December can be 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 help 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 much-needed tasks you might have been putting off, nurture relationships with past and future 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 feelings of appreciation for their support. Whether you send out paper or email greeting cards to past clients or you give them a small gift, such as chocolates or a calendar, your effort will be remembered, and most of all, your clients will appreciate the sentiment.
Leading up to the holidays, there are plenty of events happening including meetups, Christmas mixers, festivals, concerts, and many others. Attending events in your area can help you meet new connections or reconnect with old colleagues. Either way, talking with industry professionals can get your name out there and even lead to opportunities in the future. Don’t forget to hand out business cards and connect with the people you meet later via social networks.
3. Pitch in
Along with networking activities, the holidays also provide you with an opportunity to give back. When you volunteer or donate to an organization, you not only feel good about yourself and those you are helping, but you get to meet new people as well.
Various non-profits also 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 during the holidays 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
Are you a freelance writer, graphic designer, or photographer? Is there an area of your skills that could use refining? Use the holidays 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 alone. Do your clients continually ask for a service you don’t currently offer? Consider adding it to your repertoire. Could you make your workflow more efficient? Automate tasks. Or perhaps you need to revisit your pricing and adjust it to reflect your added experience.
6. Ask for testimonials
The end of the year is a good time to reach out to your clients if you haven’t already and ask for referrals, feedback, and testimonials that might be of use on your website or in advertising to build up your word-of-mouth marketing. It could also be used to determine where you succeeded and what parts of your process could use improvement.
7. Update your portfolio
You’ve survived another year as a freelancer. What do you have to show for it? Update your portfolio based on work you’ve completed in the past year. Include a list of clients you’ve worked with. Before putting up any intellectual property, such as a logo design, ensure that you have permission from your client to use the work as part of your portfolio.
8. Schedule time off and stick to it
Of course, the holidays are the time for recharging so you can be ready for another year of self-employment. If you plan to take time off, schedule the days when you will not be at work and enjoy time with your friends and family. Stick to your scheduled days and don’t take more or less time than you have planned for.
9. Tackle taxes
Part of being a freelancer is putting away money throughout the year to use for taxes as 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 savings (such as retirement) is often one of the trickier tasks of being a freelancer. If you don’t think you’ve been handling your money right, it might be time to consult a professional.
10. Get the most out of your deductions
Freelancers get 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 up your marketing efforts. Alternatively, are there any 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 2016 budget
How much do you plan to spend on marketing this year? Office equipment? Contractors? A lawyer? An accountant? Create a preliminary budget scheme for the next year, one that is flexible and can be altered as you find your financial footing.
13. Organize your office
Our workspaces can make or break productivity, especially if they is located within our homes. Revamp your space by organizing paperwork or setting up a filing system, moving furniture around, eliminating distractions, or 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 in order to make your business viable. Prepare a new set of goals and write out a brief action plan to achieve them. Include financial goals, personal goals, career goals, and business goals. You may wish to create a business plan to help you organize your goals.
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
What do you do during the holidays to get a head start in the New Year?
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