Now is the time for folks in entertainment jobs to start planning for the holidays!
Too soon you say? Not at all, and here’s why…
Anyone who has ever produced a film or a book or was in charge of an event knows you start with the goal date and work backwards. In this case you’ll want to have all your holiday thank you cards, family photos and gifts for the important people in your life delivered by the first week in December. Before Thanksgiving is too early and after Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanza is, well, too late…unless you’re sending a Happy New Years card which I suppose could arrive as late as the first week of January.
So, working backwards, to keep this process stress free, I’d allot this much time:
- 1 week for the mail or ups service to deliver it.
- 1 week to get everything addressed and dropped at the delivery service.
- 1 week for the orders to arrive from the printer unless you want to pay rush fees.
- 1 week to create your printed materials & place the orders for printing / gifts.
- 1 week to plan your wardrobe and have photos taken
- 2 weeks to book ahead with a photographer (some may need more lead time).
That amounts to 7 weeks, so you need to start TODAY! You may be able to do some of these things more quickly but the last few months of the year can get busy with production trying to wrap up projects, so you may find yourself busy with acting or other entertainment business work. Best to plan ahead!
Your October Top 10 Action Item List!
- Book a professional photographer.
Professional pictures show that you’re a professional. You’ll look great and be proud to send out your cards. Make sure they’ll do your whole family as well as smaller groups, like the kids together, the kids with mom, the kids with dad, mom and dad together and even some individuals of each. It may cost more but buy your digital negatives and have them retouched if they need it. Some photographers book a month or more in advance, so do this first! It could save you money. If you can’t afford a pro, then by all means, use a friend, your phone, whatever you have. Just do your best!
- Plan your marketing materials.
Are you doing a traditional holiday card? A thank you for a great year card? Blog posts showing gratitude for the people and projects from the previous year. Social Media posts specifically wishing a happy, healthy and successful new year to the people you want to work with? Decide what type of materials you’re printing or putting on your website / social media and make a list of the shots you need in order to look fabulous. Some printers offer early bird pricing.
- Use social media or websites like Pinterest to make a style board/collect ideas.
Search for photos, holiday cards and social media that fit the style that you identify most with. You can choose a theme like, JOY, or a color theme like, Navy and Gold. Finding a common theme and integrating across all the platforms will really make you shine. Usually, I find something that inspires me and I build on it. Internet search for “Mood Board” or “Style Board” for ideas.
- Buy, Borrow or Use what you have in your closet.
Get really clear on what colors look best on you and your family. I recommend coordinating but not matching. If you need help with this I have an article on my photography website or just google it. Taking time on this step will take your photos from good to Amazing! That effortless look, takes effort!
You don’t have to buy all new items. Start by putting everything out on the bed to make sure it looks good together. Give yourself plenty of time to purchase, borrow or discover at second hand stores any items that would pull the outfits together. Show your or your family’s personality.
- Design your marketing materials.
If you’re design savvy or like to make your printed materials using online sites that’s great! Just make sure you’re using the right template/dimensions before you start creating. If you’re design software illiterate, then it’s never been easier to hire a designer. There are sites like wFiverr.com and Guru.com that offer inexpensive freelance work. Some printing companies also offer templates or in-house designers. Allow extra time for revisions.
For social media or websites there are a plethora of design software programs. Some have free trials or one-off design purchases, while others have monthly fees. I haven’t found one that I love across the board so I’ll refrain from recommending here.
- Research your target mailing list.
Use sites like CastingAbout.com and IMDBpro.com to find out who’s casting, what projects are in the pipeline and then make a spreadsheet with your dream list of shows. Create columns for Casting Directors you love have auditions with; Directors you dream of working with; production companies that make shows you want to be on, etc… If you can get their email and snail mail addresses through online services or your own detective work, then fill that in. Collect Instagram / Facebook / Twitter handle as well.
- Make a social medial plan.
I use a scheduling app to help me plan out my social media posts, but you can use a calendar or a list. Knowing what you’re going to post ahead of time can take a lot of the stress out of posting. With the busy fall school schedules, kids’ sports, work events, holiday parties, etc… time can get away from you. The most important thing is to post 1 to 3 times per day. Make a plan with your new photos and color scheme. The holidays are a great time to give shout-outs to those people you’ve worked with in the past or who you’d like to work with in the future by telling them how they’ve inspired you.
- Handwrite the envelopes.
I know you think handwriting 200 envelopes is crazy, but when you check your mail what are you most excited to open, the one shaped like a bill, the one with the typed label or the handwritten address? It’s not as hard as it sounds. Just keep a stack of envelopes and your address list with you and when you’re waiting with your kid in that casting office; watching TV on the couch or on the plane to celebrate Thanksgiving, start filling them in a few at a time.
- Gifts for special people.
You do not have to buy a gift for everyone but there are certain people who should be on your list. These are the people from #6 above. Those co-workers and teammates you want to thank and people you’d like to work with again or for the first time. You may have a different list than me, this is generally the list for actors.
- Agent (mine, my children’s and the owners of the agency)
- Manager (both co-owners of the company and sometimes support staff)
- Acting Teachers / Coaches (especially folks we see regularly)
- Casting Directors / Directors / Producers / Writers (a handful of very special folks)
- Writers would add Editors, Mentors, etc.
- Producers would add Investors, Distributors, etc.
There are a plethora of articles out there on what types of gifts to give. I don’t recommend going into debt to buy holiday gifts, a heartfelt card can be very much enjoyed. Groupon sometimes has discounts on gift cards and if your gift recipient is over 21, there are often deals on wine. I generally try to stay away from sugary treats and allergy triggers. They get so much of that kind of thing, that when I bring in a healthy alternative everyone is beyond happy they won’t be tempted with cupcakes. Get to know your team and find out what they like. One office loves it if I pick up a special order of coffees from a favorite place nearby. Call ahead to make an appointment, that way you can be sure to get some facetime with your team when you’re dropping off your gifts and say, “Thank You for a Great Year,” in-person.
- Put your health first.
The holiday season is the most stressful time of year for many reasons. Make sure you schedule some time every week to exercise, meditate, eat healthy and rest.
One year I fell way behind on this schedule, so I sent Valentines cards to everyone instead. So don’t fret if you get overwhelmed. Just pick yourself up and start again as soon as you’re able. Just be sure to do it. My mantra is “Imperfect Action BEATS Perfect Inaction, Every Time!” Don’t let perfection get in the way of getting it done.