The fourth quarter of the year is the time when service businesses can hit their yearly goals, even if they’ve not been on target earlier in the year. With Black Friday / Cyber Monday, holiday spending (including Christmas and Hanukkah) and end-of-year budgets all in the mix, the rewards can be great, but you need to be prepared.
To help you make the most of the fourth quarter, here are some steps you can put in place to maximise your sales and avoid overwhelm, so that when the holidays start, you can relax and enjoy a break.
REVIEW EXISTING CLIENTS AND COMMITMENTS
CLIENTS: The first step in getting ready for the fourth quarter is to look at your existing workload and commitments. Check the client work you already have booked in or that is likely to book. Contact potential clients who have said they want work done at some point and let them know this is their window to book in with their deposit before the year ends. Given you are about to launch promotional plans, your availability is likely to become extremely limited and your clients will appreciate giving them a heads-up now so they can plan too. You might even add in an early bird bonus to galvanise them.
CALENDAR: Also look at your calendar for personal commitments. Now would be a good time to check with family and others in your household about their expectations for the fourth quarter, especially plans for late December and into the new year.
PERSONAL: Are there any tasks you need to do – either personal or business – that you want to complete before the fourth quarter to have them out of the way? This could be anything from a dental check-up to bringing your paperwork up to date. Think of it as clearing the runway!
The goal of this is to assess your workload and to proactively manage your clients and maximise your revenue from existing clients.
YOUR CALENDAR AND DEADLINES
Now you’re going to find out where the other ‘edges’ are in your fourth quarter and define some of your own.
Check with your main suppliers, delivery firms or any other businesses you work with on their holiday deadlines. Put them in your calendar.
Based on these, set your own client deadlines with time for you to do your work and including a cushion to cover epic courier failures, mistakes and illness. Add these to your calendar.
Tell existing clients about your deadlines, preferably everywhere: social media platforms, social media profiles, newsletters or a one-off email to current clients.
BLACK FRIDAY / CYBER MONDAY
Black Friday 2021 is Friday November 26, 2021. Mark this and Cyber Monday on Monday November 29 on your calendar. Even if you don’t run any Black Friday promotions, this period affects spending patterns, social media ‘noise’ and ad costs, in the 10 days leading up to this promotional long weekend.
PLAN THE FOURTH QUARTER
Now that you know the landscape for the final three months or more of the year, you can plan. Big picture planning for most small service-based businesses is best on a few sheets of paper so you can see how everything fits together. I’ve designed a free printable planner of Q4 for 2021 which you can DOWNLOAD HERE. (No email needed).
Choose the promotions you’re going to run, if any. You may already be close to fully booked (go you!) and your main job here is to manage client expectations. If not, then look at your financial goals and plan one or more promotions that could meet those goals, given your availability.
For instance, if you are a yoga teacher who is going to run a Black Friday offer on yearly online class memberships, you might team up with a local artist to create a limited edition yoga mat: those signing up for the year receive one. To do this, you would need to find an artist, set up the commission and have at least one yoga mat printed so that you can check quality and use it to promote your offer. Then you promote it for a week or two leading up to Black Friday.
There are a HUGE number of advantages to being this organised. For a start, you’re so much more likely to hit your revenue goals. You’re less likely to be overwhelmed and it means you can take advantage of early bird specials or bulk discounts on printing marketing pieces or telling the local newspaper about your yoga mat commission and arranging a photo shoot of you, the artist and the yoga mat.
What are all the supplies you could need for this quarter? Check printer ink, sticky tape, Sharpies, bubble wrap, brown paper, labels, scissors, batteries. Either check everything now and order or make a note on your calendar when you are going to do this.
If you usually give your suppliers a little extra something at Christmas, now would be a good time to schedule that, perhaps even using Black Friday discounts.
Ditto, if you send holiday or New Year cards, schedule in time for those which could include: planning, shooting, designing, ordering, writing and addressing.
An inbox is not a task list. So if you have hundreds or thousands of emails in there that want actioning, move them to a sub-folder so you don’t get drawn in every time you go to your inbox.
Going forward, you’re going to empty your inbox daily Monday to Friday or whatever your business week is. Check your inbox between one and three times a day and close it at other times. This will allow you to concentrate on the big chunks of work you need to get through without email being a distraction.
Answer anything that you can do inside a couple of minutes and for anything that will take longer, turn it into a task. Copy and paste the relevant piece of the email to the task. If you have a system that links emails like LightBlue or Daylite, that’s fabulous.
Once you’ve either replied or turned the email into a task, file the email in a sub-folder. Given that you can search for the email by content or sender, you could just have one sub-folder for ‘dealt with’ emails.
This system of handling email is based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s a fabulous book for managing your business and life generally – perhaps a holiday read?
