How freelancers can make the most of an end-of-year lull


Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam

Blog author Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a money writer and educator. She helps artists and freelancers get creative with their money at Hey Freelancer.

Published November 28, 2017|3 min read

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While the holidays are commercialized as a festive, cheery time of year, some freelancers may run into a bit of a work lull. If you don’t have enough funds to tide you over, this could be a trying period. But there's no need to press the panic button. You can turn the holidays into a positive and productive period.

Here’s how freelancers can make the most of an end-of-year lull:

Review your budget

The end of year is a great time to assess your budget and make sure it’s still useful and relevant. You can use a money management app or budgeting tool to see how your personal and business expenses have changed in the past few months. Has spending in any categories ballooned or contracted? Now is a sweet time to make adjustments for the new year.

For instance, if your health insurance premiums are going up for 2018, factor that in. You’ll also want to see if you need to change your existing policies on disability and life insurance. As for basic living expenses, see if there are any ways you can lower your monthly bills, such as canceling a subscription or negotiating for a lower rate.

You can also review your holiday budget (yes, you should have a separate budget for holiday-related expenses). If you don’t want a holiday debt hangover, rein in discretionary spending as much as possible. That way you can have a wee bit extra for holiday spending. If money is tight for you, now is a good time to go on a spending fast.

Explore new ways to make money

If you’re worried about not having enough cash, use this slower time of year as an opportunity to explore side hustles. Even though I make enough from freelance writing, I still enjoy side hustling. I take on house- and pet-sitting gigs, proctor tests at a nearby university, work tables at health fairs and partake in an occasional in-person survey. Not only does it provide an easy way to rake in extra cash, it’s a great way to learn something new and not be glued in front of a computer all day. (Note that how much you can earn working a side hustle may vary widely.)

Besides easy side hustles, throw a brainstorming session and drum up ways you can earn more money with your business in the new year. For instance, what avenues of revenue could you tap into? How can you earn more money with existing clients?

Drum up 'vision goals'

Now comes the fun part. Spend time coming up with big-picture plans for the new year for your freelancing business. Where do you want to take things? Maybe you want to give being a digital nomad a whirl, or spend the summer in a different part of the country. Figure out how you can make it happen.

As freelancers, we tend to fall into a cycle of hustling, getting burned out, then going through a period of weeding out jobs. What kind of work do you want do more of? And what kind of work do you want to scale back on? While you won’t hit these goals overnight, keeping them top of mind can help you achieve them.

Work on a personal project

Dust off that journal of screenwriting ideas, or pick up the guitar. Maybe get into canning fruit. Whatever personal project you want to give more love to, use this time of year to do so. Not only do personal projects provide the balance you need if you are a bit of a workhorse (raises hand), but they could potentially lead to great long-term freelance opportunities—and save your sanity.

Slow down

Your clients might be taking time off, and so should you. Use this slower time to enjoy the holidays with friends and family. Take a few days off and explore your stomping grounds with a staycation. Or “do you,” and go on a solo road trip. Even when I was working a day job I would take the last week of the year to be by myself and reflect.

The end-of-year lull doesn’t necessarily have to be terrible. Instead of sticking your head in the sand, make the most of it and set your freelance business up for success in the new year.

Image: SeanZeroThree