Episode 278: Creating Your Ideal Holiday Schedule as a Service-Based Business

November 8, 2023


In today’s episode of the podcast, I’m sharing practical ways to create your ideal holiday schedule as a service-based business owner before the year ends. From short term actions you can implement today to long term planning suggestions to help you better structure your availability throughout the year, today’s episode is meant to help you look at your calendar as a tool to better experience your desired quality of life.

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Please note this transcript has been auto generated and may contain typos.

Bonnie (00:07):
Hi, friend, and welcome to the Brand Strategy Podcast, a show created to equip you with the inspiration, encouragement, and clarity you need to build a brand of your dreams. I’m your host, Bonnie Bakhtiari, brand designer, strategist, and founder of the Illume Retreat. From sustainable Strategy to heartfelt encouragement. Each episode is designed to equip you with the tools you need to chase after your dreams because you deserve a brand that empowers you to do what you love, connects with your dream clients, and offers a deep sense of fulfillment along the way. So grab a cup of coffee and join me on this journey, won’t

Bonnie (00:41):
You? Hey friends. Welcome back to the Brand Strategy Podcast, where today we’re talking about creating your ideal holiday schedule as a service-based business. So for my fellow designers, for my photographers, my wedding planners, my floral designers, this episode is specifically for you as we are coming up on a big holiday season. Uh, if we look at the calendar and just the handful of months that we have left in 2023, there are quite a few holidays to mark and quite a few celebrations to experience and finding some time to really experience the holiday season that you want while still honoring your client commitments, while still reaching your revenue goals and honoring your business’s schedule. It can take a little bit of finagling. So for those of us who are working with clients and we’re offering one-on-one services, taking time off for the holidays can sort of feel like this pull, you might be experiencing this tension between wanting to serve your clients well and wanting to be present with your loved ones, and I can absolutely relate to that.

Bonnie (01:58):
That’s actually why I am sharing this episode because over the years that I have been, uh, running my business, I’ve gone through holiday seasons where I put my client projects first, where I, uh, kind of prioritized my project calendar and I felt minimally present during the holidays, and it wasn’t really the quality of life that I wanted to experience. And then on the flip side, I’ve had, uh, seasons where I’ve really put my quality of life first and I have prioritized being present with the people and for the moments that matter most to me. And I believe that if we can set our expectations with clients and we can educate them about our availability, especially during holiday heavy seasons, we are able to experience the flexibility that we want. I mean, right? So many of us actually were attracted to this idea of starting our own businesses because we wanted that freedom of time, and we wanted that freedom of our, our schedules and, and we wanted to experience that flexibility.

Bonnie (03:01):
So I think that it’s important to, uh, really be honest with ourselves about how you want your holidays to look. Now, maybe you have been thinking about this for, uh, quite a few weeks already. If you’re like me, you already have those out of office dates, um, in your email signature, and you are already educating your current clients and your potential clients about your upcoming availability. But it’s not too late if you haven’t thought about how you want to set up your business’s schedule so that you can have that ideal holiday schedule without putting your business 100% on the back burner and feeling like you’re letting anybody down. Now, before we kind of get into some practical steps that you can follow to make this happen, I want to be really clear and share a little gentle reminder that even though you are a service-based business, you don’t actually owe anyone your time.

Bonnie (04:05):
I’m gonna say that again. You don’t owe anyone your time just because a client booked you. That does not mean that you now have to be available twenty four seven three hundred and sixty five days out of the year. You are empowered and you are equipped to do your best work when you are experiencing the quality of life that matters the most to you. And so you deserve to create a schedule that feels sustainable, expansive, and fun. And I think that most of us know just how unsustainable it is to have our noses to the grindstone all year long without any breaks. Now, looking at the calendar , uh, here in the us, the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up in just a few weeks, but regardless of whether you’re listening to this episode during November or you’re catching this at another time of year, I think that this advice, it, it continues to track, uh, regardless of the time of year that we are in creating your availability is always something that I recommend service-based business owners be focusing on.

