For many years, I lived in fear of taking time off at the end of the year. I thought that if I said no to people, I’d be pissing them off and missing out on making money. I also thought that since everyone ELSE I knew was taking time off, I’d have a ton of orders just because I was the only one SMART ENOUGH to stay open.
Growing up in the States, it’s not uncommon for plenty of businesses to stay open during the holiday season. My birthday is on Christmas Day, and I fondly remember going to the movies and out for Chinese with my family. Not everything was open but plenty of places were. Here in Australia you won’t find nearly as many places open as in the States – hence why I thought staying open was a good idea. When the business grew and I had employees, I would often let them take off from about Dec 20 – January 8th and I would cover the orders personally in that time.
EVERY SINGLE YEAR I did that, I regretted it. Yes, I got some orders but not nearly as many as I hoped. I almost always found that brides or mothers having events at that time of year were SUPER picky and -bride/mom zilla-ish. Because the bakery was not in full working mode (being so quiet and only me around), every time an order came in it was a case of unpacking all the bits and pieces and starting again. Normally I’d have quantities of ganache or buttercream to hand, but not when the place is so quiet and we’d done a major clean down for the year. Invariably, because it was only me and we were not operating to our normal schedule, people would ask for RIDICULOUS pick up times and leave me waiting. I broke ALL of my rules about boundaries around that time of year too so I’d take silly last-minute requests. Above all else, I never really got to turn my brain and body to “off” mode, which means I never got the opportunity to recharge body and soul. Rather than be truly glad of the orders I just found myself resentful and annoyed – and realised that those small orders really made very little difference to my bottom line.
One of the downsides to small business is that you tend to live and breathe it 24/7 and at the end of the year, this gets VERY annoying. You get a morning off and start to relax into it then remember you need to bake 12 cupcakes by the morning. You turn the phone to silent, only to check it a day later and find a bunch of voicemail from people who forgot to order earlier…and so on and so on.
Let me give you permission to take some time off this holiday season, even if it’s only for those few days between Christmas and New Years. Even better if you can also take off those first few days of January. I don’t know about you but it takes me a few days to fully relax. You don’t want to have to be back at work 48 hours after you finally became one with your pillows. I mean you’ve gained their trust so to leave them seems a little cruel.
My suggestion is that you plan when you’re going to be closing down. You let your customers know. The day after your official close down, turn your email to “we will reply after X date” and your voicemail as well. Then, do a HUGE clean up of your workspace. Pull benches away from the walls and wash the walls. Clean those bottles of gel colour that are always dirty. Throw out, give away, or sell off the cake tools you don’t use. Throw out the half-broken cutters, the cake pans that are out of shape, the last little scrap of ribbon you’ll never find a use for (or give them to a local preschool). DECLUTTER like your life depends on it and clean like you’ve never cleaned before. RUTHLESSLY get rid of stuff. Then turn off the light, close the door on that space, breathe in and LET GO for a few days.
Believe me, that time off and clean up will be worth WAY MORE than any orders you get.