The Freelancer’s Holiday Season To-Do List

Round the world, the holiday season is upon us. If you’re in retail or ecommerce, this time of year is your bread and butter, with up to 40% of total annual revenues rolling in over just a few short weeks. Other businesses slow to a crawl and even close during the last week in December. Deals are deferred, purchasing is put on hold, and we all wait until the New Year.

Web design isn’t usually perceived as a holiday-dependent business. Even if your clients include ecommerce sites, your work getting ready for the holiday shopping season was done many weeks ago. Business is so slow this time of year that you might even go on holiday yourself. Those beaches beckon and the snowboard’s whispering your name.

On the other hand, you are in business. Even though clients may not be calling, much can be done during this holiday period, particularly if you’re planning for a busier 2003.

1. Taking Care of Customers

The annual holiday season is a perfect opportunity to make a personal connection with your regular clients, and even former clients or prospects.

2. Events

Of course you can host an open house or holiday party, but perhaps a more realistic plan is to attend those you’re invited to! Even if such events aren’t high on your favorites list, they present a great opportunity to meet people in person, put a face with a name, and connect or reconnect. Practice your schmoozing skills, take a supply of business cards, and collect those from everyone you meet. New business cards will become your foundation list for that January marketing campaign you’re planning… right?

3. Gift Giving

Gift giving is a holiday ritual in many cultures at this time of year. Business gifts don’t have to be expensive. Calendars, sweets or a gift basket are often appreciated — perhaps consider a gift for your best customers, and cards for others. Just be sure to check whether your client adheres to a ‘no-gift’ policy before you present them with your tokens.

4. Card Sending

Send a holiday card, or at least a holiday email, to everyone on your current, former and prospective client list. Even a hopeful “looking forward to serving you in the New Year” message is appropriate. How about the friendliest greeting of all -– a phone call? Just a few minutes of your time to extend warm wishes to a client.

Depending on tax laws, business gifts or holiday entertaining are often a legitimate business expenses and can be written off at tax time. Check with your tax advisor.

5. Taking Care of Business

This has been a challenging year for many businesses who continue to struggle in lean times. If the holiday season adds yet another slowdown, use the time to plan for the New Year. Take a look at your own Website. Is it doing what you want it to? Use this time to revise the copy, update graphics, add a content management system or optimize for search engine positioning. If you go for a new graphic look, the launch can become a news event in January, at least within your customer/prospect base. There’s another reason to contact your in-house list.

6. Write a Marketing Plan and Budget

Marketing is a cost center in most businesses, but creativity can often substitute for cash. For instance: can you give short presentations about how successful small business can be on the Web? If so, find out how to book yourself as a featured speaker at civic and service group luncheons in the new year. Offer to write an article for your local newspaper, or ask a copywriter to ghostwrite it for you. Think creatively and set a low-end budget.

7. Plan an eNewsletter

The most efficient means to keep in touch with clients is with a brief enewsletter, sent monthly or at least every other month. Tell customers and prospects about new sites you’ve built, staff changes, successes your clients have enjoyed, books you recommend, and links to articles that may be helpful. It could be a real business-builder in the New Year…

8. Develop a Plan to Grow Every Customer Relationship

What additional needs does each of your customers have, and how best can you meet them? Should you add a staff member, consider research partnering, or pursue joint ventures to build sales revenue? If you rethink your position as a provider of emarketing services, you’re much more valuable to your client. Find those emarketing services like SEO, online advertising, or copywriting through partnerships, or by contracting with specialists who are willing to negotiate their fees to your individual situation.

In any case, the New Year will be here in an eye-blink. New budgets, clear objectives, and fresh plans will be essential to build business in 2003… just be sure to take time to appreciate the clients you serve now, the friends who support you, and the family at home. Happy holidays!

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