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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15 Comments

  1. Aloha Jason, this is a good article and I will share it with the director of the gallery that has my work. Interestingly enough, the slow season for our gallery in Hilo HI tends to be in the summer as well. We have perfect weather, but summer is when the cruise ships cut back on Hilo port visits because a lot of them start going to Alaska. Come September we star seeing 3-4 cruise ships in Hilo a week.

  2. When I worked with galleries, I had 2 in New England and one in Tucson. That worked very well for me. Granted, I never sold any desert scenes in New England, but I didn’t try to.

    Now, I work at getting a new body of work up and running during the New England winter. Driving isn’t fun this time of year anyway. I also have some time to expand and experiment.

  3. I usually use any down time to ask new or ongoing questions with the purpose of doing a little research (teach an occasional art history course) as well as checking in with tech people (in both acrylics and digital media). I just don’t think about it a down time in the way a gallery owner might. (And yes- our Northeast Winters are long, dark, and cold. My creativity level suffers.)

  4. This will be my first winter as a full time artist. I plan to use the “down-time” to build up inventory for all of those shows I’m hoping to be accepted for in the coming year. I’ll also visit more galleries during their slow season to try to be represented in a larger market, which means spiffing up my portfolio, bio, and artist’s statement. Your mentorship program has been very helpful in this regard!

  5. Thanks for the article. I look forward to my quiet time in the studio over the winter-January to April. I review my previous year or two’s worth of work– pieces that sold in particular so I can get a better handle on images that do resonate with people. I have also used this time to define aspects of my work that received the most positive comments and look to develop those further. Vague I know but it does seem to help me focus on things that have touched a chord wither with my gallery owners/managers and fans. Sometimes I find I look at what I do completely differently than my fans and it is so interesting to hear about why they engage with my work. Very helpful feedback. Good luck to you Jason and staff in your off-season refreshment.

  6. I can’t wait for the slow season to start for long days in the studio which is now! I also use this time to reach out to reconnect with clients but also to create new connections by sending out prospecting emails all over.

  7. This is the second year I have “opted out” of distracting holiday madness and it has added a calm to the usual frenzy. The season has become one for quiet reflection.
    That has freed my time to do some planning for next year; the biggest need is to redesign and replace the apparatus for show display for easier transport and set up. I’m working on updating my website, social media advertising, expanding my email list, etc. Marketing is something one can never put off and must be done regularly, and often.
    Among that, I paint.

  8. PERFECT …..!
    That was a good suggestion from the cryptically named “GL” Jason .
    I see that you have another handy job for off season as well, like “MM”, Magnanimously Motivating from all your posts.
    Thank you!!

  9. Winter is the slow time for me from January till March. One of my galleries closes down for the winter and the other ones have very few sales.
    I don’t sell online, but sometimes a client contacts me to buy an available painting, and is usually a referral from Pinterest. I had ten sales in two years from my followers and somehow is during the slow season. A few prints are sold at Fine Art America, usually in November and December, and payments come towards the end of January or February.
    I call them my “little winter jewels”.

    I welcome this time of the year to build my portfolio.
    Is very cold and snowing most of the time in Ontario, so other than paint to my heart’s desire I go to a warm place to recharge.

  10. Thanks for off season suggestion,really helpful for the artist like me to start planning during off seasons

    I’m updating my website and learning new skills in sketching and painting,hope next year will let be brightest year for me.
    Thankso Jason!!

  11. I use social media to stay engaged with the world. Instagram is a great way to share stories with people and it lets me grow my network faster than any other tool I have seen as artist. Using insta is really an ART form.

  12. I am a potter and find that I have two off seasons, the second perhaps more by choice. I use the Winter off season to rebuild inventory for Spring shows, and I use the Summer as a second off season to rebuild inventory for Fall shows. The first Spring show is an invitational, and I need to put out 80-100 pieces for this show. I use the left overs to feed one or two other Spring shows, along with some refill for hot items. During the Summer I do the same thing for the Fall season.
    I have started taking commissions for custom cat & dog treat jars and find that a lot of post show sales have resulted from my sign describing this service. I like that birthdays don’t know a season and are adding to my production outside of shows.

  13. Once the holidays are over, I will spend time gathering new ideas, taking a few art classes for personal enjoyment and enrichment, cleaning out the studio, restocking inventory for upcoming shows.

  14. Great article Jason. It shows how to temper the madness of creating for exhibitions and shows with the creative-reviving downtime. I am learning how to give myself that downtime and how to make best use of the seasonal cycles. I tend to work all the time. Your scheduling makes perfect sense, as does most of what the others have said . . . cyclical creating and business. Thank you everyone for sharing!

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