You also need to go through your current inbox for the past month or so and triage it: either respond inside a few minutes or turn into a task. You do not want one of these coming back in a few weeks to trip you up when you’re at your busiest. Schedule your triage session in your calendar in the next few days if you can’t do this today.
When you’re planning your client projects, it can be useful to keep the notes and thoughts for each project in a separate folder. Breaking down projects helps prevent overwhelm and keeps them on track.
For instance, ‘do album’ may include:
– Request favourites from client / choose favourites
– Import image folder into album design software
– Check size of album + number of pages
– Design album
– Export design as double-page spreads
– Resize spreads and save for web
– Upload to online review software, write intro blurb, publish.
– Email client with link, next steps and album deadlines.
For sets of repeating tasks such as the steps in designing an album, it can be helpful to keep a list of them which you print and tick off. Electronic task managers can have their own versions of this; for instance, Daylite has activity sets.
Although you may know all the steps, remembering them in the right order can take up space in your head that you may want for other things.
If it looks as if you have too much on your plate, there are a few things you can do.
One is to truly look at how efficient you are. For instance, designing albums and making album changes all on one day is more efficient than doing an hour a day for the week. This is because when you switch context between different tasks, it takes us time to adjust from one to the next.
This means that a one-minute email in the midst of album design is more like a five to 10-minute email as you lose your train of thought on the album. There is also something intrinsically rewarding with getting something as complex as an album design done in just one or two concentrated sittings without distractions.
If you are being efficient, then what support could you get? Concentrate on removing or reducing tasks that suck your willpower. For one person, this could be using social media hashtags, for another, it could be the thought of what to cook for dinner. Social media management or food boxes with recipes such as Hello Fresh might help.
Also keep in mind services such as Fiverr and Upwork for online business tasks and Helping Hands and local teenagers/parents to deal with physical ones such as packing orders and post office runs. Try to get your support set up before you need it.
Schedule time in your calendar for you too. This includes time off, family/friends time and workouts. You can download a free printable planner of your 2018 fourth quarter I’ve designed just for you – no email needed HERE
You should now have a calendar with important dates and deadlines and a set of projects, each of which contains tasks. These two pieces can help you stay on top of this quarter like a boss. Check your projects each week – it will probably take you less than 30 minutes – to make sure that everything is progressing as it should be: clients or suppliers have responded to emails and nothing you were meant to do has fallen through the cracks.
We’re all human and things WILL get lost along the way, but the weekly checks will bring you back on course quickly and help you plan your tasks for the week. Don’t forget, you can download a free printable planner of 2021 fourth quarter I’ve designed just for you here.
I hope this helps you plan your fourth quarter success, staying sane and delivering a great service to your clients.
If you want to learn how to create a social media schedule so you can be consistent on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, here are the five easy steps you need to take. If you want any further reasons for creating a social media schedule, that’s explained in the last blog post about why you need one.
1. CHOOSE YOUR PLATFORMS
You have limited time, so choose the platforms that are giving you the most return on your time and resources. Review these every quarter, to make sure that they’re still working for you and to check if you need to change anything about your posting schedule or content.
If you want to leave a platform, you can explain in your profile and/or a pinned post that all your latest news is now on Instagram or Facebook or wherever you are active.
If you’re just starting out and have no idea which platforms to choose, have a word with a couple of your clients and see what platforms they’re on. Also bear in mind that photographers deal in the visual, so you may be better off with visual-centric platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, rather than podcasts and Twitter.
2. CHOOSE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTING SCHEDULE
Choose your social media posting schedule based on what you want from it. Someone wanting to build a Facebook page to 1000 fans inside a few months might post two or three times a day; someone who just wants their Facebook page to look up to date for visitors might post once a week.
Start out with the minimum viable posting schedule for each platform if you haven’t been able to post consistently until now. Better to start out slowly and make sure it’s sustainable for you than to crash and burn. You can always increase your posting schedule later.
Your schedule is also reliant on you creating content. As a photographer, you’re ahead of most in having a selection of professional photos to choose from. But if you’re including video in your scheduling, you still need to create and edit that. Make sure that you have enough time in your schedule to curate and create social media content including captions and hashtag research.
If you don’t have enough time to create all the content and/or schedule it, you could hire a social media manager to do some or all of it for you. They may also be able to provide a strategy for you.
3. WHAT TO POST – YOUR CONTENT
Well, photos, obviously. And video if at all possible. Facebook and Instagram stories are perfect for vertical video that you’ve shot yourself and looks a little messy. The buzzword is ‘relatable’ – the kind of video anyone could shoot – the antithesis of corporate or polished.
Think about your audience and what would be useful to them – that’s what is most likely to get most engagement. You can vary the format too: for Facebook, this can mean Lives, memes, gifs and questions.
