Christmas is something of a mixed bag for me and has been ever since I made the decision to go freelance almost two decades ago now. On one hand, everyone else if off work so it’s tempting to take the opportunity to cool the jets for a week or two and deflate until the new year. The last two weeks of December are, for so many people, a rime to unwind and celebrate with their loved ones… which is an easier pill to swallow if you’re being paid to do so.
For us freelancers, it’s not quite as straightforward. Taking time off means not getting paid and at a time of year that’s notoriously expensive (particularly for those with children), that’s a pretty chilling proposition, to say the least. So, should you hang up your laptop and step away from the studio this December? Indeed, is it even possible to get any work at-all when everyone else is “Out of Office until January?” Let’s explore both sides.
The Case for Working Over the Holidays
Opportunity for Catching Up
One of the most compelling reasons to consider working during the holidays in the creative industry is the opportunity to catch up on projects and tasks that may have piled up over the year. With fewer distractions, you can focus on tackling those “backburner” projects that have been waiting patiently for your attention while you’ve been putting out fires and being shifted from pillar to post. Christmas can be an excellent chance to clear your backlog and start the new year with a fresh slate.
In the competitive landscape of the creative industries, staying active during the holidays can give you a competitive edge. While others are taking a break, you have the chance to get ahead on new projects, develop innovative ideas, and position yourself as a proactive and committed professional. Clients and employers may appreciate your dedication and reliability, which can lead to more opportunities in the future.
Although holiday gatherings may be limited during the festive season, there are still opportunities for networking. Attend virtual industry events, webinars, or forums to connect with fellow professionals, potential clients, or collaborators. These connections can be valuable for your career growth and may lead to exciting collaborations in the coming year.
Working over the holidays can also be a time for personal growth. It allows you to challenge yourself creatively, experiment with new ideas, and develop your skills. Whether it's exploring different design techniques, learning a new software tool, or honing your marketing strategies, the holidays can offer a unique environment for self-improvement.
The Case Against Working Over the Holidays
Burnout and Stress
One of the most significant downsides of working during the holidays is the risk of burnout and increased stress levels. Creative professionals often deal with tight deadlines and high-pressure projects throughout the year. Taking a break during the holiday season can help you recharge mentally and emotionally, reducing the risk of burnout in the long run.
Family and Personal Time
The holiday season is an important time for family and personal connections. It's a time to create cherished memories with loved ones, participate in traditions, and simply relax. Working during this period can take a toll on your personal life, potentially leading to strained relationships and regrets about missing out on special moments.
Creativity often thrives in a relaxed and stress-free environment. Forcing yourself to work during the holidays may hinder your ability to think creatively. The pressure to meet deadlines and produce quality work can stifle your imagination, leading to uninspired results.
In some creative industries, it's considered the norm for businesses to shut down or slow down during the holiday season. If you choose to work while others are on holiday, you may face challenges such as difficulties in reaching clients, coordinating with team members, or securing approvals. This misalignment with industry norms can create logistical complications.
Finding the Right Balance
Assess Your Workload
Carefully evaluate your workload and commitments. If you have critical projects with looming deadlines, consider working strategically during the holidays. Otherwise, plan your work schedule around your personal and family time.
If you choose to work during the holidays, establish clear boundaries for when you'll be available and when you won't. Communicate these boundaries to your clients, colleagues, and loved ones to manage expectations.
Whether you're working or taking a break, prioritise self-care. Ensure you get enough rest, eat well, and engage in activities that relax and rejuvenate you. Self-care is essential for maintaining creativity and reducing stress.
Communicate with Clients and Employers
If you're part of a team or have clients, communicate openly about your holiday availability. Let them know your working hours and any potential delays in project delivery.
Plan for the New Year
Use this time to plan your creative goals and projects for the upcoming year. Set clear objectives, outline your strategies, and establish a timeline for achieving your aspirations.
Deciding whether to work over the holidays is, ultimately, a personal choice that depends on your unique circumstances and priorities. There is no right answer, so you do you. If you want to work, then don’t let anyone guilt you into “doing Christmas the right way” and if you don’t want to work then click that out of office button and let your brain settle for a bit. You’ve earned it. Probably.