Bonnie (05:18):
And I like to encourage people to do this on a recurring and regular basis so that you are able to experience the balance between when you’re in your office, when you’re showing up for your clients, and when you’re focused on client work versus when you’re pouring back into yourself. When you’re refilling your cup and you’re spending time with your family or with your fur baby, or with your partner or with your beautiful self, you get to choose what that availability looks like, even though there are so many voices out there and so many industry experts who will encourage us to be available, you know, at the beck and call of our clients or to be, uh, you know, glued to our laptops on a really consistent basis. Um, and if that works for you, then that’s great, but that personally doesn’t work for me. And so if that feels like something that maybe doesn’t excite you either, here’s some things you can do instead.

Bonnie (06:21):
Okay? In the short term, we’re gonna look at this in the short term versus the long term. So in the short term, we want to pull out your calendar, whether you manage your life via a digital calendar or you have a good old trusty paper planner. Pull that out and let’s open it up and let’s look at the upcoming season that you are wanting to plan out. We are going to decide when you want to be out of the office. So what are those days that are non-negotiable for you? Maybe it’s a birthday, maybe it’s an anniversary, maybe it’s some travel days, maybe it’s a seasonal holiday. You get to choose when you are available to clients and when you are going to be out of the office for an extended period of time, whether this is a half day that you’re taking off or weeks upon weeks of out of office time, I want you to, you know, highlight that, bust out a highlighter or, um, you know, color code it on your digital calendar.

Bonnie (07:25):
I want for you to clearly mark this out of when you’re going to be out of the office. Okay? Deciding your availability is kind of the, the kind of the hard part for those of us who struggle with not being 100% available to our clients all the time. But, uh, I promise you, the more you practice with this, the more that you see that you can, and you will enjoy taking time away from your business and nothing burn burns to the ground and nothing bad happens. You’re going to feel, uh, the long-term benefits of this, and you’re gonna see how much easier this can be for you. So once you’ve decided when you want to be out of the office, now we’re going to communicate with your clients, and we’re gonna set those expectations accordingly. You can get really in depth and really fancy with this.

Bonnie (08:11):
Um, you can, you know, like set up this little email sequence where you’re reminding people, uh, you know, a month out and then a couple weeks out, and then a week before when you’re gonna be out of the office. I only really recommend doing that if you’re gonna be out of the office and like truly unreachable for an extended period of time. Like, let’s say you’re going to take a month long sabbatical, um, or you’re gonna be on a three week vacation somewhere. Like, okay, yes, let’s remind the people of when they can talk to you and when they’re gonna have to wait a little bit until you’re back in the office. Um, but for most of us, if we’re thinking about this kind of on a holiday standpoint and you’re just gonna be unavailable for a couple of days, um, this can be just one or two quick and short and to the point emails that you share with your clients.

Bonnie (09:02):
So it could be as simple as, I’ll be out of the office on this date and I’ll be back in the office on this date. I will not be checking email during this time, but you can expect a response from me during this timeframe. So that kind of script that I just shared with you, I really like to follow a similar format with my own clients. And I do that because I find that by setting those expectations of communicating when I’m unavailable, when I will be available again, and how reachable I am. So for instance, when I say I will not be checking email during this time, I’m setting a boundary and I’m communicating that to my clients that if you are trying to get ahold of me, um, I will not be available. And so if you send me 10 emails, I will see those 10 emails when I’m back in the office on whatever date I will be returning.

Bonnie (09:55):
And I also kind of like to take it one step further and I will set an additional expectation of my response time once I’m back in the office. Um, I personally find that, you know, saying that I’m gonna be back in the office on Monday and you can expect to hear from me on Monday. sets me up to be panicked, kind of, you know, stressed out, like sitting at my computer trying to, you know, speed through all of these emails that I’ve received during my time out of office. So instead, I like to say, you’ll expect to hear from me after Monday when I’m back to my normal office hours. So kind of setting an additional expectation of what that can look like, and it’s a simple and easy email to send out to folks. I recommend, um, doing that at least a week before you’re gonna be out of the office.

