23: How to Maximize Slow Seasons

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Today’s episode is inspired by a training I created for my membership group, The Round Table. The women in this group were curious about what to do in their slow season; how to maximize their time, determine what work to prioritize, and how to best set themselves up for when the busy season inevitably came back around. Whether you are a photographer or any kind of creative entrepreneur, if you find yourself in a consistent cycle between busy and slow seasons, and you want to maximize slow seasons, this episode is for you. 

The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

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Review the Show Notes:

Ways to spend your slow season (3:00)

How to determine what you should work on (5:25)

Having a small project list and a big project list (6:27)

Knowing your goals before creating your project list (8:24)

Continue your healthy habits (10:05)

Stick with routines (11:11)

One thing at a time (11:49)

One big project per month (12:52)

What happens if you take on too much (13:54)

You don’t need to be reactionary (14:36)

Mentioned in this Episode:

Episode 017: Seasons of Hustle and Rest with Kate Kordsmeier

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Review the Transcript:

Today’s episode is inspired by a training that I did in my membership group, the roundtable. So the women in this group had been curious about what to do in their slow season, how to maximize their time, how to determine what to work on, and just how to best utilize that extra time that they were going to have coming off of busy season and into a slower season in their business. I loved the question. And so I created a training around it. And it was really impactful, the material really landed and it was inspiring and so I decided to take that training and kind of have the cliffnotes of it and create this podcast episode. So if you are a photographer or if you are in any creative business that has a busy season, followed by a slow season, this episode is for you.

Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gephardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business motherhood and life. myself along with my guests will get vulnerable through honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to to shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

Welcome back to another episode of the shoot straight podcast. For many of you listening slow season is here. And while I’m sure you’ve heard me mentioned many times before, it is so important to rest and recover after a busy season of hustle. In fact, you can go back a few episodes and listen to episode 17 where I interview my mentor Kate korsmeyer on this very subject, it is a great listen. But the first quarter is long, and I want you to rest but I also want you to use your time wisely because it is the foundation to your entire year. Your slow season is a great time to work on a few projects and be productive in different ways. Before I get too deep into today’s episode, I do want to remind you that I am teaching from the heart of a photographer. Even if you are from another creative space and you don’t have a fall busy season, you can apply this teaching from today to any business that has a busy season and a slow season. Okay. All right. So using your slow season in the best way possible, quote unquote, will look different to everybody. It depends on where you are in business, what your goals are, what your needs are, and more. In today’s episode, I want to encourage and inspire you with some ways that you may want to spend your slow season. Okay, some things that you might want to work on. Before we get into choosing how to use your time well, here are just a few things that you might want to do in your slow season. These are great projects to tackle when you have less client facing work. Maybe you need a new website, or an updated website or you want to change providers.

Maybe you need to fine tune your workflows and your automations and your emails. You could blog I personally love to blog and slow season you can blog for an entire year in the first quarter if you really hustle. And I don’t even want to say hustle if you just intentionally spend your time. You can work on a personal project, maybe your business is in order and you don’t really have like a big project that needs to be tackled. Use this time to create for yourself just for the fun of it. The first quarter is also a great time to do education. Whether that be hiring a mentor participating in a workshop or going to a conference or taking an online course, it can also be a really great time to revisit the education you’ve already had in the past.

Maybe you bought a course and never finished it or never started it. Maybe you have flagged a bunch of blog posts and YouTube videos that you want to watch and you’ve never gotten to whatever that looks like education is a great way to spend your quiet, slow season. Another way would be to map out a bunch of social media content and content plan. Okay, you could set up and start using an email provider if you are not sending a regular newsletter or email to your clients you are missing out and that would be a great thing to start doing in your slow season. If you don’t already outsource your editing. This is when you want to test the waters with that you definitely don’t want to wait until fall when you are just everything is on fire and everything’s in a hurry. You want to do it when you have time and bandwidth to go back and forth and fine tune the process. Maybe you just need to clean off your hard drives, right? You’ve got hard drives, you’ve got your desktop, you’ve just got stuff everywhere at the end of the year.

