December is a hectic month for everyone as the countdown begins to a brand new year. With the holidays in motion, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the season and let your guard down when it comes to your freelancing business.
To prevent the momentum of your freelancing business from slowing down over the season, here are some ways to use the holidays as your opportunity to complete those tasks you’ve been putting off, nurture relationships with clients, and prepare yourself for another year.
1. Express your appreciation
Sending a note of gratitude to those who helped you in the last year is a pleasant way to express your appreciation for their support. You can extend your well wishes not only to clients, but also to any mentors, collaborators, or business partners that had an influence on your work. Whether you send out greeting cards or give a small gift, your contacts will most definitely remember your efforts and appreciate the sentiment.
There are plenty of events happening this time of year, including club meetups, work mixers, winter festivals, and Christmas concerts. Attend an event in your area to introduce yourself to new contacts and reconnect with old collegues. Talking with industry professionals can get your name out there, leading to more opportunities in the future. Keep a set of business cards on you, and remember to keep in touch with your new contacts on social media.
3. Pitch in
Many people continue to ride that holiday spirit throughout the season and take the opportunity to give back to their community. Volunteering at or donating to a charitable organization is an opportunity to both do good and get some networking done. Various non-profits accept sponsorships or will give you a shout out for pitching in. In any case, you have done a good deed and the extra publicity is an added bonus.
4. Stay active online and offer New Year discounts
Upping your advertising efforts over the holidays can be a great way to open doors for new business. Stay top-of-mind by planning email campaigns, discounts, and by joining in conversations in freelancer groups and forums. Offering incentives, specifically discounted services, for the New Year should bring you clients and give you enough work to stay busy for the slow, post-holiday season.
5. Refine your services
Now’s the time to review your services, pricing, and process. After you’ve been in the freelance game for a while, there are bound to be improvements you can make based on your experience with clients. Do clients often ask for a service that you don’t offer? Consider adding it to your repertoire. Could you make your workflow more efficient? Automate tasks. don’t forget to revisit your pricing and adjust it to reflect any added experiences.
6. Ask for testimonials
Reach out to your clients—if you haven’t already—and ask for referrals, feedback, and testimonials for you to use on your website or in advertising. Starting this kind of conversation with your clients can also help you determine where you succeeded with your business and where you could use some improvement.
7. Update your portfolio
You’ve survived another year as a freelancer. What do you have to show for it? Update your portfolio with examples of projects you’ve completed and a list of clients you’ve worked with in the twelve months. Though, you should be sure to get your client’s permission to use any proprietary work (such as a logo design) before including it in your portfolio.
8. Schedule time off and stick to it
Of course, the holidays are time for recharging so you can be ready for another year of self-employment (yes, the struggle is real). Schedule your days off to include time spent with your friends and family—and stick to your schedule. Don’t take more or less time than you have planned for. This will help keep you on track with your business goals, while allowing you time to take a well-deserved break.
9. Tackle taxes
Part of being a freelancer is remembering to put away tax money throughout the year in order to avoid a high tax bill in the spring. Have you been putting enough money towards your income tax? Are you confident about your tax payments? Managing personal income, taxes, and retirement savings is often one of the trickier tasks of being a freelancer. Check out our Quick Tax Guide for Freelancers for tips.
10. Get the most out of your deductions
Freelancers are entitled to deductions for their home-based businesses, including office supplies, equipment, traveling costs, and even a portion of living expenses—if the office is located in their home. Make sure you’ve accounted for all these items and you’re claiming everything available for your business. If you can squeeze in more write-offs, such as software programs or other things that will help your business, try to do so before the new year.
11. Prepare a client forecast
How is next year looking in terms of your clients? Do you have several long-term contracts or a couple of one-off projects? In order to be profitable, freelancers have to work continually. If your client forecast looks stark, you may have to amp up your marketing efforts. Alternatively, you may have clients you wish to get rid of. Now that you’re established, you can choose who to work with, which means you can drop any clients that no longer fit with your professional goals or schedule.
12. Prepare a budget for the new year
How much do you plan to spend on marketing? Office equipment? Contractors? A lawyer? An accountant? Create a preliminary budget scheme for the next year, one that is flexible so you can alter it as you find your financial footing.
13. Organize your office
A workspace can make or break productivity, especially when located within your home. Revamp your space by organizing paperwork, setting up a filing system, moving furniture, eliminating distractions, and decluttering your shelves.
14. Reflect on last year’s goals and set new ones
Another year means another set of goals. Did you achieve what you set out to do last year? Maybe you had to shift gears to make your business viable. Creating a Business Plan is a great way to organize your goals and track your success. You can identify areas for improvement (fed by information gleaned from your customer testimonials) and write out a brief action plan to do better next year. Get specific with your goals and set ideals for where you want to be with your finances, personal growth, and professional development.
15. Improve your online branding efforts
Does your website need an update? Is your professional photo well over a year old? Like a portfolio, you need to keep your information relevant and up-to-date. Check into whether you need to register your domain name again, renew your LinkedIn Premium account, or give your blog a design overhaul.
Step up your freelancing game during the holidays
Your freelance workload might slow down during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Stay in touch with your current clients and nurture those relationships. Put yourself out there and take advantage of the season’s good tidings to get leads on new clients, promote yourself, and connect with prospects.
Above all, organize yourself, your office, your finances, and your plans for the New Year. Any preparation you do now will make for an easier transition after the holiday break and keep you moving forward for months to come.