Ah, autumn… that whimsical, crisp time of year that makes a whole lot of people feel strongly about spices, and which kinds of decorations should, or should not be out in their favorite stores.
It’s a reminder that you have no idea where your scarf is, a reminder that Netflix is about to release a bucketfull of your favorite shows, and a reminder that you’ve probably still got a lot of holiday shopping left to do.
For a freelancer, however, these delightful fall-themed mementos can be a glaring signal for a three month stretch of anxiety and/or professional drought. While we self-employed mavericks enjoy a very special level of freedom, we also have to roll through life without certain perks like corporate health insurance or holiday pay. Our industries tend to suffer from a lack of work during this time of (everyone else’s) relaxation, as well.
There are plenty of reasons for freelancers to have a dip in work during the holidays: businesses want to focus on wrapping up the year rather than paying for new products and services, or they want to save that new website until after their vacation. Either way; it can be a stressful time… which begs the question: Should you take on some extra holiday work?
Evaluate Your Situation
Before you can make any big decisions here, you’ll have to do some serious adulting… and by that I mean you’ve got to look over your finances and see where you’re at. Let’s say, worst case scenario, that you’re not going to get ANY new work until after the new year. Can you survive? If you can survive, will you have any money left? If you’re going to have to move in with your parents or go into epic credit card debt to make it through, then the answer to the extra work question is a resounding “Yeah, probably, man.”
Hit the (Virtual) Pavement
If it looks like your future involves giving gifts made of your junk drawer’s contents, it’s probably time to look for some holiday work. This can be an intimidating prospect, but it’s by no means impossible.
If you don’t want to leave your desk, you can always browse the wide range of freelancing sites available online. It’s important to do your research with these, however, because there’s a variety of different kinds out there. Whether you want to pay a membership for an exclusive marketplace or simply browse a job board, you should be able to find an option that fits your needs.
Look Some People in the Eyes
Another way to get extra holiday work is to scope out the local need for your services. Can you find a local business or two with dated websites, or no website at all? Round up your business cards, dust off your elevator pitch, and get out there. You can also check out your local Chamber of Commerce to see if they have any networking events going on. Sometimes, the key to getting quick work is to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, and sell it.
Check in With the Family
If you’re looking for some extra projects, let people know. Tell your friends and family members that you’re looking for some holiday work (even if you have to remind them what, exactly, it is that you do). You never know; Aunt Matilda might be more connected than you think.
When you do find that extra work…
Remember, you could totally be taking a vacation, but you’re not. You’re working while other people take relaxing baths in pumpkin spice lattes and fall asleep watching sporting events in recliners.
Holiday work is a fantastic opportunity to raise your rates.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure that your potential client is aware of the holiday rates beforehand, and it should be added to any contract clause that refers to payment.
Or, you know, don’t look for work.
If your household brings in a second income, or if you’re sitting pretty with your finances, it might be a fantastic idea to take a break. Here’s why:
Guilt-free Unbillable Hours
Obviously, we freelancers love those billable hours… I mean, what’s more satisfying than billing for work and getting paid? The thing is, though, that a business can’t run smoothly without all of that behind-the-scenes work like invoicing, calendar maintenance, and bill paying… and none of that stuff can be billed to anyone.
Having a few months available will allow you to really focus on your unbillable tasks without the pressure of work hanging above your head. You can plan ahead, get caught up on all of those tasks in your “to do” pile, and take a good, introspective look at your processes. What can you improve? What should you stop doing? How can you be a better freelancer?
Nurture Your Creative Side
You know that creative project you’ve been thinking about? Whether it’s a dating site for pet caterpillars or an Oregon Trail-themed rock opera, a slow holiday season is the perfect time to tackle it.
Give yourself a creative goal, and see if you can walk away from this holiday season with a finished product that will reignite your professional passion and embellish your portfolio.
Add a Dash of Automation
As you focus on your unbillable tasks during this downtime, you might give some thought to automation. What part of your process can you automate that will save you time and let you focus on the parts of your work that you actually care about? For starters, what about your onboarding process? For an idea of how to speed up this process, check out our post on using NinjaForms and WPeSignature to get the automated ball a rollin’.
Spiff Up Your Stuff
Have you added any of your most recent completed projects to your portfolio? Does your website need a little love? Do all of your business’ social media profiles still reference your MySpace page?
Take a look at your business’ online presence and evaluate it. Does it represent the freelancer you are now? If not, the holidays can be a good time to get yourself up to speed.
Tackle Those Taxes
What if, just once, you could show up on January 1st, fully prepared for tax season?
Can you imagine!?
If you can pick one or two days a week this holiday season to go through and gather up your tax information, you could easily be on your way to experiencing this fantasy scenario… without having to put forth much effort. You could also use your time this season to research apps and programs that will make your accounting life easier… and you might be able to snag them at a holiday discount.
No matter how you handle the holidays, you’ve got to speak up about it.
If you’re looking for more work, make sure people know that. Send a holiday email out to your current clients and tell them that now is a great time to think about the new logo they mentioned in May.
Similarly, if you’re closing up shop for a few months, let them know you’ll be unavailable for any new work until after the holidays. Your clients will appreciate communication from you, regardless of purpose.
And, hey, why not send out holiday thank you cards to those valued clients, while you’re at it?