The decorations are up, the Christmas tunes are on and you’ve elbowed past the other shoppers to get stocked up on mince pies and Quality Streets. Christmas will feel a bit different this year without the nights out, big family get-togethers and driving the length of the country to offload a boot full of presents. Whether you’re choosing to bubble it up with some loved ones or just stay at home with the bubbly (and who could blame you), here are our top tips for a very merry freelance Christmas.
Take some time off!
What were your Christmases like before you were a freelancer? Were you dragging yourself out of bed at 4am on Boxing Day to work retail in the sales? Or did you have one of those cushy office gigs where everything shut down for the whole two weeks after a party with some ill-advised drunken karaoke? The best thing about a freelance Christmas is – it’s totally up to you! Do you want to work though the festive period, squirreling away in the quiet somewhere while wearing Santa PJs? Or do you want to luxuriate in finally getting that out of office on, ignoring the phone and putting off all thoughts of work until January? It’s your call.
But we will say this: when you’re working for yourself, especially in a tough climate like this one, it’s tempting to keep going without rest, never stopping, and never saying no to work. But doing this can put you at risk of burnout, stress and mental health problems that will ultimately make your productivity levels suffer. Well-timed and planned time off right now could be just what you need to come back refreshed and ready to take on whatever 2021 has in store for you and your business.
Clear the decks, then deck the halls
If you want to make sure you can have a proper Christmas break – we’re talking sofa-lazing, Christmas-film-watching, Camembert-stuffing proper break – then you might need to come up with a plan for finishing off all those projects and loose ends. Putting in some extra hours now can mean you can clock off early for Christmas to give yourself extra (well-earned) holiday time. The incentive of a break can help to speed your work along and help you avoid procrastination – it’s one of the most productive times of the year! Prioritise your projects and tasks so that you know exactly what needs to be done before Christmas, then you won’t have anything hanging over you as you go into the festivities. It might mean that you have to pull a couple of late nights or weekend shifts to get everything sorted, but you can always blast some Mariah Carey or Slade while you get on with it to get you in the Christmas mood.
Plan for Jan
A colleague once told me to “park your car on a hill” before you take a holiday. Now, I’m a non-driver so my first reaction was to look at him, confused. But then he explained: coming back to work after a break can be hard, so you need to set yourself up for an easy start. He even suggested starting your next task and leaving it at a point where you can just pick it up and go, so you’re not staring at a blank page when you return. I tried it, and it was a total revelation. Now this is an essential part of my holiday-preparation.
This means getting everything organised and sorted so that when you get back to work in January, you know exactly what you’re doing and what your priorities are. Get some jobs booked in so you know you’ve got work to look forward to. If there are any admin tasks you’ve been putting off (like that Self-Assessment return, maybe?) then gather together now all the documents you’ll need to complete them. Then you’ve got a series of tasks to ease you back into work. This means you’re not wasting time faffing around in January. You can get back to earning straightaway, and you’ll enjoy your break more knowing that everything is set-up for a speedy, productive and quick return to work.
Most importantly, relax
This has been the year none of us expected. The year of masks and hand sanitiser and not enough loo roll. The year of sourdough-baking and home-schooling. The year we stayed at home.
For freelancers, it was the year we saw clients shut down their businesses. We saw work cancelled without any notice. We saw COVID relief schemes that didn’t mention us, and then some that did, but didn’t cover all of us. It wasn’t all bad: we discovered new hobbies, used technology to stay connected and found new ways to work – some of which are more flexible and human than the old ways.
So please, freelancer friends, take time to look after yourselves this Christmas. If you don’t spend at least some of December accidentally sellotaping your clothes to presents while the smell of mulled wine wafts through from the kitchen, or arguing with an in-law about a board game while the Queen’s speech goes unwatched in the background, then is it even really Christmas? It’s time to shake off the 2020 blues and enjoy your time off. Dinghy would like to wish all our freelancers a very merry freelance Christmas and we hope that you get to celebrate it in whatever way is important to you…and that Santa brings you something awesome. You deserve it. Merry Christmas!