This time of year is often hectic for freelancers. Here are some tips to make the most of the holidays and get your business in order for the new year
Come December, a freelancer’s work schedule can become hectic. Clients are rushing to get projects done and signed off. Freelancers are meeting client last-minute changes and demands all while juggling holiday preparations at home and doing their best to get those invoices sent out to get paid in time for Christmas. But this time of year is also when freelancers can take a step back and relax. And even get a step ahead for the new year. Here are 12 Freelancer Tips you can try out to make the most of the holidays…
Get invoices out so you have money for the holidays
Double check you have not forgotten to invoice a client. At this time of year when things get hectic, you may have said to yourself “you’ll invoice later” only to find a week later you haven’t. Make it a habit to invoice a client within minutes of completing a project.
- For anyone sending work digitally, include the invoice with the assignment and clearly mark the subject line with the word INVOICE in caps with your company name and the invoice number. This enables someone to quickly find your email in case you end up chasing for payment.
- It is also a good time at this time of year to give the accounts payable teams at your clients a friendly call and inform them you have just sent over an invoice. It’s also a good idea to ask, diplomatically of course, if they could ensure your invoice is processed before the department goes on holiday (and you don’t get paid until the new year!) Many of us have probably been in that situation, which stinks. Always thank the accounts team, too.
Get up earlier in December to beat the rush
When we get up an hour (or two) earlier the house is usually less hectic and we can focus on high-priority tasks. Whether this is client work, invoicing, checking over your bank statements or buying groceries or Christmas presents online, this extra hour or two can help you tick off things on your to-do list. Or it could be a time when you fit in some essential exercise or a healthy breakfast if you have meetings and deadlines that day and you suspect you won’t be able to fit in either. It’s also a time to get domestic stuff out of the way, especially if it is before peak hours for electricity rates.
Boost productivity: get rid of distractions, create residual income
This tip is essential all year round, but especially in the run-up to the holidays. If you have a project that is on deadline, make that a priority by letting others know you will only be contactable on certain days that week or at the end of the day, when you can address their emails. You can send this message out by a calendar ‘event’ or in an email outgoing message.
Letting your clients know when you are “not available” for a certain window of the day is also letting them know you are not ignoring their emails or text messages. For example, you want to enjoy your child’s nativity play rather than keeping one beady eye on your mobile for client messages and emails.
Consider creating a service or product that brings you residual income and put a plan together and look where you might be able to promote that service or product (via LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, etc.).
Change your working environment for a day or two
Besides emails and social media, our lovely homes can be a distraction. Also, if you work from home, sometimes getting out of the house can give you a new perspective. It can also help save on energy bills if you work remotely via a laptop and can find a library, cafe, or hotel lobby to work from.
It’s also good for your social well-being to be around others. The holiday tunes may even put you in the festive spirit and get you motivated to get that work done even quicker so you can spend more downtime with your family and friends or do something special just for yourself.
Update your portfolio
Another year has passed, which means you have a new portfolio of work to show off to new clients. If you find a lull in your workload then make the most of it and get your work portfolio digitised and looking smart. Snoop on the competition to see what they are doing for ideas.
Start marketing your services before the new year
If you plant the marketing seed before the new year, your presence will have a better chance of being planted into the minds of new and potential clients in the new year.
“Use LinkedIn to build your personal brand,” says Alex Cohen, Head of Marketing at www.GetETZ.com, a recruitment tech company.
- Share valuable hints and tips, and things you learn
- Post mini case studies and interesting data on your LinkedIn profile 3 – 5 times a week
- Use a ‘signature’ on each update with a quick overview of how you can help your target market and a CTA.
If you are a freelancer or a small company with a large following or dedicated email list of customers, Alex also suggests a great way to generate leads on LinkedIn at a low cost per lead is using LinkedIn’s lead gen forms.
“You’ll need a piece of valuable content to give away,” says Alex, “and ideally follow this up with a series of emails (which can be automated). This can build awareness and then bring people into your marketing funnel to nurture to a demo/sales lead when they’re ready.”