Think of this as a bit of a science experiment: try lots of things, look at what is most engaging for your audience and do more of that.
4. CHOOSE YOUR SCHEDULER
A scheduler can make or break your social media posting. Sure, you still have to engage with your audience, but schedulers mean your content goes out when it should.
For Facebook, I recommend its own native scheduler. It keeps Facebook happy, by which I mean you are staying on Facebook which it likes, and is easy to use. You can find it on your page’s publishing tools just below published posts.
For Instagram, Planoly and Later both have paid and free schedulers, which cover up to 30 posts a month. If you have an Instagram business account connected to Facebook, both services will post single images automatically for you. For many people, that’s enough. HootSuite will also do the job, just not as visually.
For Instagram Stories, it’s a bit trickier. Although you can plan your Stories in Planoly, Later and a number of other schedulers, you need to post Stories at least partially manually. So when scheduling, you want to think about when you’re available to post.
5. KNOW WHEN TO POST
The best times to post your social media content are when the highest number of your followers are online. You can check this on Instagram in your insights / audience, assuming you have a business account. On Facebook, it’s a similar story. Go to your page insights / posts / when your fans are online. Pinterest (no, technically not a social media platform, but useful to include here as it helps amplify our marketing messages) does not have a ‘good’ time of day to post, but it does like daily posting of new content.
So that’s how to create a social media schedule for your business or blog. When you set it up, it can help you be consistent and totally on top of your schedule through batching and your scheduler.
JUST ONE MORE THING …
If you’re a visual thinker or want to have a bird’s eye view of all your platforms, you can use a spreadsheet such as Google sheets or my new favourite AirTable. The basic version is free and more than enough for a social media scheduler, although I upgraded, for some of the extra capabilities including watching my posts change colour when I’ve created and scheduled them. There are even social media templates you can find in the Universe section.
If you’ve ever ever struggled to post regularly on Instagram and Facebook or regard planning as something a creative avoids, here are seven reasons to create a social media schedule and change your life.
CONSISTENCY – WHICH HELPS BUILD YOUR BUSINESS
Posting consistently helps humans and Google return to your content again and again. We humans like to know you’re going to entertain or inform us regularly, just like your favourite Tuesday night TV show. And algorithms like us sharing new content regularly too – that’s Google, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest right there.
So consistency is possibly the best reason to create a social media schedule – in one fell swoop, you can please your visitors / potential clients, Google search and your social media platforms.
YOU CAN BE STRATEGIC WITH YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTING
When you have a plan, you can be strategic in your posting. You can deliberately post your best work, captions and hashtags based on how posts have performed in the past.
Compare that to last-minute posting, where your photo may not be a great choice, your caption is rushed and you probably haven’t been that careful to figure out the best hashtags or tagging other accounts.
SCHEDULING MAKES SUCCESS EASIER TO MEASURE
When you’re posting at the same frequency over time, you’re able to analyse your successes more easily. For instance, you can compare website traffic numbers month on month in Google analytics, knowing that your blog post and social media frequency is consistent, so any changes in traffic are related to particular posts or other reasons.
The same goes for analysing your success on social media platforms. Consistent posting allows you to compare weeks, months or quarters with each other and spot trends.
For instance, Instagram photos are getting less traction than they did previously for many, because of the rise in Instagram Stories. If you were watching a drop in engagement or reach with regular posts, you could try varying your posting schedule, content or add in Stories to stop that slide. If you aren’t posting consistently, it is far more difficult to see these trends or blame them on your posting.
YOU CAN COAST THROUGH BUSY PERIODS
With all of your social media planned, you can schedule ahead – or at least plan ahead so you know what you’re posting and when. Even if you haven’t shot or processed a wedding yet, you can plan your usual ’just one’ or ‘sneak peak’ alongside your other content.
It also helps you spot dry patches, when you might not have much new content. You could take this opportunity to shoot some styled photos of your latest sample albums or other products for using on social media and your website. You could use client testimonials to create styled graphics in Canva or Photoshop.
You can schedule out content several months in advance, which is likely to cover your busiest time of year. Can you imagine your peak summer time without having to even think about what to post?
A SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS SAVES YOU TIME
One of the main reasons photographers give for not posting consistently on social media platforms or blogging is that they don’t have time. Here’s the good news: a social media scheduler can save you time.
When you use a social media scheduler, you can batch your content. That’s all of your Instagram grid content for June, for instance. Perhaps you go into Lightroom, choose 12 photos for four weeks of posting three times a week. Export. Upload into your scheduler, schedule and write the captions.
Then you might research three new sets of hashtags that cover the three areas those photos cover and you add those. That’s a month COMPLETELY FINISHED!
By batching your content, you’re being super efficient, cutting the number of times you context switch or change your focus between each step.
