Cure for the Freelancing Winter Blues

The season of winter is upon us, and for freelancers, that could mean some blue feelings. The temperature falls and snow starts to decorate the scenery outside (for me at least). December holidays also mean clients tend to not call back or reply to emails. Your clients may also be running low on funds for this final quarter of the year, and may not be able to continue your project until the next quarter begins. This could mean less work, less money, and a sad freelancer.

So what do you do in this depressing time of the year? Here are a few ideas I have come up with to hopefully cheer you up, keep your skills honed, and get you ready for the New Year!

Exercise regularly


Unfortunately most freelancers do not take as good care of their bodies as they should be. We tend to get caught up in our work, sometimes working all day long and into the wee hours of the night. Working from home tends to make us lazy, as we don’t really need to get up and do things as often as if we were working in a business environment. Research has shown this can lead to diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.

    • If you can, try to exercise for at least half an hour each day. Or split it into two fifteen minute workouts, spread out by four or so hours (this way your metabolism stays elevated throughout the day).
    • Regular exercise could mean a nice refreshing walk/run during your lunch break, hitting the weights, or even popping in Wii Fit for a little bit.
    • Whatever exercise regimen you find works for you, stick with it!

Sharpen your skills


The best thing to do in a freelance downtime is to make sure your skills are as updated as they can be. None of us know everything about our field, and with digital professional fields growing constantly; it’s extremely difficult to stay on top of your profession. The more skills you have in your repertoire could mean better clients, better rates, and more respect by your peers.
Whether you do this by reading books, eBooks, or online tutorials, just get it done! If you are a web developer, try to learn a new language. Graphic designers can do a few Photoshop or Fireworks tutorials. Anything that you are lacking expertise in, can become nothing but beneficial to learn.


Rearrange your office / room


Rearranging your workspace can provide a new spin on how you work. Even just moving your desk to a new place in the room will provide your eyes with a refreshing new take on your living space. Feng Shui can help you make the best of your home office.

      • Have your home office as far from your bedroom as possible. I realize this might not always be possible, especially if you only have a one-bedroom apartment.
      • Position your desk so you sit facing the door, farthest away, and not in line with the door of the room.
      • If you have to face a wall, hang up some art so your eyes constantly have something pretty to look at (other than your computer screen).
      • Clean up your desk/work area of clutter daily. Throw away old pieces of paper or Sticky notes, organize your files and cords, etc. A cleaner desk makes for a more productive worker.

Backup files / organize your filing system


You should back up your files at least once a week, if not more. Every ten days my iMac reminds me I have not backed up, and I plug in my external hard-drive. Before you backup, make sure to give the files on your computer a good weeding through; consider it a Winter Cleaning.

      • Delete any old files you know you will never need/use again
      • Organize files into better folder hierarchies so you can file your files quicker and easier
      • You may find old files you forgot about that you can use in an upcoming project. You never know what treasures are lost in your computer

Winter means the end of the year is coming to a close, and tax season is coming to a quick start. What better time than now, to organize your filing system and get your receipts, pay-stubs and various expenses together for the near future. When tax season starts, you may be swamped again and not have time to prepare.

Do personal projects


If client work is dwindling, a great client to take on is yourself. Tackling person projects can be a great way to improve your skills, add to your portfolio, and kill time all in one.

Whether it’s a new blog idea, a web/iPhone app, or even just a personal poster series, a personal project can be fun and possibly financially beneficial to you. If that app or blog can pull in even just a couple hundred dollars a month (from sales or affiliate/ad-sense links), it is certainly worth your time. Granted, the app or blog may not become popular enough to generate much income, but anything is better than nothing.


Update your marketing collateral


The end of the year, and beginning of a new year could mean a fresh start for your marketing materials. There are plenty of things you can update and spruce up including: your Facebook fan page, Twitter background (since the new update, lots of the older backgrounds are obsolete), website, business card, logo etc.

      • If you followed my above tip and updated some of your skills, you might have a new skill to market to potential clients.
      • If you did a personal project, you might want to add that to your portfolio to show off what you have been up to lately.

Early next year I will be rolling out a new cleaner design for this blog and my website (as well as the above mentioned marketing)!


Relax!!!


If clients are taking time off during the holidays, why cant you? If your not busy, there is nothing wrong with taking a couple days or weeks off to just sit and recharge your batteries for a little bit. Starting the New Year off with a relaxed refreshed mind-set will help out your freelance business tremendously.

Hopefully these tips will help you to relax, feel better, and prepare for the upcoming year! Merry Holidays and Happy New Year everyone!!

My New Years resolutions for 2011 are:

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