And that's just as it should be because, honestly, it can be a crazy time of year. The pressure is on, most of us make the bulk of our profit in these last few months of the year so it's important to get it right.
For me, this year has been less (slightly!) of a panic than usual. I'm not entirely sure why but some of it is down to being more organised and having a routine so I thought I would share some of my tips and the things that have helped me get things done.
First of all, have a clear picture of dates in your head - for example, tax returns have to be in by October 31st so it is way better to have everything prepared well in advance- this means that you're not spending too much time poring over financial stuff at the expense of actually making your product. I use excel spreadsheets to keep a constant track of expenses and sales and do my best to keep it up to date.
The next important thing is to plan how much stock you will need and if you do markets at this time of year, have a very precise idea of which ones you would like to attend. Check your emails from previous years and try to gauge when places will be offered. Bear in mind that before the actual selling starts, there will be lots of expenses, many fairs require payment in advance and you will also need to buy supplies so that everything is ready on time.
If you supply to shops, it's a good idea to send a little reminder email - you know how long it takes to get stock ready but the shop owner may not yet be thinking that far ahead so it's good to check in and see if they will possibly need to top up stock or order special Christmas items.
You may have a rough idea of how much stock you will need at this point, although it can be difficult to estimate exactly because you never know how well things will sell at markets. I'd be more inclined to overestimate though, unless you have a product that is only suitable as a Christmas item.
My next tip has been really useful for me and has taken a lot of pressure off. It may seem crazy to be making Christmas items in August but the sooner you get started, the better, not only in terms of quantity, but also very importantly, it gives you the chance to take decent photos when the light is good. I made Christmas stock very early this year and because I wasn't feeling stressed, I had time to take care with my photos and edit to my satisfaction. It really is easier to get a decent photo when the light quality is good. It also means that you have a stock of photos ready to go once you start your Christmas marketing on Social Media. If you like to use props, don't forget to leave aside some Christmas items in an easily accessible place - don't do what I did though, and forget where that place is!
Which brings me to the next point, personally I think that advertising any Christmas products before Halloween is just too soon, but once that's out of the way, it's a good idea to have a plan. People won't want to buy if they don't know what you're offering so make sure you post lots of pics, include prices and any special offers and schedule posts to cover different times when people are online. Having said that, don't forget that Social Media is also about interaction, and a constant bombardment of 'sell' posts is never a good idea.
The next tip might seem like a really obvious one but printing out an actual paper calendar can help a lot in terms of organising, the phone is great for reminders but if you want to see all your bookings and deadlines at a glance, you can't beat the paper version. I have one printed for my desk in work and plan to print off a copy for home too. It makes it easy to map out my weekends and helps to avoid double booking or taking on too much.
Also, keep an eye out for special offers and think ahead. For example, I use a lot more labels at Christmas than I would the rest of the year so when I saw a half price deal on zazzle in my inbox, I used it to order ahead and got a decent quantity of labels for half the price.
Try to plan out how much you will need of everything. I often used to make the mistake of not buying enough labels for jars or not calculating how much wax I would need for all the containers I had. Queue lots of last minute panic ordering! Never a good idea because delays can mean not having things ready for markets or shops.
If you have an online shop, make a big deal of Christmas and be sure to advertise your gift ideas and special items. I recently unveiled the Purity Belle Christmas Shop and I'm pretty happy with it although still adding as I go. Here are some of my Christmas candles for this year: