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The freelancer's guide to handling the holidays with grace

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

The holidays are right around the corner. If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, this can be a challenging time of year. If you formerly worked for a large, well-established organization, you could feel some sadness or loneliness as the holidays roll around.

After all, you’re missing all the end-of-the-year perks that come with working for big business: bonuses, paid time off, and/or that wacky, wonderful (or downright scary) holiday office party.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t, and shouldn’t, find ways handle the holidays with grace as a freelancer. Here are six suggestions for making the holidays a time of both opportunity and light-hearted celebration.

Send out those holiday cards to your clients—and make them personal

Most businesses send out holiday cards—but many outsource the process, sending preprinted, impersonal cards (or, even worse, bulk email greetings) that are easy to forget. Since freelancers, by definition, have a personal relationship with every client, you can make those holiday cards unforgettable.

Add handwritten personal notes that speak to the good work you’ve done together, the joy you’ve felt supporting their particular initiative, and your hopes for an excellent collaborative relationship in the year ahead.

Choose cards that fit the character (and, if you know it, the religious tradition) of the client and their organization. Send cards to your active clients, certainly, but also to clients that you’ve worked with over the course of this year. It doesn’t hurt to remind them that you’re still around and willing to work with them on their next project, too.

Give a donation to charity in honor of your top three or five clients

This is the season for giving, so why not do the same? It truly is the thought that counts, so your donation doesn’t have to be huge. Consider giving three small donations to organizations connected with your top clients. This is a chance to prove that, even though your business is small, you care about the bigger picture.

Again, because you work personally with your clients, you know what issues matter to them. That personal touch will go a long way toward helping you stand out in the crowd the next time your client needs the services you offer.

You might also consider giving to your favorite charities on behalf of your business, rather than from your personal bank account. This gives your charities the chance to get to know your work. After all, they could need your services next year, too.

If you’re feeling lonely, participate in the December Freelancers Union Spark meeting in your area

It will be an “office party for the office-less” mixer and networking event. This is one way to join in the holiday spirit with people who understand the mixed feelings you might have about being a solopreneur during the holidays.

In addition to getting to know other freelancers in your area (who could become your own clients or subcontractors in the year ahead), you could have a chance to share any funny stories about the worst office holiday parties you ever had to attend. If there isn’t a SPARK gathering in your community, consider starting one!

Write down one of those funny stories about your worst office holiday party experience (or make one up!)

Share it with your friends and family. Consider submitting it here, to Freelancers Union, so the rest of the Freelancers Union community can join you in a good laugh and remember why we left (or never entered) the big business world.

Decorate your office

Yes, you might be the only one to see it, but this is not the time of year to be a grinch. Getting into the holiday spirit will help you remember the fun aspects of the holidays.

In fact, don’t keep those decorations to yourself. When you’re finished decorating, you could decide to let others get in on the fun. Share a photo of your decorated office on Instagram or your business blog. Let everyone know you’re in the holiday spirit and invite them to join you by sharing their own photos of office holiday decorations.

Give yourself a bonus and some time off

You’ve made it to the end of another (or your first!) year of freelancing, so you’ve earned it and you deserve it. With regard to the bonus, there are some guidelines for small businesses that could prove helpful in choosing an amount that feels right to you. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about including everyone and appearing to be fair and equitable, since you’re the only one receiving a bonus.

With regard to the time off, use it wisely. Yes, there will be family or community obligations that you must schedule. But give yourself the gift of some time to rest, relax, and go throw snowballs with the kids (or, if you live in southern Arizona like I do, take a mountain hike while it’s cool enough to do so!).

I hope that these six tips will help you get into the holiday spirit. We freelancers have a lot to be thankful for during the holidays. We love our boss, we can choose our own hours or take a two-hour lunch break without being judged, and we have a strong personal relationship with each of our clients—lots of reasons to celebrate.

Happy Holidays!

Shirin McArthur is an editor, writer and writer coach who lives in Arizona and specializes in spiritual works and memoirs. She is also a photographer, spiritual guide and retreat leader who focuses on self-care for busy ministers and freelancers.