By writer and tutor Sue Walker

Yes, it’s that old freelance joke: ‘What’s a bank holiday? In fact, what’s a holiday?!’

For some the festive season brings plenty of work opportunities. For example, it’s panto season so many actors will be rushed off their feet (oh, no they won't; oh yes they will) and that’s brilliant news.

However, for many of us, it is an incredibly quiet time work-wise. No-one seems to be hiring as they are all busy partying. In fact, if you’re like me, facing the biggest holiday season of the year can be like anticipating torture!

Rather than worry though, with a bit of forward planning, we can use this downtime to enjoy ourselves as well as get geared up for the New Year.

Money matters

It certainly does, especially with the added expenditure. You should already be getting your ducks in a row about what invoices you still have to send out; what is due and when as well as thinking about how to budget for the next two to three months.

Makeover time

If you haven't got much work lined up, it can be the perfect opportunity to catch up on things that you have been meaning to do like getting your accounts in order as well as putting some effort into getting set up for the New Year. For example, look at and re-vamp your marketing methods can really help focus your mind. Ask yourself:

  • How am I presenting myself? 
  • Am I exploiting all my existing work possibilities?
  • Where are the new markets and how can I get my foot in the door next year?

Use the time to work on CVs; updating your web presence; drawing up ‘hit lists’ of existing and new/untried markets and creating new pitches (both written and verbal).

And keep all your social media connections up-to-date: don’t stop tweeting just because its downtime! Ensure that those you need to know, do know that you are still very much around and active.

Get the 2013 diary going

Even though I buy my next year’s hard copy diary in August, it isn’t until about now that I start filling it with plans and anything else that I can. But it is incredibly heartening, both psychologically and emotionally, to see that diary filling up and being almost ready to take over from the current one.

Now is the time to make concrete, time dated intentions, whether you keep a hard or electronic diary or both. Get them out and working. Try the following:

  • Once you’ve drawn up your ‘hit lists’, put dates in for cold calls and speculative approaches
  • Make firm dates to meet potential clients and former colleagues
  • Put in industry networking events and think about what you might want to get out of them, e.g., to meet specific people? To hear a particular speaker? Just to mix and get out there?
  • Think about any training or learning needs you have. Start thinking about how to meet them.

What else?

If you do any voluntary or unpaid work, you may want to offer your services a bit more if you have downtime. This can keep you feeling valued and avoid the isolation of not seeing enough people. If you haven’t done any of this, why not think about trying it now when you have the opportunity?

'Tis the season to be jolly

Finally, enjoy yourself! While you won’t want to waste your time, everyone deserves a break. Let’s face it, many freelances don’t get that many holidays throughout the year, so this is the time to relax and kick up your heels so that you feel re-energised and ready to go, go, go in the New Year!

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