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Treat It Like a Legitimate Business

When we first started our Christmas light business in 2011, we didn’t realize it could be a full-fledged, year-round operation. We viewed it as a seasonal side gig, not a real business. This mindset held us back for years. It’s important to approach your Christmas light services as a professional, legitimate business from the start.

Get an Accountant

Our first year in business, we made the mistake of not working with an accountant. This led to major issues down the line, including an audit and thousands of dollars in penalties. An accountant is invaluable for guiding you through payroll, taxes, and other critical financial matters, especially when you’re just starting out.

Properly Classify Employees

We ran into trouble when we classified one of our installers as an independent contractor instead of an employee. He refused to be put on the books, then later reported us to collect unemployment. This resulted in a state audit and more costly penalties. Ensure you properly classify all workers as employees or independent contractors to avoid these kinds of issues.

Understand Your Overhead Costs

In the beginning, I severely underestimated my overhead costs, like worker’s compensation insurance and payroll taxes. I was billing customers at rates that seemed high, but once all the expenses were factored in, I was actually operating at a loss on many jobs. Work closely with your accountant to fully understand your costs and price jobs accordingly.

Hire the Right Employees

  1. Look for teachable, moldable employees rather than just experienced workers. It’s easier to train someone from scratch than try to change the habits of a seasoned pro.
  2. Don’t overpay new hires. Start at a reasonable rate like $15-17/hour, then provide raises and incentives for good performance.
  3. Be willing to fire underperforming employees. It’s hard, especially with friends or church members, but you have to put the business first.
  4. Provide thorough training, even for basic tasks. Don’t assume your installers know the obvious.
  5. Don’t send inexperienced employees out on their own too soon. Pair them with seasoned workers to learn the ropes.

Communicate Clearly with Customers

Ensure there is clear, detailed communication with customers about the scope of work, expectations, and pricing. Document everything in writing and take photos to avoid miscommunications. Keep detailed records for each job that can be referenced in the future, even if you or your key staff aren’t on-site.

Focus on Your Christmas Light Business

It’s easy to get distracted by other side gigs and services, especially in the off-season. But to really grow your Christmas light business, you need to make it your top priority. Avoid taking on other jobs that interfere with or detract from your core holiday lighting services.

FAQ

What type of employees work best for a Christmas light business?

We’ve found that college students and other seasonal workers make great Christmas light installers. They’re often more teachable and moldable than experienced pros who may have their own ways of doing things.

How much should I budget for advertising and marketing?

Successful Christmas light companies typically spend $20,000-$40,000 per year on advertising, with a focus on SEO, Facebook ads, and yard signs. However, the exact budget will depend on your local market and growth goals.

When should I start running Christmas light ads?

The best time to start your Christmas light marketing is in September, about 2-3 months before the busy season. Running ads earlier in the year is often a waste of money, as most customers aren’t thinking about holiday lighting that far in advance.

What NOT to Do When Running Your Christmas Light Business

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