This time of year can be both an exciting and frustrating time for freelance writers, which is why this freelance writer’s guide to the holidays will help you stay sane!
While many enjoy celebrating with family and friends, it can be difficult to keep the income flowing this time of year.
Follow these tips to start planning for a successful holiday season.
The freelance writer’s guide to the holidays
1. Check your finances
The holidays can be expensive.
Whether you’re buying presents, traveling to see family, or planning a holiday feast for 30, you’ll likely have some additional expenditures this time of year.
You’ll also likely have higher day-to-day expenses with the shorter days and colder temperatures. Expenses such as electric and heating bills typically jump this time of year, so be sure to plan your finances accordingly.
When calculating your expenses, don’t forget about things like Secret Santas, white elephant exchanges, gingerbread cookie ingredients, eggnog, holiday donations, decorations, holiday parties and gatherings with friends. All the little expenses add up.
2. Plan your workload
Once you have an idea about your end-of-year expenses, you can decide if it makes sense to take on extra work.
Consider if you need to send out additional pitches or ask your regular clients if they have extra work available.
It’s also a good time to do your end-of-year review and ask your regular clients for a pay bump in the new year.
3. Check your calendar
Take a few minutes and look at your calendar through the second week of January or so. Look at your deadlines, see when you’ll be traveling, and be sure to mark down holiday parties and other events.
Decide if you would like to take some time off for the holidays. Figure out what days you would like to take off and whether or not your plans will involve travel. Then you can plan your work schedule around these dates.
4. Work ahead and count on delays
If you have to reach out to anyone for your stories, start right away. During the holidays, you’ll find that many subjects are even harder to reach than usual.
Try and conduct your interviews as early as possible to allow time to reach out again with any follow-up questions.
Also realize that many editors will be out of the office or difficult to reach during the holidays. Take some extra time now to go through your assignment and reach out with any questions or concerns you might have.
It’s also a good idea to work ahead on assignments so you can reach out early with any questions that come up along the way.
5. Have a communication plan
If you’re going to be incommunicado for any length of time, be sure to set up an auto-reply and voicemail message to let people know when you’ll be back in the office. It’s okay to take a vacation, but it’s also important to communicate your availability.
It likely makes sense to bring important files with you and have a plan for addressing any last-minute edits or changes when you’re traveling. As much as you can plan ahead and do your best to get your stories in early, it’s not uncommon for something to come up that requires some last-minute attention.
If you’re only taking a long weekend, say Thursday to Sunday off, you may not need an intensive “away” plan. But if you’re planning on taking two weeks off, you will likely want to make a plan.
Some people like to leave an auto-reply with alternate contact information, such as a phone number for “emergencies.” Others prefer to check in with email once or twice a day, but it can be hard to truly disconnect while checking in all the time. Every writer will have to decide what works best for their particular situation and plan accordingly.
An unexpected upside to the freelance writer’s guide to the holidays
While you’re likely to encounter many delays during the holidays, it can also be a time of opportunity for freelancers.
While many editors go on vacation, others use this slow time to get ahead on their work. Some editors may be especially receptive to pitches during this time since they may receive fewer queries.
It is also a good time to be an editor’s go-to person for a last-minute story when their regular stable of writers is unavailable. If you will be available, it may be useful to reach out to your regular editors and let them know you’ll be available.
Using this freelance writer’s guide to the holidays can help turn an often-slow season into a prosperous one. They can also help you plan a much-needed break to enjoy some time with family and friends.
Your Turn: How do you prepare for the holidays as a freelancer?