Working on the holidays has always been the norm for me. It’s not something I love to do, but since high school, I've worked in industries that require holiday hours.
First, I worked in hospitality. When you’re a hotel employee, it’ s a given that you’ll be pulling at least one shift over both Thanksgiving and Christmas. After that, I worked in healthcare. Holidays were assigned out on a rotating basis. Everyone worked at least one major holiday and one or two minor holidays as well.
Once I finally quit my conventional job to freelance full-time, I was thrilled at the prospect of spending holidays relaxing with my husband, kids, and extended family. I couldn't wait to spend a long weekend or even an entire week blissfully ignoring my work to bake with my kids and wrap Christmas presents.
It hasn’t been quite that simple.
The fact of the matter is that there are no paid days off when you’re a full-time freelancer.
Just like most self-employed individuals, taking the holidays off means letting go of making money during that time. Or, it means creating an awesome plan for turning all of my work in early.
The problem is, planning ahead hasn’t been something I’m great at. Typically, I’m deadline driven. Meaning, each and every day I am working on what’s due next. If I don’t have a deadline just around the corner, I tend to ignore what’s on my plate for next week.
And, when I do get ahead, I just take on more work. I know, it’s kind of the worst habit, but if I turn in a story early, I don’t take time off. I start hunting down another story or even another gig altogether. In the past, this has typically meant I’ve been cramming in work between family meals to stay on top my deadlines or because I'm worried I'm not making enough. It’s honestly made for a stressful holiday season.
This year, I really want things to be different. I want to have plenty of time to rest and spend time with my family without my deadlines hanging over me like a dark cloud. So, I’m starting early. I’m working on a plan for getting everything done and then turning on my out-of-office autoreply for a few days while I focus on my family.
First, and foremost, I’m setting a goal for how much I want to invoice for in the month of December. It’s going to be a much lower number than I have invoiced for over the previous eleven months, but that’s OK. I’m adjusting my expectations based on the fact that I am taking time off and I know my editors will be, too.
Now that I have that number in mind, I’m currently working on outlining exactly how I will make that money before that last week of December. I have one regular client that will account for over half of the work, the rest will come from various clients. This means I’ve got to pitch all of these stories this month, before Thanksgiving, and set due dates for no later than the 23rd of December.
I also have to start thinking about the first of the year.
Taking time off during that holidays doesn’t just require that I get my work turned in early, it also requires that I get a head start on pitching for the next month.
Normally, from the 23rd on I would be ramping up for the next month. Since I plan to be done working by then in December (and most of my editors will be out of the office), I have to get a headstart on that. I will have to spend the first two weeks of December scheduling out work for the month of January so I can start the year strong.
Ultimately, if I am going to have a work-free holiday with my family, I need to make a major adjustment to my mindset. As a freelancer, I have a difficult time not working. I feel nervous about saying no to any work or ignoring my emails for days at a time. This holiday season, that means I am going to need to make time to process those fears and to remind myself that a week off isn't going to make or break my upcoming year as a freelancer.
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(Image courtesy of Unsplash)