As small business owners and wedding pros, we’re constantly on the go and so often feel as though we’re drinking out of a firehose (sound familiar, anyone?)—but the year’s end usually offers a small (albeit maybe miniscule) window of time to assess, update, and refresh our business practices. And doing so is key for building a thriving, sustainable business and brand. Today, then, we’re breaking down some simple ways to close out the year and prep your business for success in the next. Follow these 5 tips and you may just have time for an extra glass of vino (or two).
Get Financially Organized
The end of the year is the perfect time to set yourself up for better bookkeeping practices in the future. Creating digital folders and subfolders for things like taxes, invoicing, deductions/donations, etc. ahead of time means all you’ll have to do is drag-and-drop documents throughout the year when archiving or saving important items. Do the same for any financial documents you keep hard copies of as well—create all of your 2018 file folders in advance. Laying the groundwork like this will encourage you to put things (whether physical or digital) in their proper place throughout the year—it’s all about being proactive and hanging the bones for a financially organized future.
Assess Your Marketing Efforts
Certain marketing costs are tax deductible, so you’ll want to first financially assess your 2017 marketing efforts to prepare for the upcoming tax season. Gather receipts/documents for any items that are deductible. (If you’re unsure, we like this guide to deducting advertising expenses but always double check with your CPA!)
Beyond the financial aspect of your marketing efforts, though, the end of the year is a great time to begin outlining a marketing plan for the new year. Don’t let the idea of marketing overwhelm you if you’re working with a tight budget or are a one-woman show. Marketing tactics can include anything from finally getting those business cards printed to promoting a single Instagram post to taking some time to clean up (and maybe even optimize) your website. Even if your tactics have to be modest at first, you should still sit down this month and outline a plan for marketing efforts in the upcoming year. Try making a list of five concrete marketing tactics you can implement in 2018 (post on social daily, optimize website, run Facebook ads, etc.).
Just starting out and looking to dive deep into the basics of marketing and branding this year? In addition to setting a marketing strategy and social media strategy, work toward developing the following:
A Brand Guide, to include
- Logo usage notes
- Logo usage samples
- Color codes (Pantone, RGB, CMYK)
- Preferred fonts
A Voice & Tone Guide, to include:
- Notes on the voice of your brand
- Notes on the tone of your brand
- Copy samples
Update Your Contracts
Don’t let the end of the year pass you by without taking a look at your contracts—it’s the perfect time to update or adjust. Tired of all of those last-minute meeting requests? Realized you’re asking far too little for a deposit? Is that 120-day cancellation window too wide and turning off potential clients? Take some time to write down those frustrating client interactions you’ve had this past year that can be addressed in your contracts going forward. Start with the following questions if you’re stuck:
- What client interactions/experiences frustrated you this year?
- What are three ways you felt clients took advantage of you/your contract this year (scope creeping, calling at off hours, canceling meetings last minute, not paying on time, etc.)?
- Did clients comment on any aspects of your contract this year before signing, and, if so, which?
- In what ways can you use your contract going forward as a tool for improving your client experience?
- In what ways can your contract better protect you as a planner?
- In what ways can your contract make your clients feel more comfortable?
Assess & Set Goals
The end of the year is a great time to do a thorough year’s-end assessment of your business—including your business plan, goals, and finances. Not sure where to start? We recommend using the following questions as a jumping-off point. From there, we like the idea of setting three measureable goals for the new year based on your answers. Don’t overwhelm yourself with lofty goals that will only serve to put more pressure on your ever-expanding to-do list. Instead, consider your resources first—then choose goals that are realistic, measurable, and concrete (i.e Run 1-2 Facebook ads each month or File invoices by 15th of each month or Clean out desk drawers by March).
- What three things did you do well as a business owner this year?
- What three things would you like to improve upon as a business owner next year?
- How would you rate the overall client experience you offered this year?
- In what ways can you improve your client experience next year?
- In what ways can you improve the space in which you work?
- What tasks this year felt like the biggest waste of time?
- What tasks this year took you far too long?
- What tasks this year did you enjoy?
- What tasks/efforts this year brought you clients or got you “eyes”?
- In what ways can you increase your productivity in the new year?
- Did you use marketing this year and, if so, how?
- How can you use marketing next year?
Finally, year’s end is the perfect time to get your business back on the minds of potential (or previous) clients, vendors, professional peers, and industry mentors. Design a fun holiday card on behalf of your business (think: your logo with a snowflake balanced on it, etc.) and send it out to everyone from old clients to vendors you’d like to work with. A personalized handwritten note on the card is always a nice touch as well.
If you have extra room in your budget, the holidays are also a great time to drop off treats to those you’d like to connect with in person--think baked goods, coffee beans, gift cards, local foods, etc. Creating baskets or packages can be a great way to work in your branding (logo-printed cookies, attaching your business’ holiday card, stamping your logo on bags, etc.) and include your social handles, website, and contact information.