How to get back in the freelance groove after the holidays

Jan 4, 2016

Ah, the post-holiday season! 2016 has officially started, and if you’re like most of us, odds are you’re a few pounds heavier, a few dollars poorer, and in desperate need of a vacation – from your vacation.

Jumping back into work rhythms can be challenging for any worker – but it’s a particularly fraught time for freelancers.

Clients also tend to take the holiday season off, and the resulting logistical log-jams can result in delayed responses, late checks, and a distinct dearth of assignments.

So how do you start the new year off on a strong foot? How do you effectively navigate post-holiday chaos?

1. Organize

Ease your way back into working by devoting your first day to organizing your freelance life. It’ll feel like a refreshing change from the dreaded humdrum routine – and help you feel as if you’ve hit “reset” rather than “erase.”

Set goals for the new year. Create benchmarks and deadlines. Back up and then clear out old files. Clean your workspace.

Take some time to think about how you want to grow this year. Re-evaluate your existing habits; is there anything you could be doing better?

Odds are that your clients are just returning to their own work (and thus floundering around in chaos); get your own business ship-shape before you contact them.

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2. Expect a jolt

It is my experience that clients are in disarray during the beginning of the year – try not to take a lack of response or disorganization personally. Embrace that your clients (like you) may be shaking off some post-holiday cobwebs. Expect to encounter some disruption in your typical workflow; things will settle soon.

While waiting for your clients to return that email (or send that check), it’s easy to fall prey to the gloom of winter. It’s to be expected – many of us wave goodbye to visiting relatives, pack away the decorations, and instantly battle a deep sense of sadness.

Try to accept that as the other side of the festive coin. A little melancholy isn’t always a bad thing when it reminds us of happy memories. Channel forlorn energy into thanking friends and family for the good times, and looking to the year ahead – in no time, you’ll be back in the swing of things.

3. Find joy

Going cold turkey from joy is not necessary – take advantage of your recent enforced absence to gain some perspective.

What do you really enjoy about your work? What do you wish you had more time to do – and what do you wish you could spend LESS time doing? What did you like about being away… and can you duplicate any of that feeling in your day-to-day life?

The holiday season is, ideally, a time in which we consciously cultivate joy – both for ourselves and for others. Extend that goodwill into the rest of the year.

What can you do to promote happiness in your life? If you’re pretty darned happy (you lucky dog), consider giving back to others who may be less fortunate. Can you mentor a beginning freelancer, or volunteer your freelance skills in a good cause? Pouring your energy into making yourself (and those around you) more fulfilled and joyous is a great way to gain genuine enthusiasm for a new year.

At the very least, take some time to build celebration into your days, even if it’s just indulging in a particularly tasty lunch or calling a friend. The holidays may officially be over… but the good times can go on and on.

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.