It’s that time already. The holidays are almost upon us and for freelancers, this often creates a mixed reaction.
On the one hand, hooray for the holidays! Parties, food, time with families and friends. On the other hand, oh man the holidays. Late-paying clients, demands for quick turnaround and fluctuating workloads.
The savvy freelancer doesn’t need to be overly worried about the impending holiday season because they are already prepared. Here’s how you can be making the most of the holiday season:
Determine Your Availability
Most of us like to have at least some free time over the holiday season, right? Decide early on what time you would like to keep sacred and make sure you communicate your availability with your clients in plenty of time.
No one wants to be fielding anxious client calls over the roast turkey, or return from time away to messages of escalating urgency as to why you haven’t got back to someone. Just make sure you are very clear with clients and specific about when you’re not available so they don’t think that they should get a reply if they sneak in the odd email.
How much can you prepare ahead of time so you’re not working up until the eleventh hour of your holiday to fit in every client’s “urgent” work? Start doing what you can in November to be ahead and have projects finished early for December.
Another thing you might consider is to let people know to get in any work they’d like completed before the New Year early. If you give them a date by which they must have orders in (kind of like the post office does for Christmas mail), you may find that you get more requests in earlier and can plan ahead better.
As an extra bonus, the more you finish early, the more you can invoice earlier than you would have. We’ve all experienced that client who disappeared for the holidays before paying their bill, so give them plenty of time to settle up!
Start Booking Next Year
Get a headstart on next year by booking some good projects for when you’re ready to start back. All freelancers need to ensure they are always working on building their work pipeline so that they can avoid “boom or bust” cycles. The holidays don’t have to bring on a bust if you plan early.
Create a Budget
As mentioned earlier, it’s a relatively frequent occurrence for clients to fail to settle up before disappearing for the holiday season. With this in mind, budget early so that you can have a bit of a buffer, if needed.
Allow for the possibility of late payments and remember that you’ll probably have extra expenses related to the holidays, too.
Set yourself a budget for any holiday items, such as gifts, food and party supplies and try to stick to it. One idea from our rather large extended family is for each adult to buy a gift for just one other, rather than trying to buy for everyone. Set a maximum budget per gift (say $30). Then do an “auction” where you pull a number and choose a gift in number order. You can either choose to open a new one or “steal” from someone else who already opened one (they then get to open another). This helps to keep gift-buying under control and save heart failure over January credit card statements.
Do Some Holiday Marketing
First of all, it’s a great idea to send out holiday cards to your past and present clients. Make them personable and mention the projects you’ve successfully worked on together. Wish them well and express that you’d love to work together again next year.
Secondly, while times are quieter during the holiday season, prepare yourself for some New Year marketing to bring on new clients. Remember that businesses are often assessing their project needs very early in the year, so be ready to get in early to pitch to them. Figure out who is on your list to pitch to – which individuals or companies match your description of “ideal client?” You could even schedule emails to go out to them in the New Year if that’s going to be your method of reaching out.
Reach Out To Others
Connecting with other freelancers or even local networking groups can be a great way to share ideas, successes and challenges. It’s also good for building out your network. Just the companionship of kindred souls can be inspiring, but it can also lead to new opportunities for referrals or even collaborative projects.
The slow holiday season period can be a great time to make new connections and make sure you catch up with old ones while they’re in a slower period, too.
Set Goals for Next Year
What are your goals for next year? The most successful freelancers have specific, measurable goals and plan early how they can steer a path to reach them. You may even get ideas or suggestions from the time you spend networking with others.
Create a plan and commit to it in writing. For example, if your goal is to boost your income by 10% per month, you may find you need to raise your rates or add clients to your roster. Make a plan for the kind of work you want to do and who you should be reaching out to. If you need to bring on new clients, you might commit to sending out five prospecting emails every Tuesday before 10am, as an example.
Are your website, portfolio or social media accounts looking a bit tired? Slow periods over the holidays can be the ideal time spruce them up.
Make sure the copy on your website reflects your goals as a freelancer and is geared to the clients you really want to attract. Make sure the appearance of your website is fresh and professional. Update your portfolio and ensure you’ve included all projects that are of the sort you really want to do more of or specialize in.
Check over your social media profiles and ensure your bios are up to date. Do they reflect what you want to be doing? Have you included your latest experience and projects on your LinkedIn profile?
Take a Break!
This one really shouldn’t be the last thing on your mind because it’s super-important to take breaks and revitalize. Taking breaks can help you to avoid burn-out, refocus and ensure that you do not become bored with what you are doing.
Take time to be with friends or family and enjoy holiday festivities — relax, laugh, eat too much food. Downtime is valuable for giving your brain a reset and can even help you to better come up with ideas for problems you may have been trying to solve.
The holiday season doesn’t need to be a time of stress and worry for freelancers. A bit of forward planning can see it go smoothly and even help you to have some cash in-hand for holiday spending.
Make the most of any slow periods for planning, networking and simply taking a break. Set yourself up so that next year becomes your biggest yet…