About two weeks ago my schedule started off looking pretty well-filled out for the week. By the end of Tuesday afternoon, however, I'd had nine cancellations and my schedule looked more like Swiss cheese.
My first instinct — like any other well-established, self-respecting, professional — was to panic. "OMG! I'm NOT going to make it through the recession after all!" But after a few moments of trying to work out my budget to see if a job at McDonald’s would keep my bills paid, I started thinking rationally again and managed to talk myself down off of my crazy ledge. My analytical brain went to work and I started trying to figure out how one week could go completely to pot in just a few hours when all the weeks previous had remained steady.
You'd think, after 17 years, I'd get used to it. Plan for it, even. But somehow, year after year, the back-to-school slump still manages to take me by surprise. Probably for the same reasons that friends, family, and unaffected clients are surprised to learn that the month before school starts is the best time for me to take my vacation — or I can sit at the salon and watch the tumbleweeds blow through.
And, every year, schools start earlier. Now, never mind my long and dramatic "how the heck is it that WE managed to learn enough to get through school between September and the end of May so why do kids today have to go to school an extra month and are doing worse?" rant — let's focus on how the back-to-school season manages to screw ME out of several hundred dollars each year.
First of all. I like teenagers. Throughout my career, teens have represented not only some of my most fun clients, but also some of my most loyal, dependable, and even responsible clients. But by the time they start driving, they also start spending more of their own money on their clothes. Which means that when school comes around each year, they find themselves with enough money to buy clothes, but not enough to get their nails done. Moms are by far the worst. No matter what ages their kids are, back-to-school means an impressive outlay of green. Or plastic. But whatever the case, it goes to someone other than me. Especially in the case of teen clients and moms of teens who are headed into, or back to, college. Tuition, books, clothes, parking permits, dorm fees, you name it, it's a lot of money that means no one's getting their nails done that month!
Then there's the family vacation. One last effort to get out and do something together before school starts.
Inevitably what happens is that the four weeks right before the start of the local school year are my slowest. Once school is back in session and moms and students (and teachers) get the hang of their routine for the year, things start building back up. By the end of October, I'm usually pretty swamped again.
There are signs the local economy is picking up again — at least in the private sector. The state budget is just as big a mess as it ever was though and my government-employed clients will still be sweating long after our triple-digit temperatures subside. Hopefully, the slow weeks are just the usual back-to-school blues and I can go back to my grasshopper ways soon.