New year, new you. The change of calendar from December to January is the ideal time to take a step back, re-energise, and start life and work afresh.
But first things first. New Year can only ever be a time for renewal if it follows a long and relaxing Christmas break, reinvigorating you for the year ahead. Yet if you're a freelancer, with no set, formal holiday times, that’s not always a given.
So we’ve teamed with Coconut – the current account for freelancers and self-employed people – to help make sure you get the Christmas break you deserve and need. Follow our advice, and you’ll keep your clients happy and have a chilled and relaxing Yuletide.
1. Resist the urge to work
The first obstacle to enjoying Christmas as a freelancer is yourself. We self-employed are prone to thinking that the world will come crashing down around us if we take a step back from work. But while it’s great to have a work ethic, it’s vital to have proper time-out and rest, hang out with friends and reconnect with family.
And there’s never going to be a better time to do so than Christmas because the vast majority of clients will be on holiday too. (And even clients in countries that don’t celebrate it, like Japan, aren't daft; they won't expect you to be available during this time either.)
So don’t listen to that voice in your head urging you to drive through to the end of December and “get ahead”. Take advantage of this being one time of the year when you can down tools, switch off all your devices, and act as if the internet had never been invented.
Remember, you won’t get a second chance for another 12 months!
2. Get everything important out of the way
Switching off your computer is one part of it, but another is having the peace of mind that you’ve got all the important tasks out of the way. Otherwise, you're never going to relax properly, which is the whole point of the exercise.
But if you’re running behind with your commissions and don’t think you can them finish on time, don’t assume that means Christmas needs to be cancelled. Have an honest discussion with your client first; they may well be happy to give you an extension into mid-January. After all, (whisper it!) clients are human too, plus they probably won’t want to look at your work until the New Year anyway.
You’ll also, of course, need to sort out your accounts, particularly with your tax return looming at the end of January. Many of us spend more time on this in December than our actual design work. Which is why we recommend freelancers use Coconut, a service that takes care of all your accounting and banking in one app.
Specially designed for freelancers, self-employed people and small business owners, Coconut is an intuitive one-stop-shop that makes staying on top of your accounts and taxes a real breeze.
It categorises your business expenses helping you to stay organised. It tells you as soon as payment has been made or received so that you can stay on top of late invoices. You get instant notifications when you spend, which reminds you to snap the receipt, keeping everything neatly in one place. These are just a few examples of how Coconut can help get your finances sorted, well in time for the Christmas break.
3. Remove all distractions
It’s the end of your final working day of the year. Your Christmas break is about to begin. But first, you need to get all your ducks in order, to make sure all potential threats to your rest are removed.
First, and most importantly, get that ‘Out of Office’ on, and send a test email to make sure it’s functioning correctly. If you have multiple email accounts, make sure they’re all covered too. Plus if clients often contact you via social media, find a way of setting an ‘Out of Office’ message there as well. For example, on Twitter, you might put up a pinned ‘Out of Office’ tweet.
Next, temporarily delete any work apps from your smartphone. Turn off notifications. Disconnect your work laptop or tablet and put it beyond reach.
And if you’re feeling brave, why not consider having a complete digital detox? Tell close friends and relatives they can contact you on your landline if necessary, and switch all your devices off. You probably won’t believe what a restful state of mind you’ll enter as a result!
The principle is simple: if you can't work, you won't work. That doesn't mean you won't think about work. Stuff is going to bubble up in your mind now and again, and that's fine; it's just the brain's way of keeping house. Just have another mince pie, watch Frozen with the kids for the umpteenth time, and keep that Wacom safely under lock and key; it'll soon pass!