If you are sceptical about the time saving of context switching, time yourself scheduling out one month as detailed above and then scheduling out another month one post at a time.
YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE DONE
Who doesn’t like that smug feeling you get when you’re totally up to date with your processing, even if it only happens once a year? Well, it’s kind of the same when you’re done scheduling your social media posts for the week, month or quarter. (Yes, some people really are that organised – almost weird, huh!)
If you choose to post a certain number of Instagram photos, Stories, Pinterest pins, blog and Facebook posts and you do this all at once for the month, you’re done for another 29 or so days. All you have to do in the meantime is engage on your platforms.
If this is already you, high five! If not, this is what you could have for yourself with a social media schedule.
BE ON TOP OF IMPORTANT DATES
Knowing important dates such as Mothers and Fathers days, Easter, Black Friday and local school holidays can be key for photographers to maximise their sales and profits.
If you’re a portrait photographer, you may plan months in advance for promotions for some of these dates. This might start with a model call on social media platforms for promotional photos or asking your audience what kind of studio set-up they would like for a portrait series.
If you’re a wedding photographer, you might run promotions for past clients for particular dates such as Mothers Day with reprints, albums, photo jewellery or other products.
Being this organised can have other benefits. If you’re this organised with your social media, chances are, you’ll be planning any printed collateral such as flyers or brochures. Plan that far enough ahead and you’ll avoid express shipping fees or save with long turnaround times.
So there are seven reasons to create a social media calendar. Convinced? Would love to know your thoughts if you’re not. Next week, I’ll be going into detail on the essentials of building a social media schedule, so stay tuned.
Local marketing using Instagram is easier than you think! Here are three simple tips to get you in front of potential clients in your local area.
WHY DO LOCAL MARKETING WITH INSTAGRAM?
With Instagram allowing us to reach anywhere in the world, why would it be especially good for marketing in our local area? Instagram’s geotags and hashtags for geographical areas are the perfect way to be found for your town or city and the surrounding area. An increasing number of Instagram’s 800 million users use it to explore areas they are visiting, planning to visit or simply to stay on top of their community.
The power of you posting using geotags and hashtags for an area is that you don’t have to have a marketing budget or – like for Google – done months or years of work to be found. You can open an Instagram account today and be found by locals within a few hours, as long as you’re using hashtags and geotags.
TIP 1: USE LOCAL GEOTAGS OF POPULAR LOCAL PLACES
If you’re a wedding photographer, an obvious use of geotags is to link to a wedding venue. If you haven’t been doing that, you could go back to the past month or two and edit any photos in your feed without a geotag. Couples considering booking the venue for their wedding or who have booked and want to see ALL the photographs from there are going to be looking – your PERFECT potential clients.
For portrait photographers, think about the local clothing stores or boutiques that stock the clothing your clients wear. If you do location portraits, you could tag the location you use or tag your studio, so potential clients can find you if they search Instagram. If you’re searching Instagram places, the first option that comes up is ‘Near current location’, for which you could appear.
If you work on your laptop or phone sometimes, why not work from a coffee shop or restaurant, especially the ones where your target clients go. Get seen!
TIP 2: TAG LOCAL BUSINESSES IN INSTAGRAM STORIES
When you tag accounts in your Stories, they get a notification of your mention and can re-share Stories where they are tagged. Be aware that they can only re-share Stories where they are mentioned, so if your Story has multiple photos or videos, you need to tag them in all the photos/videos.
You could even put together an Instagram highlight of great local service. That way, if a potential client is flipping through your account, they learn that great service is a value of yours – and chances are – if they book you for a job, you’re going to do your best to offer great service too.
It doesn’t hurt to use local businesses and share a photo from there with the business geotag and mention them in your comments, whether that’s a much enjoyed coffee, product or fabulous service. As an aside, while you’re out in your community, you’re most likely meeting more people and connecting with them.
TIP 3: INSTAGRAM HASHTAGS
You can use local hashtags such as your town or city name. If you live in a large city and only want to target a small part, mention just your local neighbourhood or the ‘local’ version. As an example, the #miami hashtag has 55 million posts, which means that you’re unlikely to be seen for any more than a few minutes and there’s fierce competition for the most popular spots.
The hashtag #miamiliving has less than 400,000, where you’re much more likely to appear! And you’re more likely to find Miami locals with that hashtag rather than visitors.
You can mix your location with an interest too, for niching down further. If you target well groomed women in Miami, for instance, you could add tags like #miaminails (290,000 photos) or #miamiboutique (373,000 photos). So now you’re getting your local area AND niching down, potentially being seen in front of thousands of your potential clients – and certainly local ones.
For more help with hashtags for your business, you can pick up the Hashtag Hotshot ebook to nail the hashtags that will help get you in front of the right people on Instagram.