Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...

A Freelancer Christmas – are you taking a break this year?

Tying things up for Christmas?  I’m not talking about wrapping those last-minute gifts – I’m talking about getting your business to a point that you can take time off for the Christmas break!

I started backtracking for Christmas a couple of weeks ago.  My clients and people I’d spoken to had already started to wind down and there were a lot of conversations that contained the words, “I’ll do that/discuss that after Christmas”; therefore, I saw this as a natural step.

Best laid plans…

For probably the first time, I sat and planned what work would be done and when (I tend to be reactive when work comes in rather than organised – something that drives my business coach insane).  I sorted what days I wanted to work before Christmas, when I would like to finish and checked with my clients as to the urgency of their work, so that I could calculate what could be put off and what needed completing before I stopped for the holiday.

This all seemed to be going very smoothly – my diary looked balanced, segregated and workable.  Then my clients’ last minute panics set in.

“Can you do this for me urgently?”

“I’ve changed my mind – this needs doing before Christmas”

“It’s something really quick, won’t take you more than an hour or two”

– all knocking my best-laid plans for six.  The day I planned to finish has now moved forward by a few.  At this rate, it’ll be me coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve – from work, so I don’t disturb my sleeping family.  The ‘full two weeks’ I’d firmly specified as my break has now whittled down to about six days!  (Perhaps freelancers’ holidays are a bit like a barter system – you start off with 21 days, end up with 7…)

Unpredictability is part of the freelancer’s life

Unpredictability is undoubtedly part of any freelancer’s life and is usually the ingredient that makes their career more exciting and their skills more varied than those of their employed counterparts.  However, it can make planning futile.

Perhaps that’s what others thrive on – after all, the unpredictability usually allows us freelancers small windows of calm where we can spend time with our family or visit the cinema, legitimately watching the afternoon matinee.  But it can work against us, as described above!

So, the questions on my mind are: if you work from home, do you ever actually stopWill you be logging in over the Christmas period – perhaps even on Christmas Day to get some emails or other work-related task completed?

Rest the mind, body and soul…

As I discussed in one of my previous posts, it’s just as good for our freelancing businesses and enterprises to take time to reflect, plan and evaluate.  Not only that, but our bodies physically need to recharge – something, I suspect, freelancers don’t do as often as they should – after all, no work means no money.  Look at it this way, if you were employed, you’d make damn sure you took four weeks off each year – should this change just because we’re our own boss?  Can’t we factor in our holidays as part of our business plans?

The ‘freelancer’s illness’

I once read a thought-provoking article about an ‘illness’ that can affect freelancers.  Because they are so busy throughout the year in the throes of running their businesses, they rarely get time to be ill, or even ignore it if they do.  When they do take a holiday or break (mainly because their spouses insist) everything catches up with them and they’re as sick as a dog.  Does this sound like you?

Taking a break can recharge your batteries.  You’ve taken the time to rest, to ponder, to plan; come the first working day after New Year and you’ll be raring to go.  Spend the holiday working and your body and mind may be frustrated and desperate for time away from the business.  If you carry on and on and on, there will be a time your body reacts and you could suffer a far more serious illness that debilitates you, meaning you have to stop work for months.  That, to a freelancer, can be catastrophic.

So, today I’m not the Frazzled Freelancer (well, I’m certainly not planning to be frazzled over Christmas).  I’m the Freelance Fairy and I’m granting you the right to have a proper two-week holiday over the Christmas period for the good of your health – and the health of your business.

Can you say ‘no’?

Sometimes, as a freelancer – and admittedly, very rarely – we have to say ‘no’.  There are only so many hours in the day and so many units of energy in our body.  If the volume of work exceeds either of these we have to refuse or postpone.  Most of the time, clients understand and there’s no harm done, so use this mindset when allowing yourself a holiday.  Provided you’ve given them enough notice, if your clients don’t understand that you need to take a holiday then do you want them as clients anyway?

It seems alien to refuse projects or turn away work but as long as you remain professional, suggest alternatives that suit you both, then there’s no reason why it should be a bad thing.  After all, we’re all human!

In the New Year I hope to answer your business questions through the Frazzled Freelancer column.  If you have a business issue or problem you’d like help with, I’ll try and give you constructive, helpful advice.  Even if I can’t, I will know someone who can or I can throw it out to the other readers for their thoughts.

That leaves me with just enough time before my holiday to say: have a fantastic Christmas and a very Happy New Year.  Be merry, eat and drink well, enjoy the rest and reflection.

See you all in 2011.  Let’s make next year a prosperous one for our businesses and enterprises!

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Written by Editor on December 17, 2010 and filed in Featured, Frazzled Freelancer, News, Opinion , ,

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