The run-up to Christmas can feel a bit lonely when you’re a freelancer who works from home. Of course, a lot of us are working from home this year, but even when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, there are no Christmas parties or upbeat festive atmosphere to enjoy when you’re a freelancer – life pretty much carries on as normal from your desk for one. Let’s take a look at how to make the most of the run-up to Christmas if you work for yourself.
Planning your Christmas holiday
Of course, the great thing about being freelance is that you don’t have to ask anyone about taking time off. You can take as much or as little time off as you like, without it affecting how much ‘annual leave’ you have left. In many respects, you can approach the Christmas holidays in much the same way as you would taking time off at any other time of year, which I’ve written all about here.
There are a couple of differences, though. Unlike regular time off, your clients will be out of the office as well. This theoretically makes things more relaxed, but it’s worth liaising with them to find out when they’ll be back in the office and make sure there’s nothing that they’ll be needing if you’re taking longer off than they are.
For example, if you’re a freelance copywriter or designer, there may be Christmas-themed content that your client wants to publish in the time when you’re away, so you’ll need to make sure they have it before you stop for the holiday.
You might also find that some clients set ‘before Christmas’ as an arbitrary deadline for work that won’t actually even get looked at until the New Year. This can pile the pressure on to complete lots of work before you break for Christmas, so if you think your December schedule is looking too busy, you might want to query some of your pre-Christmas deadlines as and when they arise.
If it’s a marketing campaign that clearly needs to go out before Christmas, for example, then there’s not much you can do; but if it’s actually not going to be needed until January, you could push for a January deadline to ease the pressure before Christmas.
If you find yourself with a less than hectic schedule in the run-up to Christmas, it’s also a good idea to tie up any loose ends so that you’re ready to start afresh in January. For example:
- Ensure all work for the year has been invoiced and any overdue invoices are settled
- Make sure your accounts are up to date, with expenses for the year logged. If you’ve not yet sent your accounts for the previous tax year to your accountant, do it now so that you’ve got plenty of time for your self-assessment and to pay your tax bill before the 31 January deadline
- Make sure any work booked for January is scheduled in so you don’t forget about it when you come back
- If you have your own business blog, write an end-of-year post and let readers know you won’t be posting – or schedule posts to go live automatically at regular intervals if you want to keep the content going while you’re off work
- Tidy your office and file away any important documents you need to keep
- Set your out of office auto-reply with a friendly festive message so that your clients know you won’t be answering emails – don’t forget to include the date when you’ll be back in the office
From a financial point of view, the Christmas holidays can mean delays in invoices getting paid, so it’s sensible to make sure you have a ‘cushion’ set aside in your bank account so that you’ll have enough to tide you over into the New Year.
Making the most of the marketing opportunities
Christmas is a busy time of year for marketers, and it’s not without its marketing opportunities for your business. Of course, if you’re selling products and services that are going to be in demand at this time of year – whether it’s handmade gifts or printing services – then the marketing potential is clear. Perhaps less obvious is the chance to use Christmas as a way of relationship building with your clients.
Many freelancers and small businesses send Christmas cards to their clients or customers, and some even go as far as sending a gift as well. What you do depends on your budget, but it’s a nice opportunity to thank a client for their custom as well as making them feel good about working with you.
A simple, handwritten Christmas card will suffice (perhaps include your business card so that they’ll put it on their desk and you’ll be fresh in their minds when they see it in the New Year). If you do have the budget, you could send a gift to your most important clients. This could be anything from some stationery with your branding on it to a more lavish choice, such as a bottle of Champagne.
Getting into the Christmas spirit
Even for a freelancer, the run-up to Christmas shouldn’t be all work and no play. Take a break from work to decorate your home office, and perhaps put together a Christmas playlist so that you can enjoy a more festive atmosphere while you work.
You may not have a company Christmas party to look forward to, but why not group together with some other self-employed friends and organise a virtual ‘freelancers Christmas party’ of your own?
So there we have it – a few tips to making the most of Christmas as a freelancer. It’s a great opportunity to take some proper time out and step away from the stresses that come with running your own business, so make the most of it and try to switch off.
You’ll come back in the New Year rested and refreshed, ready to tackle another year of working for yourself. For lots more advice about running your own business, check out some of these other posts about being freelance.