Making the most of “the calm before the (holiday) storm”

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, NAIWE Board of Experts-Networking
Owner, I can write about anything!®, Communication Central, An American Editor

For many of us, the few weeks from mid-October through late November are a form of calm before the storm. The holidays are coming up fast, and a lot of clients seem to slack off on work requests, creating a false sense of relaxation for some of us and a feeling of “how will I make it financially through the end of the year?” panic for others.

The storm, of course, is the holiday season itself, with all the fun, stress and frantic activity it demands; there’s also the end of the year, with its requirements for wrapping up record-keeping and preparing for tax season early in the new year. We have to balance family plans and expectations against client demands and deadlines, and all of that against the needs of our businesses, and that isn’t always easy.

Here are a few tips for making the most of downtime if you don’t have a lot of work in hand at the moment.

  • Get a head start on organizing tax records. If you’re flush, figure out what business-related expenses you can take care of before the end of this year to reduce your tax burden.
  • Review your recent income and expenses to see where you need to make improvements, and start working on a plan to generate more income in the new year. Plan on a rate increase, identify clients who aren’t worth keeping, look for new markets to explore, etc.
  • File stuff!
  • Update your résumé, website and promotional material.
  • Write a few blog posts or articles to build up a bank of material to publish over the next few weeks or months, so you have it ready to go when you’re mired in the holiday or end-of-year demands. (This is something I have to do myself!)
  • Learn a new skill or program that will benefit your writing or editing business.
  • Look for colleagues to follow online, especially those with blogs you can comment on, to learn something new and build your online presence.
  • Plan your professional development activities for the new year: organizations to join or rejoin, conferences to attend, etc. This will help you start putting funds aside for such expenses (think of them as investments in your writing or editing business).
  • Review past published material to see what you can update and resell or repurpose.
  • Start writing that book!
  • Do some holiday gift-buying or — if you’re crafty — -making.
  • Consider taking a refreshing few days totally “off” — a spa day, a weekend trip to somewhere fun, a family trip when the prices are inflated by the holiday season.

If this time of year is when some of your clients do the panicking about packing a lot of last-minute work into November or December, consider yourself at least somewhat lucky — many colleagues would like to be in your position. Do as much holiday planning and purchasing as you go along as possible, and enjoy being well-employed!

Long-time freelance writer/editor Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is the Networking member of the NAIWE Board of Experts and owner of Communication Central, which partnered with NAIWE this year to present the 14th annual Be a Better Freelancer® conference. Her website is www.writerruth.com and she can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com.

3 thoughts on “Making the most of “the calm before the (holiday) storm”

  1. Very timely article, Ruth. (I just updated my website when I had some downtime.) Another thing to add for folks to do is to review any proposed purchases. If it’s financially possible, purchase them before the end of the year to take advantage of tax deductions.

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