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How Do You Survive the Slow Season?

“What do you do to stay profitable and how do you keep your attendance high?  I live in Miami, where slow season is from June till October.”

Answer: Plan ahead to keep the lights on.

Our wedding season slows down during the winter here in New York, too.  We’d be crazy busy starting in June and by the time October rolled around, I couldn’t wait for the break.

Yet I remember looking at our empty calendar in January with that sick feeling of desperation in my stomach.  Were we going to make it?

You’re NOT alone in dealing with the ups and downs of a seasonal wedding business.

But there are steps you can take so that you’re not suffering during the slow time.

#1 – Plan and save for the slow season.

Saving up money to cover you in the off season is a lot living saving for retirement.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t do such a good job of saving up for that, either.

Make automated deductions monthly to a designated savings account you’ll only tap in the off season.

We set up a separate Orange Ing account (now Capital One 360) for our winter savings deliberately because there is a three day wait to withdrawal funds.  Making it just a little difficult to spend the money meant we saved it for when it would really count.

Learn 4 simple ways to increase your bottom line here.

Action Plan: Determine how much you need to earn each month during the slow season.  Divide that amount by your cash flow heavy months and automate deductions to guarantee you’re covered.

#2 – Create a payment plan to balance your cash flow.

If you absolutely know you’re not going to save for the off season (shame on you, but good for being honest!) collect payments from your clients that stagger your income throughout the year.  In fact, that’s a great idea to consider in any case.

One wedding venue created a monthly payment plan for each month up until the wedding.  You could also collect 25% upon booking, 25% at the halfway point, 25% at three quarters of the way and the final balance before the wedding date.  This creates a nice flow of income for each wedding you book regardless of the season.

Offering a payment plan offers an advantage to both you and your clients.

The trick is staying on top of payments.  I suggest using a small business CRM like Ontraport or eWebmin to create invoices and automatically schedule them.

Learn more about automated follow up here.

Better yet, have your clients sign up for a subscription using Paypal or another processor.  This way you’ll receive monthly payments without having to worry about scheduling.

Action Plan:  Look at your cash flow throughout the year.  What payment arrangement will balance it out?

#3 – Offer discount specials to entice couples to book in the off season.

This can work well if you have a lot of demand for your business, but a limited number of in season dates available.  Couples who really want to work with you, yet can’t quite afford your regular prices, may be willing to move to an off season date.

If you have a studio or retail location, offer promotions in the off season that give couples an incentive to spend with you.  Photographers might offer holiday or Valentine’s Day portraits.  Wedding venues could offer special romantic themed dinners.  Makeup artists and hair stylists could partner with a photographer and venue for special girl’s night out events.

Partner with a venue and other wedding professionals to offer an attractive discounted package for the off season.

When you co-market with other wedding pros, you’ll combine your audiences and marketing power to boost the results for everyone.  Having a venue on board is critical, since they are often the first business the couple books for the wedding.

Run targeted Facebook Ads or Google Adwords campaigns to promote your special off season pricing.  Guest blog about how to plan off season or budget weddings in your local market to attract couples who are searching for these types of deals.

Learn more about how to earn referrals from networking partners here.

Action Plan:  Write down 3 ideas for off season promotions you can offer.

Bottom line: you need a plan.  Any or all of these strategies can work for you.  Don’t wait for the off season to figure it out!

How do you survive the slow season?  Leave a comment below.

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