Utilizing the Off Season

I recently received a suggestion for a blog post from the cryptically named “GL”

I’d love to see a post about strategies you utilize for anticipated “slow” or “off” seasons.

For many of you, the deep winter is the off season. Because my gallery is located in Scottsdale, and because Arizona is so blazing hot during the summer, our art season is exactly the opposite of a lot of other art markets who do most of their business during the summer. Our traffic declines dramatically during the summer, and as a result, so do our sales.

Our summer slow-down is long too. People often ask me when our “off” season is, and I reply that it begins when the temperatures climb above 105° fahrenheit and ends when the temperature drops back below 105°. This usually corresponds with dates in mid May and mid October. This means that we have five long months without much activity in the gallery.

There are a number of implications of this slow season. First, we really have to make hay while the sun shines during our busy season. We have to make enough sales to cover our overhead and save up a reserve to carry us through the slow summer months.

Second, it means we have a lot of time on our hands during the summer. During the season we have a constant flurry of activity. We have days where we will have hundreds of people through the gallery, each one of them requiring attention and follow-up. During the summer we have days where we may only have one or two people through the gallery. The difference in activity can be somewhat shocking.

Many of you also experience slower times in your business as the art market in your local area enters a slower time of year. Allow me to share some of the activities we engage in during the slow times – activities that you might find helpful as you are planning for your slow times.

  1. We follow up with customers. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. As I mentioned before, during our busy season the volume of traffic can be overwhelming. We do our best to follow up with every customer right after we interact with them, but our off season is a great time to follow up with the ones who didn’t respond, or who told us they weren’t quite ready to buy. I’ve mentioned before that I feel that most artists and gallerists aren’t following up enough with their customers. Off season can be a great time to improve your follow up. Don’t feel awkward if it’s been a while since you last  reached out to a customer – dash off an email or pick up the phone. Even though it’s already hot here, June usually ends up being a very good month because of all of the sales we close using follow-up techniques.
  2. We plan for the season. We use the off season to schedule shows, review portfolios and schedule our gallery display for the upcoming season. As an artist you can use off season time to prepare for shows and art festivals you might be participating in. We use the summer to build up our inventory by having artists ship us work. You can build up your inventory by focusing your off season on production.
  3. We take a vacation. Let’s face it, to be successful in this business, you have to work very, very hard. I take advantage of the off season to spend time with my family and to see the world. This last summer we spent time in the mountains at a cabin, and Carrie and I got away together to Georgia and South Carolina. Xanadu director, Elaine, went to Europe. I find that down time recharges my batteries and gets me excited to get back to work when the time comes.
  4. We focus on internet sales. Fortunately, the internet has no off season, and over the last several years we’ve seen an ever-increasing growth in our internet sales. During the off season we put even more emphasis on our efforts to generate online activity and sales. Our Catalogue has helped us increase sales activity year-round, including during our off-season.
  5. We tackle big projects. The summer is also a time for us to get to those projects that we keep putting off during the busy season. The abundance of uninterrupted time available during the summer is a great time to update inventory records, organize storage, catch up on bookkeeping and a host of other unappetizing but necessary tasks.

I think perhaps the greatest challenge of the off season is that it’s very tempting to let momentum slip away. I try to work just as hard during the summer as I do the rest of the year. Those long, slow months can either be a liability or an asset. I work very hard to make them pay off.

 

WhatDo You Do To Take Advantage of Your Off Season?

What activities have you found to be most useful during your off season? How do you prepare for your busy season during your slow time? How do you keep your slow time from slowing down your business growth? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

15 Comments

  1. Ebb and Flow has always been difficult for me which directly ties to momentum.
    In the last few years as I’ve tried to get a productive art career off the ground, your list of activities is pretty much what I have only in the art production side. (Business is still kind of elusive but getting better).
    The hardest one for me is to take a break. My mind is always going and so is my body as regards art. I appreciate the time I do take off but it is with guilt as soon as I walk back through the door.
    Suggestion: Could you do a blog on that topic? How do you take a break before your workload kills you?

