season must be slow.
Maintaining good relationships with your customers isn't just good business, but it can also save you during the slow season. Just reaching out can often turn into work you didn't expect to be there. Sometimes, if you offer them a discounted rate, old customers can turn into new jobs. While calling may be great for some services, if you have your customers' email, you can increase your chances to get a response.
WorkWeek helps you keep up with your customers by reminding you to reach out, and preparing messages for you to send out.
5. Try a promotion
Like we mentioned above, a promotion is a great way to find jobs when you typically might have trouble. People love a discount or sale, and running a summer or winter promo is a great way to battle your slow seasons. Many businesses relax and take time off during the slow season, so you'll have less competition, and could find yourself with a lot more work than you expected.
There are a number of ways you could offer discounts and promotions. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to be specific and focused with your promotions. Think about the kind of services you want to provide during the slow season, and offer a promo for those only. Maybe you're a landscaper, and could offer a special winter rate for trimming back trees and bushes to prepare for spring. Or perhaps you provide tutoring services, and could offer special summer enrichment services that engage students in learning something they don't usually get to cover in school. If you combine being creative and branching out with promos and discounts, you may find that you never have a slow season.
6. Stay focused and aggressive
When you're busy, you probably have to let quite a few jobs go, because you either don't really need the work or don't have the time to do the job. But when you're slow, you need to "always be closing".
Seize every opportunity as if you might not have another one until you're back into your busy season.
Show up when you say you'll show up, call back when you say you'll call back, and discount work where you wouldn't typically. Make sure your customers know you're there. Get rid of any reasons for a customer to say no. Get the job. Get paid.
Hang In There
Running a service business in the slow seasons is hard, and the lack of work and a paycheck is painful for anybody. But hang in there. You're not alone, and it's not just you. Even big businesses have a slow season. The trick is in learning how to prepare, stay focused, and push through it. Use these tips to stay on top of your slow seasons, and let us know if you have any tips of your own that we've missed.