Article  |  Misc

Putting pen to paper... by season

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Recently, I found myself in a discussion with one of our friends, Steven Bristol, from LessAccounting about how agencies and freelancers need to plan for slow seasons of the year. His observations lead him to believe that decision makers don’t make big decisions like, “hire a new agency” during the winter months.

This got me thinking about some of our past clients. When did we first put pen to paper with them all? Off the top of my head, I could think of a few clients that we had started during the winter time. For example, I think my first call with Mazin from AlphaClone was in late November of 2007 (around Thanksgiving). We wrapped up negotiations by January. They launched later that year… and are still working with us on a monthly retainer basis.

Then I began to think a few other clients and tried to recall when we held our first Discovery Workshop. I couldn’t easily remember these, so had Kelly from CrackerJack run a report for me (our bookkeepers!) that broke down a list of all our design and development clients with the date of our first invoice. I thought this would be the best indicator that we were proceeding with a new client as that implied we had some agreement in place to proceed with the new client.

Here is what we learned. Since 20061, 40% of our clients made a decision to hire us during the winter months …with only 11% during the summer.

..and by Month?

December?! I thought everyone was concerned with the holiday season… someone ordered themselves a new project for next year!

I have since showed this to Steven… which he was surprised by.

While this isn’t going to be the same for all agencies and freelancers, it is interesting to look at this sort of data after you’ve had enough of a time span to make it meaningful. In our case, we have 7+ years of data to pull from.

Based on my observations over the years… my theory is that we’re able to sign new clients during these periods of the year for the following reasons:

  • They’re organizing their budgets for next year.
  • They have some budget remaining from the current year and want to sneak in a new project2.
  • It’s a new year… it’s going to be THE YEAR that they finally make that project happen they’ve been mulling over for ages. a la new year’s resolution?
  • People might feel some pressure to “make a decision” before they the holiday break?
  • My birthday is in December… are they giving me the gift of their business?
  • People are traveling and on vacations during the summer. It’s nice outside… nobody wants to commit to anything but getting a better tan/sunburn.
  • People are already wrapped up in the middle of projects during the summer. They don’t get a chance to catch up on that backlog of ideas/projects until the Fall.

These are just some observations and theories. I encourage you to look over your data.

  • Do you spot any trends?
  • Does it help you rethink how you plan your year?
  • Do you need to focus more during the off months to increase revenue? …or focus even more on those peak seasons?
  • Should we ask Ryan to take his vacations in August from now on? (coincidence that he’s getting married this Aug?)


1 2006 is when we hired CrackerJack to be our bookkeeper. We could go back further, but I don’t want to head to the storage locker to look through old files.

2 Quasi-Fact: People who manage budgets in bigger companies don’t have a lot of incentive to not spend all of their budget before the end of the year. It could result in their budgets being reduced in the future… “hey, it looks like you can do more with less money!” …and they always want more budget in the future so they can accomplish/hire more. I care not to comment on whether we agree with that approach or not… it’s just something we’ve seen many times over the years.

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