Bonnie (10:48):
So if there are any time sensitive things that you and your client need to work on, or if there are any last minute kind of burning questions that they wanna ask you before you are out of pocket, they can have that access to you. Now, for some people, they prefer to kind of do a semi working, uh, vacation. You might be available to your clients, uh, via email, but you’re only checking email at specific times. Or you might, um, you know, feel really comfortable giving your phone number out to your clients. And so they can text you with questions. Uh, there’s really no right or wrong way to do it, but I just encourage you to focus on the level of availability that allows you to experience your time away in the manner that will mean the most to you. So for example, my family and I celebrate the Christmas holiday, and so during Christmas, I personally don’t wanna be, um, you know, like tiptoeing away from a family celebration to grab my laptop and to pull up my inbox and to see what’s going on and you know, kind of what’s happening with my client projects.

Bonnie (11:52):
Instead, I want to be fully present and fully engaged in those moments and in those memories. So I am not available to my clients during that timeframe. Um, of course this is gonna differ based on your industry, especially I know for my wedding planners, my event planners, if you’re working with couples or brands or a client who is planning a event around the holidays, uh, there are gonna be maybe some time sensitive details and vendor, uh, connections that you need to coordinate. And so I understand that being completely out of pocket might not be doable for you. But, uh, looking at the work that I do as a brand designer and strategist, uh, if we’re planning our timelines accordingly with client projects, nothing that I’m doing over the Christmas holidays, as an example, is super time sensitive. So I’m able to step away, which kind of leads me to my next piece of advice.

Bonnie (12:50):
So those were some things that you can do in the short term. You can do them right now. So like if , if you’re wanting to take time away from your business tomorrow, you can do those things literally today, and you can communicate to everyone that you’re currently working with, when you’re gonna be available, how long you’re gonna be gone, and what that looks like. Um, but if we’re wanting to look more into the long term, we’re wanting to think about the strategy that we can put in place for our availability, um, this is what we can do. Now, earlier when I was sharing some advice for the short term, I told you, pull out your calendar, bust out the highlighter, and start marking all the times that you wanna be out of office. Um, this works really well on the long term. So creating margin in your calendar to mark the days and the holidays and the vacations that matter to you, and making that a recurring and consistent part of your schedule.

Bonnie (13:51):
What I like to do is at the beginning of a new year, I will take out my calendar and I will just kind of flip through every month and I will mark any days that I already know will be important and that I will want to take off. So I’m planning, especially, you know, long out of office days, like my annual sabbatical. That is something that I’m planning, uh, you know, kind of a year in advance where I’m giving myself a lot of lead time to, uh, plan around that date where I’m usually out of office for an entire month. Um, with that being said, then I will revisit my calendar on a quarterly basis and I will add in additional dates or I will edit things. So if some, you know, kind of it’s the middle of the year and some travel plans come up and I’ve been asked to speak at a conference, then I will hop into my calendar and I’ll update those dates on a quarterly basis.

Bonnie (14:50):
Um, you know, on the flip side, if plans change and I decide, actually, I don’t know if everybody wanna take my sabbatical in August this year, um, then I can update my calendar because hey, it’s my calendar and I can decide what it looks like. Uh, so from there, I then change my availability and I book client projects around when I’m available and I customize my project timelines accordingly. So that sounds really simple and like super basic, I get it. But that is a simple thing that you can implement that completely changes the way that you’re working with your clients, and it actually sets you up for long-term success if you’re gonna be taking time away. So for example, um, in a couple of weeks here in the US it’s gonna be the Thanksgiving holiday, and I have been building my client timelines around the dates that I will be taking, uh, to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Bonnie (15:47):
So I don’t have any due dates for clients around that time. I’m not requesting any client feedback during that time. I am marking that when I am onboarding a client, I have been marking that time specifically when I create their timeline for their project, and I say, Hey, out of office dates, upcoming availability, these are some dates that you’re gonna wanna remember where I will not be available due to a holiday or an event or something like that. And it is kind of boring, but necessary housekeeping stuff that, you know, if we’re starting a project in, uh, let’s say September, um, in some cases November can feel like, I don’t know, that’s a really long time away. Like, it does, it, does it really matter if she’s gonna be, you know, out of, uh, the office for these dates? But if we’re working together on a bigger project and it’s spanning the course of weeks and months, then yes, that is availability that I wanna share with my clients so that they have that expectation set literally from the very first day of our project.