It kind of got a little bit monkey, this is a great time to get reorganized. This is also a great time to read all those business books that you keep adding to your Audible account, or you keep ordering off Amazon and they’ve like piled up into a really big list tackle that the list is truly endless. And those are just a few that I could think of off the top of my head. But the important thing is to be intentional with what you’re working on in your slow season. Okay, so now that I’ve given you a few ideas on what you can work on, let’s talk about the how how to determine what you should work on. The fact is simple, you have to prioritize your projects, otherwise, your head will be spinning and you’re not going to get anything done. You have to take your big list of ideas and start to whittle it down into something reasonable.

To do this, I recommend starting with two things. Number one, sort the project, list your ideas into two categories, big and small. Okay, so if it’s something that takes a whole week or a month or longer to work on, that’s gonna go in the big category. If it’s something that’s just a couple of hours, that’s in the small category. So you’re going to sort your list first. And then the second thing is you have to know what your goals are for the new year, or at least have a rough idea of what those goals are, okay, because you want to use your first quarter to work on projects that are going to support the rest of your year. So I’m gonna back up a second and like explain these a little bit more. Why do you need to sort your list into things that are big and small. So you need to be realistic with yourself. If all of your project ideas are massive, okay, a new website, a new CRM, taking a course, you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s true. Just because you have less sessions, less editing less Commission’s less client facing work does not mean that you have an unlimited bandwidth, you are still human, you still have a limit for the amount of time you can spend on a computer. I personally think it’s better to set an achievable goal for projects and then potentially take on extra, after you complete those.

Okay, I think that’s the better option, then it would be to set this crazy unrealistic expectation that you’re going to get all of these things done, and then not meet those goals, and then beat yourself up, right, you don’t want to spend your first quarter, spinning your wheels, trying to get all of these massive projects done. Get to the end of the first quarter, and then you’re just frustrated, and you’re down on yourself and you feel like you’ve wasted your time. And it’s all this negative energy that you’re going to carry with you into the rest of your year, you don’t want that. It’s better to set your expectations appropriately so that you can finish the first quarter and feel like you are on fire because you checked all those things off. So on the flip side, having a list of small projects ready, can that you are ready to work on can give you some really quick wins. And it can feel really, really motivating. This is so important. Getting some quick wins and getting a bunch of small tasks checked off your list will help make you feel like you’re accomplished. Right? It’s going to help you feel like you’ve accomplished so much by being able to knock out a whole bunch of small tasks. Right? That is an important piece as well. Now circling back around to number two, knowing what your goals are, okay. Why is it important to have a rough idea of your goals before creating a slow season project list. Your project list absolutely needs to correlate directly with your 2023 goals for a few reasons. First of all, they are likely going to set the foundation for the entire year, your goals probably aren’t reachable without completing these projects. Second, if you don’t prioritize projects that are needed to reach your 2023 goals, then you will have wasted an entire quarter of the year not moving toward making progress.

You don’t have to have your goals perfected at this point, but you should have a general idea of where you want to go. PS, we’re talking about goals next week. Okay. So for example, if SEO is important to you, and 2023, then your q1 Projects might include things like blogging, updating images on your website, keyword research, and some website tweaks and changes. Or maybe you want to focus on changing your niche in 2023. And in that case, your q1 Projects might be updating your website to reflect this change, content planning to bring in clients to reflect that change and maybe working with a mentor or a coach. Okay, so now that we’ve talked about how to determine what to work on in your slow season, I want to really briefly chat about how to ensure you’re spending your time on purpose. Just like with any other season, it is so in

important that we manage our time well, but what does that mean? So, going into your slow season, I think the first and most important thing is to continue with your healthy habits. Just because it’s slow season and we aren’t running around like crazy doesn’t mean we should give up on the healthy stuff that keeps us sane. If you are anything like me, when I start to trade my morning workouts for extra sleep, my early bedtimes for late night movies, my water for extra lattes, my quiet time for mindless scrolling, my afternoon walk for afternoon TV, and so on. When I start to change out all of those healthy habits for not so healthy habits on a regular basis, things go downhill real fast, I don’t work well, I have no clarity. I’m not very nice, I don’t eat well, I become a mess. And I really am at my best when I continue to feed myself and my soul with my healthy habits. I’m not here to say that you can’t totally go into sloth mode for a few days, because we all need that from time to time. Just don’t let your entire slow season turn into that. Okay. The second thing that will help you manage your time well in slow season is to stick with routines, either keeping your old ones or build new ones that serve you better in this season.

