Surviving your first Christmas as a freelancer
There are many differences between full-time employment and freelancing—and no time is this more apparent than during the festive season. If it’s your first year of being self-employed, the Christmas season can certainly take some getting used to. Whether it’s missing out on all the staff Christmas parties (which, let’s be honest, can sometimes be a blessing!), figuring out exactly how much leave you should take, or pondering over whether it’s acceptable to claim Christmas decorations as a business expense (nice try!), this time of year raises many freelancer dilemmas. So read on for our guide to surviving your first Christmas as a freelancer…
The Christmas Party Allowance
Attending a networking Christmas event should be claimable on your tax bill (although do run this past your accountant!) but you might have also heard of the £150 Christmas party allowance too. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as treating yourself to a slap up dinner for one but if you’re a limited company with employees, you can claim up to £150 per employee (usually including yourself, and a plus one for yourself and any employees too) for your own Christmas bash.
“HMRC has offered some Christmas spirit kindness!” explains accountant Siobhvhan Joseph, founder of Book a Bookkeeper Ltd. There are a few T&Cs to be aware of here though. “To qualify the Christmas party must be open to all employees and the cap is £150 per head. If you’re a company director and an employee you can be included in this exemption but if your employers are all directors then you can’t take advantage. You can also include a family member or partner for the exemption too. However, if you’re a sole trader this sadly doesn’t apply” Siobhvan adds. Either way, Sionhvan advises always running this past a professional and HMRC themselves as we all know mistakes can prove costly!
Keep clients sweet
Christmas is a time for giving not receiving, so it’s the perfect opportunity to send some good cheer to your clients. It’s often standard practice for companies to do this so why not keep up the habit now you’re a freelancer? Client gifting is a lovely way to say thank you but is also the perfect way to keep yourself on the radar of new clients too. What’s more, if you’re planning to put your rates up in 2020, it might work as a great little sweetener! You don’t need to spend a fortune to show your appreciation: we love this gift guide for clients from Virtual Assistant Catherine Gladwyn which covers something for every budget.
The out of office conundrum
If it’s your first Christmas as a freelancer, chances are you’ll be keen to keep working right up until Christmas eve to make your business work. We all know how difficult setting boundaries can be but having some laptop-free time is vital for a happy Christmas with your loved ones.
What’s more, your clients will likely anticipate this anyway (and could be taking time off themselves too). Whether you plan to take a few days or a few weeks, make sure you prep clients well ahead of time. It could be an idea to pop everyone a quick email right now to let them know your working hours and availability for the rest of the year. That way, you’ll avoid frantic phone calls halfway through your Christmas shopping. Whatever you decide to do, do NOT check your emails on Christmas Day. It can wait, we promise!
Dealing with slow periods
Remember, even if you haven’t popped your out of office on yet, others may well have done. Be prepared for slow periods and be realistic about what you’ll actually achieve in the week leading up to Christmas.
It might be the ideal time to tie up loose ends (and even pay that tax bill perhaps? Just think about how smug you’ll feel when it’s out of the way before the year ends!) but your pitches for new work and invoice requests may just slip through the net. Factor in this and get those invoices in extra early before the wind-down begins, as well as planning for any potential income gaps. Then, use the quiet period that spans to the New Year to have a well-earned rest or get ahead and prepare yourself for an amazing 2020
Whilst being freelance at Christmas can be trickier (and perhaps lonelier) than working full-time, remember why you made the switch to self-employment in the first place. Not only do you have the power to work flexibly around all your Christmas commitments but, by being your own boss, we guarantee you won’t face that feeling of doom that rolls around on the 1st January!