• Advice

How to "winterize" your freelance business

Unless you own an ice cream parlor, you may be confused about the relationship between dropping temperatures and freelance woes. But the truth is that many freelancers feel the effects of the darkest season – often in the form of low funds, low productivity, and low spirits.

Fortunately, there are a couple of simple tricks that freelancers can use to “winterize” their business (and no, you don’t have to buy rock salt).

Don’t ignore sickness

People get sick in the winter. You may get indeed sick in the winter. Do not pretend this can’t happen.

Too often, freelancers act like we CANNOT EVER be sick – that flus and bugs happen only to conventional workers. We use self-employment as an excuse to keep working when we’re desperately ill; after all, our time is our money, so what’s a little walking pneumonia?

We put off doctors’ visits and self-medicate with over-the-counter remedies, and then wonder why that hacking cough hasn’t gone away.

First of all, practice good preventive care. Eat well, exercise, and get sleep. Wash your hands. These are basic lessons that we teach children, but when we get busy, it’s easy to overlook self-care. During cold and flu season, be your own nagging mother; fend off sickness as well as you can by not overtaxing your poor body.

If you get sick, be a good boss to your best employee: yourself. Take the day(s) off. Get medical care, if you can. It’s okay to be sick, and giving your body time to heal properly is a better overall investment in your freelance business than powering through.

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Build in a holiday nest egg

As I’ve said before, holidays are often sloooooow periods for freelancers. Checks are delayed, clients are lethargic, response times are glacial, and everything generally seems to operate under a thick layer of icy sludge.

If you can, try to build in an extra financial cushion for the often lean January- early February period. We all tend to spend more than we ought to over the holidays, but learn from hibernating animals; squirrel away a little something for the colder months. Nothing relieves an icy post-holiday panic like the knowledge that you’ll be okay until that check comes in March.

Fight the blues

Is it the post-holiday slump? Is it the temperature drop and the lack of Vitamin D? Is it all that hearty comfort food suddenly turning on us?

Okay, yes, it’s probably a combination of all of those factors. Many people struggle with glumness and lethargy during the winter. Myself, I grew up in an icy tundra where we cheerfully regarded 8 degrees as a “nice day” – and even I get a bit cranky in late February.

Minimize winter’s dulling effects on your freelance business by taking care of your mental health. Find a way to exercise regularly and get outside every day (yes, I know it’s cold; making your home office into a burrow is understandable, but not ultimately advisable).

Make social plans with friends and loved ones to fill the gap of holiday celebrations; if you’re all broke, host a potluck. Get mental health care if you feel like your symptoms go beyond the typical winter blues.

If inclement weather keeps you housebound, use all of that enforced seclusion to tackle big freelance projects. Build in breaks for yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed. Winter, like spring, can be a time of renewal – make progress on those New Year’s goals, and resist falling into a rut.

Winter is often regarded as a time of lowered energy and delayed action, but it needn’t affect your freelance business. Use the season to focus on yourself and invest in your health – by the time the temperature warms back up, you’ll be raring to go.

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.