Holidays can be tricky things for freelancers. In most freelance roles, such as professional freelance translation, paid leave is something that can only be dreamed of, so holidays need to be planned carefully in order to ensure that cashflow isn’t disrupted. Then when leave is taken, free time needs to be carefully protected – but how do you balance that with keeping up with your emails and so not missing that essential communication from a lucrative new client?
Don’t panic! With these holiday season survival tips, you’ll be well on your way to a restful break that leaves you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Plan your work/life balance
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, then you’re probably used to the difficulty of switching off and ignoring your phone buzzing each time an email arrives. It can be all too tempting to ‘just check quickly’ and find yourself still dealing with trivial issues an hour later, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you need to keep an eye on email over the holiday season, set yourself a fixed time of day to do it. Knowing that you’ve set time aside to deal with essential correspondence means that you can relax more the rest of the time. And when you do sit down to check your messages, have some festive food or drink to hand to make the process more enjoyable.
Let clients know your plans
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas and New Year, the chances are that some of your clients do and that others don’t. Thus some will be expecting you to disappear almost entirely for a week or two, while others will happily be calling on Christmas Eve to interrupt your festivities with a discussion on how they can use your localization services for their latest marketing brochure.
Head off the majority of these interruptions by letting your clients know in advance that you plan to take time off over the holiday season. Give them plenty of notice so that they can plan for your leave – if you only tell them three days before you plan to take time off, clients are likely to rush to give you work before your break, meaning you can end up working extremely long days in order to try and preserve your holiday dates.
Send a seasonal greeting to your clients
If taking time off over the holiday season is going to have a negative impact on your finances, use a seasonal greeting promotion to ensure there’s plenty of work booked in for January, once the festivities are over. You could create a ‘season's greetings’ email to boost client relationships or a ‘New Year special offer’ to encourage clients to send you their work after the holiday period. Whatever you plan, make sure you consider the financial implications of any offer that you send out!
Sending a seasonal greeting has the added advantage that you can use it as a reminder of your leave dates, thus doing your best to ensure that you remain undisturbed over the break.
Be flexible in your approach
With the best will in the world and even with careful planning, many freelancers often still experience interruptions while they’re supposed to be enjoying some well-deserved downtime. From poorly timed sales calls to the re-emergence of an old client who needs something done desperately urgently, interruptions can come from many sources.
Minimise the impact of any such interruptions by taking a calm, flexible approach and dealing with them as swiftly as possible. Then throw yourself back into the eating, drinking and being merry as quickly as you can. One good way to balance this is to take time off during the working week in November or early December to do your Christmas gift shopping. That way you can enjoy shopping while the stores are relatively quiet and spread some festive cheer early in the holiday season. And if you do get interrupted later on over the festive period, remind yourself that you got to enjoy the flexibility of freelancing earlier in the season while everyone else was at work!
Turn your phone off
The final tip for surviving the holiday season as a freelancer is to plan some times when your phone will be switched off. If you celebrate Christmas, then agree with your family that you will turn it off before Christmas Eve and not pick it up again until after Boxing Day. Doing so will provide all of you with time than can be cherished and that will be entirely free of any interruptions. If you don’t celebrate Christmas but plan to enjoy welcoming in the New Year with your family and friends, switch your phone off then instead. Doing so can be surprisingly liberating!
How do you avoid interruptions over the holiday period and ensure that your cashflow isn’t too noticeably disrupted? Share your thoughts via the comments.