What do November and December look like for freelancers?
Depending on the industry you’re in, the holiday season can either mean you’re swamped with work as companies scramble to attract holiday sales or that your work all but grinds to a halt. Here, we look at how you can get the most out of whatever your end-of-year looks like.
Which industries are hot this time of year?
Whether you are a busy freelancer in Q4 may have less to do with the type of freelancing you do and more to do with the industries you cater to. Some, like retail and travel, see their biggest sales in the last months of the year, so you likely will be kept busy if this is your demographic, whether you’re designing marketing materials, taking product photos, or writing holiday-themed content.
Which industries slow down?
Many B2B companies experience slowdown in Q4 because so many people take vacations and because it’s historically a bad time to start a new project. Many enterprises hunker down and spend the end of the year planning their strategy for the new year. If you cater to B2B, this may induce a slowdown for you as well.
On the other hand, some B2B companies are scrambling to use up their budgets so they can justify a boost in spending next year, so you might be surprised at some last-minute projects coming up for you.
What should you be doing right now?
We’re still a few weeks away from things heating up (or slowing down) for the holidays, but getting a game plan now will help you make the most of your time when it arrives.
If you expect a ramp-up in work: Everyone will be demanding your services at the same time, and you can only do so many things at once. Reach out to clients to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later so you can spread the work out and provide quality results for everyone. If that doesn’t work, consider offering early bird pricing to entice them to put their project requests in now.
If you expect a slowdown: Find a way to provide continued value to clients you’re currently working for. For example: if you’re a content marketer and have completed a project writing copy for a website, send a proposal for how you can offer continued services to that client, such as monthly blog posts. If you’re a designer, stress the importance of continually creating custom graphics for social media. That way, you secure work for yourself when you might not otherwise have new projects to take on.
You can also reach out to other freelancers in your field who may be busier than you at year’s end. They may be grateful for the extra set of hands to help them service their clients.
What should you do once the holidays arrive?
So you’ve got a game plan for the pre-chaos period, but what happens when you’re in the thick of things? It’s easy to get overwhelmed — or, alternately, waste time doing nothing. Instead, take the following advice.
If you expect a ramp-up in work: Consider outsourcing some work to other freelancers so that you can say yes to all the work coming your way. You don’t want the results you deliver to be compromised by your insanely busy schedule, so it’s better to share the profits with other competent professionals and ensure that your clients are delighted with results.
Map out deadlines on your calendar so that you get the big picture of what you have to do. As long as you can see, for example, that next week two of your big projects are due, you can compartmentalize your time so that you make those two projects priority, and put others on the back burner.
Don’t be shy about charging clients extra if they throw last-minute work your way and want it done yesterday. It’s a busy time, and you don’t want to be taken advantage of. Simply notify them that if they have urgent work that needs completion, you’ll have to charge a premium.
If You Expect a Slowdown: Sure, you could spend the final weeks of the year eating Christmas cookies and watching holiday movies, or you could make the most of this time so that your business is ready for the new year.
It’s a great time to go over your accounting records to ensure that your expenses are appropriately categorized and that you’re ready to file your taxes in 2018.
Giving your clients holiday gifts is a great way to show your appreciation to them, and is something you’ll now have time to do (just don’t wait until the last minute!).
It’s also an excellent time to review how your freelance business has done over the past year. What marketing tactics worked? What projects or services did you not find profitable? Really assessing how you’ve done can help you strategize for what you’ll do in the new year to attract more business. You can also check in with past clients to offer your help starting in January. Many businesses spend December making their plans for the new year, and if you come along at the right time, you might score a project you wouldn’t otherwise have been invited to work on.
You can be productive with downtime by learning new skills that will enhance the services you offer clients. Take an online course, an in-person workshop, or read a book to expand your knowledge. Also, have fun this time of year! There are plenty of holiday networking opportunities that will not only give you the chance to unwind, but also provide the chance to forge strong bonds with potential clients.
Whether you’re busy or dead during the holidays, it’s important that you realize that Q4 holds some serious potential for your freelance business. If you’ll be busy, you want to ensure that you can meet client demand with quality results. If you’ll be slow, there are a million administrative tasks that you would benefit from doing. Plan now so that you aren’t stressing out when the holidays roll around.
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