It’s definitely okay to give yourself more downtime and ease in your slow season, absolutely should do that. But a routine will help to make sure that you are actually being productive with your time. Whether you have a rhythm to your day that works or a rhythm to your week, it doesn’t matter find find something that works for you. Just try and have some sort of routine so that your brain can actually get into work mode when it needs to. The third thing to help manage your time is to simply remember one thing at a time, it can be really, really easy to see what everyone else is working on in slow season and become tempted to do what they’re doing. It’s kind of like a dog that’s like squirrel, squirrel, right? Stay focused on what you need to do, what you have committed to what’s important for your goals. And simply ignore the rest. If anything, if you get new ideas, because you see that so and so’s doing it on social media or you read a blog post or you got an email or whatever ideas are not bad. Put them on a list for later. But not now, don’t let some new, you know, seemingly exciting idea, jump the line and get ahead of the intentional project list you made. Okay? If you spend your slow season bouncing between the projects you’ve set out to do and everything that everyone else is doing on social media, you’re literally not going to get anything accomplished, you will spin your wheels, okay, and I don’t want that for you. The last thing that you can do to help manage your slow season well is to not plan on more than one big project per month. Okay? Remember, we split the project list into big and small, I really think that the best expectation you can set for yourself is one big project per month.

Okay, you will still have small things on your list and you will likely still have client inquiries and maybe a little bit of shooting, and you still have a life and a family and a community. Okay, there’s still other things going on. When you think about the first quarter, yes, you are gaining back time from client facing work, but it isn’t that much time overall. Okay, you’re still running the day to day of your business, you still again have a life, personal life, a family, a community, you have other things going on, you didn’t gain 24 hours a day. Okay. So set your expectations appropriately. And I really do think one big project per month is a really achievable, safe, healthy goal. So what happens if you bite off more than you can chew and you finish your slow season without having your big projects completed? Again, you’re going to end up frustrated with yourself, you’re going to feel like a failure, you’re going to feel like you’re behind. All of those things are negative. Okay? Just like I said in the beginning, I don’t want you to take those negative feelings with you into the rest of your year into your busier seasons. I would rather you start off feeling really strong and accomplished. Take that energy with you into the rest of your year. Set yourself up for success by setting your goals and expectations appropriately. So the last thing I want to leave you with Before wrapping up today is this.

Don’t get panicked and go into selling mode during your slow season. That is reactionary. That is fear based. Just stay the course and continue to move forward. Do the work that you’re focused on and trust that your bookings will come back because they will business is cyclical. Always enjoy this time where you have less client commitments on your plate. And trust that it will come back, you will be busy again, this is the life of a photographer. It is busy, and then it is slow, and then it is busy and then it is slow. That’s the way it works. And it can be a little bit scary. No matter how long you’ve been in business, when all of a sudden your inboxes like crickets, okay, and your shooting calendar is really wide open. It can feel scary, but I promise you, the more you can stay in the energy of this is a beautiful time I get this time to work on these projects I’ve been wanting to do. I am going to enjoy when my clients come back to me but right now I’m enjoying the peace and quiet. Stay in that positive mindset and don’t let your Go yourself go into the fear and the panic. Your clients are coming back they are. Okay. So if you’re struggling with this, you might write this mantra down and repeat it daily. I’m right where I need to be. And I trust the process. That mantra is so simple, and yet it has served served me so well over the years in lots of different seasons. So that’s it for today, my friend. As always, thank you for being here, and I’ll see you next week.

Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash podcast. Come find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gebhart photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.


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