Bonnie (16:54):
And that makes a huge difference. That then when I’m educating them and reminding them and, you know, a couple weeks, uh, about, Hey, I’m gonna be out of the office for Thanksgiving as a reminder, these are the dates that I won’t be available, but this is when I’ll be back in the office to my regular office hours. It’s a simple thing, but it helps my clients feel like a priority. It helps them feel like I am always putting them first and I’m always putting their experience as top of mind. So I’m never gonna leave them hanging. I’m never gonna send them an email that’s like, surprise, I’m gonna be out of the office for Thanksgiving for an entire week starting tomorrow because right? That’s not a very good feeling, especially if you have questions or you are wanting to get some feedback from your designer or your strategist.

Bonnie (17:47):
So those are really simple steps that you can take from a short-term and a long-term standpoint. And the intention behind them is to remember first and foremost that your calendar as a service-based business is yours. And so you get to decide when you’re working and when you’re not working, I understand that oftentimes it can feel counterintuitive to be blocking out a lot of time away, especially if your competitors or your industry friends or your business besties aren’t doing the same thing. But at the end of the day, you are the one who’s running your business. And the way that it feels to run your business in a lot of cases will make or break your ability to run this business and to grow this business for the long term. Um, looking over the last 11 years that I have been growing, because for Bonnie Design, I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I were working at this breakneck, nonstop kind of hustle pace.

Bonnie (18:50):
I’ve needed to carve in a lot of margin. I’ve needed to be very intentional about my time, and I’ve needed to have that perspective that this business is something that I do, but my life is something that I live, and so my life will always come first. So I hope that this is giving you some ideas of ways that you can be showing up this holiday season in your life while still caring for your clients and still keeping that business going. But I hope that this is giving you ideas as well for the new year to come about how you want to create a calendar moving forward that honors the quality of life that you wanna experience and allows you to, uh, be pouring into yourself before you are pouring into your incredible clients and the amazing work that you do. So I hope this helps, but as always, I’m grateful for you tuning in and however your holiday season looks. I hope that it is exactly the kind of season that you want to experience, and it ends up serving you in the best ways possible. With that being said, I am cheering y’all on from Waco.

Bonnie (19:59):
Thank you so much for joining me today. Friend, before you go, I would be so grateful to receive your feedback on the Brand Strategy podcast. If you enjoyed this episode or the podcast in general has helped you grow your brand, I’d really appreciate it if you left us a review in iTunes. Your positive reviews enable the brand strategy podcast to continue to grow and reach like-minded creatives just like you. Thank you for all your support and encouragement as together we pursue building brands with purpose and intention. Until next time, I’m cheering you on from Waco.

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My name is Bonnie – I’m a brand designer, strategist, and writer which all adds up to one eclectic conglomeration of qualities that enables me to serve you well! Past clients have dubbed me "the Joanna Gaines of brand design," and I've had more than a few call me a dream maker, a game changer, and a design wizard (my Harry Potter-loving heart didn't hate that one, let me tell you!). At the end of the day, I'm a big-hearted creative who will get teary-eyed as you share the heart behind your business; who will lose sleep over the perfect font pairings and color selections to bring your brand to life visually; and who will work tirelessly to empower, encourage, and equip you to share your work with the world intentionally. 

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