  2. January/February are always slow months for our small gallery. After closing the gallery for the first few weeks in January to patch, repair, paint, etc., our 1st show of the year is typically a higher end judged show – where we bring in a notably acclaimed artist to judge the work in the show, awarding cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, Best of Show, and 2 honorable mentions. The judge also usually writes a paragraph or so about the piece & why awarded. This brings in more participants in the show who appreciated the recognition, cash, formal award. We increase the amount of advertising/social media postings, event invites for the “Opening Reception & Awards presentation”. We try to push to get an article or two written up in local newspapers & on-line sources to increase awareness – making it a somewhat “special” event. All this helps increase participation fees and more sales.

  3. I’ve had trouble in the past staying motivated during the slow season, but this last year, I began to get my work out there in shows, fairs & on the internet, so I got some momentum going. I did take occasional breaks – & felt anxious & guilty beforehand – but recharged when I came back. I really appreciate this article today—its timing couldn’t be better. Felt a little lost & aimless the last few days, but my studio was a crazy mess by the end of the holidays & I started cleaning & reorganizing my workspace yesterday. It looks & feels great. I’ll tackle my supplies & inventory next. And follow-up with customers, plus focusing on internet sales. Thanks for the suggestions & reminders!

  4. I dont seem to have an “off” season. Although my largest sales are from just before Black Friday for a month, the prep for that takes all year. In “slack” times I’m very busy with submissions, website updates, blogging, teaching, planning, paperwork and making and delivering art cards and art work. When I have a bit of time to reflect, such as after hanging a 50 painting solo show, I study where the ratio of energy output and expense outweighs the income from it and make corrections.

    1. I have no off season ever. I have business cards and 4 roladexs . I send DIRECT SNAIL MAIL career updates,news and some art 101 data I find. I also have a full ARTBANK/INVENTORY to cash in. 50 percent of art life is the BUSINESS TACTICS part. Time flies and I use it wisely. I sell my own art.

  5. Back in my old life when I helped run the gallery in VT our busy season was May through October, but we did stay open all year. Basically it was create glass art during the winter, go somewhere warm for a couple weeks in March, sell during the summer.

    These days I create glass art from January to about June then take a trip somewhere. I spend the summer doing about 5 or 6 weekend summer art shows with my paintings or go do new ones Plien-aire. The second half of the year is for commissions and finding new venues. I take December off for holidays and hanging out with friends or whatever.

  6. Since the holidays were about family and getting everything accomplished for gifts/food, I took a break to enjoy the season.
    Now I am looking forward to getting back to painting, changing my online sales strategy by trying a new site, and cleaning/weeding/organizing my storage room and sink/tool room. I also plan to keep up my social media presence and continue the blog I started in a more regularly scheduled way.
    Then take a break to travel in April.
    Where I live it’s pretty year round opportunities to show, but I want to push and find new places where my work will fit.
    So, really, not much down time.

  7. While caring a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease I truly learned what burnout is. But I also, not unexpectedly, lost studio and business momemtum. I can’t afford to take any breaks now; I have to rebuild. But what I do have time for are mini-breaks of Sarurday morning Torah study and Shabbat services and one evening a week temple choir rehearsals.

    Given the internet and the artist’s ability to self-represent it is entirely possible to not actually have a slow season (though that doesn’t preclude a low income at any given time).

  8. I have made it a habit to practice basic business tactics to sell my art.
    Early in my art life , I went to the library and read business books on selling.
    I also made friends with artists in my community who were making money.
    I absorbed some of their methods. Those methods serve me today. My Tools 4 Artists
    list is as follows- Carry business cards- always-Call and get your own press- do this voice to voice- get a foto story, go to the instant printer make copies and write snail mail letters on the reverse -make generic all purpose postcards with several examples of your art on them, carry them at all times, put snail mail – addresses on your data, write stuff down, show in a buyers home ala Tupperware party, get sponsors for art projects, read The Outliers-by Malcolm Gladwell.

  9. Hi Jason thx for the good topic today. In my slow time here in northern WI last year and this year I wrote a book. I am starting my sequel to last years book and will keep me busy through March. Then my spring work starts as the bird migration starts. I am a wildlife painter painting the birds of Crex Meadows. Many thx for all you do. Jim Springett wildlife painter 🙂

  10. My husband and I are both painters.
    We use summertime for plein air and winter for studio work.
    Mid-autumn we do our own show and off season we follow up with contacts made during the plein air season.

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