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Here’s how you can still enjoy Christmas as a freelancer

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We’re little over a month away from Christmas, but to a freelancer, the holidays must hardly feel like holidays anymore. It’s been almost two years since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, and whilst I can only hope business has gone back to normal for most of you, the truth is a lot will still be working to make sure they acquire as much new business as possible – especially as we’re likely to hit a new wave of cases over winter.

If you’ve been following our guide to up your marketing game this holiday season you will be hard at work to make sure you land the last few clients before December – but in all this, you should not forget about your own wellbeing. Taking some time off is not only recommended, it is necessary to start the new year in the right conditions.

How do you ensure your Christmas is as merry as it can be, whilst still looking after your freelance clients this end of year? Here are some tips to make the most of your 2021 holiday season!

Book some time off

It may be tempting to forge ahead, full steam, through the holiday season with your work, thinking that you’ll have a chance to rest in the New Year. You won’t, and you will regret every second you’ll spend working while your friends and family are taking time to unplug.

If you really want to enjoy this 2021 Christmas, you should book some time off and make sure you commit. It is easier said than done of course, so the rest of this list will help you organise your next month in a way that will make it easier to unplug as Christmas approaches. In the meantime, it would be useful to think about how much time you’ll need to truly detach from work. Is it the usual two weeks around Christmas? Is it more time, moving into the New Year? Whatever your needs, make sure you fulfil them as your heart desires.

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Image credit: Niv Cohen

Inform your clients of your arrangements

Once you’ve realised how long you’ll stay off work, it is highly recommended you let your clients know. This means either sending a general email to your client list letting them know of your availability, or sending personalised notes to each (recommended). You can also publish and pin a post across all of your social media channels to discuss your holiday availability.

If you’re still looking to accept work before you doze off for the holidays, ensure you make that as clear as possible in your communications. Of course your clients should be prepared to pay a premium if the deadline is tight and they need it quicker – but you can probably start accepting projects and commissions to start work in January. What matters is that your clients know as soon as possible about your availability, to avoid any disappointment later.

Put in the hard work first, relax later

Hopefully you’ll have a number of projects in the pipeline, either to complete this year or in 2022. There are two ways you can go about this: either you work as hard as you can now, to have a more relaxed start in the New Year, or you take it easy to start full steam ahead in January.

I personally recommend the former. I always like to complete projects and work on a few things in advance rather than put them off indefinitely. It gives me a clearer mind over the weekend, a better sense of accomplishments, and it helps with clients and reputation. If you feel like it, work as hard as you can until right up before you’re supposed to go on holiday, perhaps even by working on a few projects in advance – even though you’re not supposed to start until January. So that when you come back from your holidays, you won’t feel as overwhelmed by the amount of work that still needs to be done – and you can relax more easily.

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Image credit: Dominick Williams

Learn to say ‘No’, but plan ahead

Any project means extra money, but sometimes that added financial security comes at the expense of our own mental health. Christmas is the best time of the year to learn to turn down work and avoid feeling burned out. It is the perfect chance to reflect back on everything you’ve achieved in the past 12 months, so you can start the new year with renewed energy. This, sometimes, helps build confidence to reject projects you simply cannot commit to, or which would take even one extra day off your planned holidays.

For once, think about your own needs this holiday season. Your bank account can (probably) wait until the New Year. New projects will come your way. If you simply can’t do it, don’t force yourself to. You’ll have the chance to make up for it. That said, you should still plan ahead to an extent. If you feel like you can negotiate a start in January, by all means, do so. If you feel confident about the amount of projects you will get in the New Year, that’s great – but if you don’t, perhaps you could start looking for those now. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily start work before Christmas; but at least you’ll be in a good spot for the first few months of 2022.

Make sure to deliver before you leave

This may sound obvious to most readers, but you’d be surprised how many freelancers won’t think about this simple fact. If you have deadlines, make sure you meet them and complete every project you’re supposed to do before you disappear for the holidays. Close off any relationship in good terms and wish a merry Christmas to all your clients. If you can, deliver some projects early, so you won’t have to think about them in January.

All of this helps build your reputation, and it also gives you peace of mind for when the time actually comes to get back to work. Additionally, it puts you in a much better spot for the beginning of 2022, with no overwhelming deadlines or overdue work to deliver in January. The key is to make your holidays as relaxing as they can be – and the only one who can do that is you.

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Image credit: Gregor Forster | Lemonade Illustration Agency

Unplug and relax!

Once everything is in place, your holidays have been booked and all your ongoing work has been completed, it is time to unplug and take some time to relax. And when I say ‘unplug’, I really mean it. Stop thinking about new business during the holidays. Perhaps take a break from social media. Do the things that make you happy, whether that be playing video games or going out with some friends. Spend time with your beloved ones. Stay away from your phone.

Anything that starts with ‘a simple flick through your emails’ is inevitably going to turn into some unwanted stress or unease, the moment you see that something is wrong. If you must, deactivate your business email accounts from your phone, maybe even your computer – though that is not recommended, as you really don’t want to miss very urgent emails. Whatever you do, you must make sure you relax and your time off is actually about taking some time off.

After the two years we’ve just been through, you owe yourself this and even more.

Header image: Ben The Illustrator

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