Here’s how to generate one here: Create a Lead Gen Form for Your LinkedIn Page | LinkedIn Help
And some more marketing tips from freelance marketing consultant and author Shona Chambers:
Delegate like a pro
The most successful freelancers and small business owners often have one key skill in common: they know how to delegate. They scale their businesses quicker than others and seem to have more time to spend with friends and family while also doing the things they love (besides work).
But sometimes we are too close to our work and are reluctant for anyone to take over. But the sooner we learn how to let go of certain low-paying or even no-paying tasks, the more time we as freelancers have to spend on those that are higher paying or more rewarding to our career prospects.
Learn how to delate like a pro and hire a fellow freelancer when you need an extra pair of hands:
Think big: new year, new rates, services and sectors
Now is a good time to consider how you will inform clients that your rates are increasing for 2023, but still offering great service and even offering some new services (think of some that you are probably already doing but not charging for). You can do this strategically incorporating this increased rate information with any marketing materials; social media, etc.
Also, are your skills transferable to other business sectors that could be higher-paying clients? It’s always good to see which industries or sectors are booming and will be less likely to cut back on outsourcing. Check out which sectors are seeing rates soar.
If you work through a recruitment agency for contractors, then consider how to get your agency to negotiate higher rates on your behalf.
Kick your procrastination habits before the new year
Learning not to procrastinate isn’t going to solve all your problems. But finding better ways to regulate your emotions could be a route to improving your mental health and well-being.
An important first step is to manage your environment and how you view the task. There are a number of evidence-based strategies that can help you quarantine distractions, and set up your tasks so they provoke less anxiety and feel more meaningful. For example, reminding yourself why the task is important and valuable to you can increase your positive feelings towards it.
One thing you shouldn’t put off is getting your accounts in order for any upcoming tax bills. If you are struggling financially and are worried you won’t be able to pay your tax bill on time, then act right away. Here’s how: What to do if you can’t pay your tax bill on time
Create an advanced payment form/agreement for new clients
If your marketing activities pay off, you may find new customers are making enquiries. CGTarian, an online animation & VFX online school, suggests freelancers working with new clients offer some guarantees both for themselves and their customers through advance payment agreements.
“Both you and your customer shall feel secure, meaning a safe and secure system of settlements. A customer shall not risk the advance payment, and you should not waste your time and efforts. The thing is that there are plenty of cheaters on the web, ready to place an order, get it done and leave it unpaid.”
They offer some tips:
- Ask for advance payment as of 10-25% of the project value;
- Do part of the work, and send it to the client by a certain date for customer approval;
- Then ask your customer for another advance payment to amount up to 50% of the project cost;
- Then complete the works and show them to a customer remotely (you may send part of the works, but leave some to yourself until you get the full payment);
- The customer sees the result and pays the remaining amount;
- Then you send the complete work to the customer.
Cherish your time: “I’ll have to decline at this time”
Money is tight for everyone these days, so we freelancers might be more willing to take on too many projects leaving us exhausted with no time with friends and family over the holidays. If you really do need time off and need the money, try to make an arrangement with a client by asking to submit a portion of the project before Christmas and the rest the first week of the new year. What you don’t want is to work all hours of the day during the holidays only to then submit the project and the invoice to find no one is at the client’s end to pay the invoice on time.
And you always have the option to “decline at this time” and be happy to pick anything up in the new year.
Look back at what you’ve accomplished and relax
In all the Christmas rush you can forget to sit back and reflect on what you have accomplished over the past year. Do not fester on the stuff that didn’t go to plan. Get on with it, learn from it and try not to put yourself in that position again. And if you are finding you are becoming a worry wart, then book some “worry time“.
Focus on what did go to plan both professionally and personally and give yourself a pat on the back for it. Now, get first dibs on your favourites in the chocolate sampler box before the others do! 😉