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Have you ever noticed how the older one gets, the faster the years seem to blow by? It’s one of those time-relativity things. When you’re five, a year represents 1/5 of your life. When you’re 50, it represents 1/50. Each year, our perception of time compresses, so the years roll by, seemingly faster and faster, until the next thing you know, AARP is filling up your mailbox with membership invitations and you find yourself considering which Medicare plan is best. Now then, isn’t that a cheerful proposition?

But this article isn’t about our ever-increasing race toward oblivion. It’s about planning. 2012 went by, at least for me, with head-spinning speed and the New Year is upon us. Now is the time to close out 2012 and start to set things up for 2013. If you play your cards right, you can schedule your work for the next several months or more.

To do that, you’ll need to get chummy with your clients for more than holiday get-togethers and toasting the New Year. Consider contacting your best clients – the ones you want to clone – and inviting them to lunch, on you. It’s a nice way to say, “Thanks!” for sending you all that work during the year. But, it’s also a way to glean a lot of useful information.

During your lunch, ask your client how you did during the previous months. Scary? Maybe. But, it’s something you need to know. Are they pleased as punch? Were there some things you could have done better? This exercise will aid you in providing a better client experience in the future.

But, this breaking of bread shouldn’t be all about you. It should be mostly about your client. Once you have a handle on how you’re doing, ask them what their plans are for the upcoming year. Will they be presenting at any trade shows? Are their new products or services to be launched? Are they expanding into new locations? What are their goals and how can you help them attain them?

For example, during your conversation, your client tells you they’re planning to go to trade shows in June and October to support the launch of a new product they plan to roll out in May. You’ve just been presented with an opportunity to pitch a lot of work. Odds are they’ll need a product logo, some literature, website updates and, perhaps, a new trade show display. If you manage things correctly, you can schedule several projects for the first half of the New Year, all for the price of a nice lunch.

Do this with several clients and you can see how your calendar and job roster can fill up pretty quick. Plus (and it’s a big plus), you’ll avoid the crunch of rush gigs, which are often the result of poor planning.

The thing is, your client will likely hit the ground running come January. They know they have a product to launch in May, but other, more immediate things, take precedent. Next thing they know, it’s April and the product launch has become a scrambled rush.

You can avoid this scenario simply by addressing their future needs now. And, your client will thank you for it. Taking some time now to plan the coming months will help them do a better job with a lot less anxiety. You’ll avoid that nasty feast or famine syndrome, too, knowing that you’ve got projects scheduled months in advance.

Now, isn’t that a nice way to start the New Year?