Patricia van den Akker is a creative business adviser, trainer, and the Director of The Design Trust, an online business school for designers and makers who help makers across the world to create a business they are proud of.
Don’t you just love Christmas? It’s the busiest time of the year for most designer makers I work with, and it’s often the most exciting time of the year, with lots of orders and sales. But there is so much to do. You are getting tired, mistakes start to happen and your customer service response might be a little less friendly than usual (to say the least). Stress can affect your health and productivity levels very rapidly.
Don’t let stress and overwhelm take over if you want to survive and thrive this busy Christmas period! Use these 10 stress-busting tips instead:
1: Are you spending time on the right things?
As a creative person you love making, however in the run up to Christmas you need to shift from making to marketing. Focus on a combination of festive events, visual and helpful email marketing and useful social media that will drive traffic to your Etsy site. If you don’t spend time on selling now then you will lose out, and will regret it in the quieter times of next year.
2: Can you avoid problems?
What are your worries? What are the most common complaints? Make a detailed list NOW and start to brainstorm and work towards a range of potential solutions. Here are a few questions that may prove worth thinking about now:
Is your packaging up to scratch? Do you need to get extra help? Are your clients asking the same questions, over and over again? Can you improve your product descriptions? Can you create a useful FAQ section on your online shop? Are your policies clear in your Etsy shop? Can you extend your return period? Have you clearly communicated your last posting dates?
3: Group similar jobs together
Group similar jobs together and divide each day or part of the day to a specific job: printing and sending out orders, updating your social media, emailing and complaints. Keep in check your energy levels throughout the day and identify when you are at your best to do certain jobs. Many people automatically start with opening their inboxes first thing in the morning, but it might be better to focus on jobs that need a clear brain. More repetitive jobs are probably for after lunch time when you start to get less energetic.
4: What can you automate?
Much of your social media and email marketing can be automated in advance, so that you don’t have to worry about it in the busiest weeks in December. Use Hootsuite or Buffer to plan your social media in advance so that messages can go out throughout the day and week. Plan and create a series of weekly emails now, so that they are ready to go. Sending out shorter but more regular emails to promote different products works better than sending out very long emails once per month. Tell them about your upcoming craft events, the last dates you accept commissions, or why not share some specific gift tips.
5: Take a break
When you are starting to feel overwhelmed it’s time to take a break! Or better even: plan those breaks in advance. Of course you want to give it your all, but it is essential to take a break regularly during the day and try to avoid working most nights and throughout all the weekends. You will not get more done if you choose that road.
Make sure that you have some time each day for yourself. So YES! Do book in that girly giggle with some friends on a Friday night in November, get some friends round for dinner to have a good laugh, and keep going to your weekly swim or yoga class. You will need it. And you have earned it!
6: Make time to plan
It sounds contradictory but taking time out to create and check out your plan can save you a lot of time. Look at all the tasks ahead of you and get them sorted into deadlines and categories.
Whatever way you decide to tackle your never-ending-to-do-list, try to take a bigger point of view: plan the big jobs at the start of the month and allocate them to a specific week. At the beginning or end of every week, identify what needs to be done. Starting to create a ritual of ‘checking in with yourself’ every day can really help you to get more organised, worry less, and stay on track. Create a big visual plan in your studio or use an online planning tool like Trello or Evernote to get your more organised and see where you are going.
7: Write a not-to-do-list
Often it isn’t about adding more and more to your daily to-do-lists but actually about what you should stop doing – you know what I am talking about! Stop spending so much time on worries and details, taking proper time out is essential (see tip 5) but get honest with yourself, avoid time wasting and procrastinating right now on activities that can wait till next year. Go on, create that not-to-do-list and hand it very visible in your studio to remind you!
8: Is your perfectionism getting in the way?
Are you spending too much time on getting an order packed up beautifully or fretting over how your craft fair display looks? When you have plenty of time spending a little bit of extra care can be a good use of your time, but when you are extremely busy you need to make a wiser choice. Stop hiding yourself in ‘busy time’, get on with it!
9: Change the music (literally)
Who or what are you listening to when you are getting stressed? Putting music on is one of the best and easiest ways to get out of your head and change your mood. Use it! You deserve to give yourself a bit more self-love and appreciation. Talk to yourself in a more compassionate voice. And if that fails then literally do put some music on! Singing (and dancing) along to a 1980’s New Romantics song, a bit of rock (and air guitar) or Chopin’s Nocturnes can quickly change your mood.
10: Are you ready for your own Christmas?
When you are busy organising the best presents for everybody else, don’t forget to get ready for your own Christmas and family.
Who or what can help you to get your own gifts, Christmas tree, travel and dinner sorted? Or are you relying on doing it all in the last two days when all last-minute online orders have been safely send off? Or have you booked a couple of days rest and got yourself a quiet Christmas, or booked a nice holiday somewhere warm?
It’s time to make time to enjoy your own merry Christmas too.
This Christmas it’s all about being cool and collected, will you be putting Patricia’s words of wisdom into practice this holiday season? Don’t forget to let us know in the comments below or tweet us @EtsyUK your stress-busting ways – sharing is caring!