Spring Clean Your Creative Business
The wild winds of Storm Gareth may have only just swept the last of the rusty leaves from the trees - the newly bare branches have certainly made me feel like winter has actually arrived - but, in truth, we’ll soon be in the singing Spring sun of April.
Of course, a business can be given a refresh at any time of year, but there is something in us that changes when are cheeks hit the sunlight. And I think that change is a wonderful one to share with a creative business. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? We’re all through the strange winter season that takes us from the dizzy demands of the festive season and into that strange lull as we all hibernate, just a little.
Book your Holiday
How often do we hear that self-employed people just can’t take time off? It may seem that way, but we really, really should. I already know that there will be a short Summer break and a family holiday in the Autumn. I’ve not pencilled in the dates yet, but I’m also planning some long weekends in cities that are on my must-go-to list.
Humans need to take time out. Pen them into your diary now, colour in the days and draw smiling suns. It doesn’t even matter if you’re planning to go away or just watch Netflix for a week on your sofa. Just give yourself permission now to cement your time out because you oversee that time. You have the power to choose how to use it. If you know in advance, you can budget accordingly and it is always far easier to start that right now to ensure that you can still cover your bills and outgoings.
Get your Affairs in order
The tax deadline might be months away, but whether you file your own return or hire an accountant, in the UK April signals the end of the tax year. Make sure your financial records for the year are up to date so that you’re ready to go at any moment. I know that it’s not the most glamorous part of a creative business but it’s essential. Creativity and business savvy have a much better relationship than we can give it credit for; we fall into the ‘starving’ artist narrative, that it isn’t about the money. But we know it is. And it’s okay; money is infinite and you’re allowed to have a healthy share of it.
And not only will it mean that you’re ahead of the tax deadline by months, but you’ll also refresh your knowledge of your current financial situation. And from that position, maybe you could look at the best way for you to keep on top of this for the coming year. Could you tell someone your monthly business outgoings? Does that figure worry you? Do you have more to spend on something that could improve your business than you thought? Or maybe, could you give yourself a pay rise?
We all hold onto things, especially when we’ve created them when there’s a little bit of our soul in there. It reminds us of, well, us – but if those things don’t serve you or your business anymore, then maybe it’s time to say ta-ra.
I was supposed to study an online course this month but a week before it was due to go live I received a refreshingly honest email from the tutor; the course didn’t have enough students, had never really had enough students, and so it was being pulled from her services. This is the courage we should all show because it’s not failure, or even admitting failure. It’s taking control of our business and saying, ‘Not today, not today.’ Because ultimately is it really worth it if it’s taking time away from developing what we really want to, or zapping energy we could spend on the side of the business that keeps our fires burning.
Desk, studio, office; wherever you work, dedicate a day to spruce up.
Start with your desk. Take everything off. Clean your laptop screen and keypad. Check for dried-out pens and sharpen your pencils. Keep a list of what you’re running short of. Put the essentials back and then find homes for everything that had collected over the year. Get a new plant, choose your favourite work mug. A clear, vibrant space will inspire you.
Then make waves through the rest of the space. Make sure your folders are all in order and GDPR compliant. Go through your books. Keep the ones that have inspired you, or are dogeared from all the times you’ve needed them. Donate or sell the others.
Vacuum, clean the windows, air the room. Make it a space that pleases you, a space that you can walk into and want to work.
Create a Handbook
Build your own reference guide for your systems, your daily must-dos and those pesky things that show up once a year. I call mine ‘The Big Book of Everything’ and keep my everyday schedules in there, the details I need to remember, the business cards I want to keep and the dates for important renewals, such as business insurance and the website domain and hosting.
This is somewhere to brain dump all the things I need to know but take up precious real estate in my mind if they aren’t documented elsewhere. Mine is a literal book, but keep it digital if that works for you.
Whilst you piece it together, take notice of things that have become habits but could be improved and updated. Include a morning routine and an end-of-day close down; you’ll probably find you spend a lot of time on these things throughout the day too but just maybe, they’re best suited to these set times. (Instagram, anyone?)
Lastly, appraise your client database. Write a newsletter to your customers, or reach out to clients you haven’t worked with for a while but would like to work with again. Let them know you’re still there and wish them well. Send thank you letters to those that have meant something on your journey so far. Tell people what’s changed and what you could do for them this year. This is not about the hard sell, it’s devoid of the ickiness of the cold email. This is about reaching out genuinely and organically. You may not get more sales right now but you will have reminded them of just how lovely you were to work with. Maybe they’ll be in touch, or maybe they’ll refer you next time they’re asked for a recommendation. Conversation over conversation, ey?
Spending just a little time on caring for your business is a great mind-clearing exercise. It’s so easy to get all-consumed with the frontline work that we give way and then give way a bit more, on all the things that are behind the scenes. With just a little bit of focus on the back end of your creative business, and crucially on yourself, you can come out of hibernation with a spring firmly back in your step.