5 Top Tips For Surviving Silly Season!
Whether it’s your first or your 51st, the September-December period brings with it many challenges for chimney sweeps.
‘Silly Season’ – as it’s affectionately termed – is when all the customers who seem to have forgotten you exist for the previous nine months suddenly remember you again.
So here’s five top tips to help ensure you can ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and get through this manic part of the year.
1 – Preparation Is Key
It’s really important that you have everything you need to complete any jobs which you take on. So, first things first, make sure your vehicle is MOT’d, serviced and checked BEFORE silly season hits. The last thing you want is to be off the road for any reason, so get these things sorted.
In a similar vein, make sure your sweeping kit is in good, working order. Do you have enough smoke pellets, vacuum bags, gaffa tape and so on? Do you have a spare vacuum in case one goes kaput?
Make a list of your ‘essentials’ and make sure you have done sufficient back up in case anything goes awry.
2 – Know Your Daily Limits
At this time of year, it can seem like there’s some kind of Macho Man competition on as to who can do the most sweeps in a day. But the number of jobs others do really shouldn’t worry you. Instead, concentrate on how many YOU feel comfortable doing a day. It’s a marathon, not a race!
If you’re starting out, you may only want to do three or four. There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, it’s better to do a handful of jobs well, and to your satisfaction, than to aim for a larger number and feel you’ve not performed as well.
We all like to accommodate our regulars when they need it. Some sweeps will leave half a day free each week to allow for last minute urgent jobs. Come the day, if you haven’t filled the slots, you can always catch up on the admin, or even take a little time away.
More experienced sweeps may feel they can add more jobs on to their daily list. Again, this is down to personal preferences and takes into account many varying factors.
3 – Plan Your Routes
While it can be tempting to book customers into the first available slot, that isn’t always the best option. Booking a more distant job a few weeks ahead will allow you the time to book a more efficient route to and from that job. Keeping jobs together geographically will help you save time, boost profit and cut overheads such as fuel costs. So it makes sense to plan jobs as ‘tight’ as possible.
However, like many things, it depends on you as a person. Do you prefer a 20 minute ‘breather’ between appointments instead? If so, make sure you plan these in – but be aware there will be a trade off in terms of the number of jobs you may be able to undertake in any one day.
4 – Remember Your Training
Things invariably go wrong from time to time. That brush that just won’t go past 7 metres. That jackdaw nest that just seems to last forever. That damn baffle plate that will not budge.
In these situations, there is nothing wrong with going back to the van for a few minutes to have a breather. It’s amazing how often this can help with a problem job. You may take this time to think, refer to your training manual or perhaps even phone a trusted fellow sweep for advice. These days, the Facebook chimney sweep forums can also be a useful place to get advice and opinions as well. The Guild operates a very useful and friendly members only Facebook group. Here lies the answer to many questions, including ones you didn’t know you had.
5 – And Don’t Forget To Relax
Silly season is massively hectic, so you need to make time to relax. If you’re a one person band, that may be easier said than done. It’s not unheard of to arrive home to a tonne of voicemails, texts and emails from customers who want to book in. If we get a cold wet weekend near the beginning of September, the combination of weather and time of year can produce an avalanche of enquiries.
That simple task alone eats into your free time, not to mention all the other administrative tasks which can pile up.
But could any of those tasks be passed on to somebody else? Could you leave your mobile with a friend to answer calls and texts during the day? Can you set up an auto response for all email enquiries, or forward them on automatically? Perhaps an answering / booking service?
Some will book a week out half way through the busy season. This can seem like madness during the lazier days of summer but can prove to be a smart move.
The smoother you can make everyday tasks, the more time you will have to relax. And, as many of us know, taking time out to recharge your batteries is even more important during autumn winter!