Articles - 27th November 2020

Why all freelancers need to actually give themselves a break for Christmas this year

Words by Jenna Farmer
Illustration by Jon McCormack

This Christmas will be different to ones we’ve experienced in previous years. It’s almost certain there’ll be no Christmas parties with your co-working group or drinks with your favourite client. But whether we’re in full lockdown or allowed to see family, one thing that shouldn’t change is taking a proper break during the festive season.

It’s estimated that 68% of freelancers don’t take extended leave during the Christmas period. Whilst many offices shut up shop for two weeks, it can be really difficult to give ourselves permission to do the same. Especially when we won’t have the distractions of socialising and festivities to keep our laptop closed. But here’s why stopping work for Christmas as a freelancer is really important…

 

Reason Number 1: You’ve worked really hard. Like, really hard

The first reason freelancers need to take a break during the festive period is simple: you’ve worked bloody hard! Self-employed folk have had many hurdles to overcome this year: whether that’s pivoting our business plans entirely or bouncing back from losing a key client at the start of lockdown or adding a completely new service to our roster.

It’s been tough to find work, and many new freelancers haven’t had the safety net of the SEISS grant either. With no one knowing what’s around the corner in 2021, take this time to rest and give yourself a huge pat on the back with a glass of mulled wine.

But what about if you feel like you can’t take a break until your to-do list is completely empty? “Rest isn’t something you do when you’ve finished work” explains Hannah Jane Thompson, mindfulness teacher and founder of 1-1 mindful success coaching business Breathe Like A Badass, “it’s PART OF the work. It isn’t something to be squeezed in around our work because let’s face it, for many of us, our work is never done. If we don’t prioritise taking mental and physical breaks, our bodies will usually do it for us whether we like it or not-in the form of migraines, back pain, depression, bad sleep and burnout,” she adds.

 

Reason 2: It’s a chance to reflect.

Feel like you’ve jumped from one idea to another throughout this lockdown?

Me too. I’ve done everything from webinars, to power hours, to writing eBooks. I’ve raced through different ideas—partly due to all this extra free time but also due to the fact I’ve needed to develop new income streams.

But how can we know what’s really worked for our business without stopping to take stock? A period of reflection and evaluation is really important for those of us who are self-employed: we don’t get an appraisal or fancy bonuses, so we have to rely on ourselves to take some time out to reflect on our business for the year ahead. “Rest is part of the work we do, and when we rest and stop being IN our business, it allows ideas and creativity to flow more freely,” advises Rachel Martin, a Career Transition Coach (@rachel_martin_coaching on Instagram). So, use the Christmas period as a chance to do this.

 

Reason 3: Because no one else is working anyway 

It might seem as if it’s easier to just keep working whilst The Muppet Christmas Carol plays on loop in the background. However, one thing I learnt early on during freelancing is that all the other people you rely on for work probably aren’t working over Christmas.

The project you submit isn’t going to get paid until at least the end of January if you’re dealing with payroll teams who have set their out of office by the 17th December.

Any work you send over will likely just spend weeks sitting in an unattended inbox. This also goes to those who you rely on to outsource work to, such as virtual assistants.

Even if you do have demanding clients, since it’s such a common thing to take a Christmas break, they’ll probably expect you to do the same. Just in case, now is the ideal time to set your boundaries, don’t leave it until the 23rd December and suddenly decide to take a fortnight off! As you’re reading this, send a quick note to all your clients with the dates of your festive break. Not only does this mean there’s no going back but it makes sure you’re not 50 messages deep in a Slack conversation when you should be carving the turkey.

 

Reason 4: To spend time with the people you love

 You’re probably reading this and thinking: ‘what do you mean, all I’ve done the last 8 months is spend time with my family!’

But have you really?

If you have children, much of the spring and summer months were likely spent desperately trying to juggle homeschooling with conference calls and a packed Zoom quiz schedule. When was the last time you had a complete work-free week with your family? Who knows, you might grow to love Peppa Pig just as much as they do.

 

Reason 5: To invest in your self-development 

If the thought of spending two weeks away from your laptop brings you out in a panic, why not compromise and use the Christmas break to invest in your own self-development instead. Is there a topic you’d love to learn more about?

Put your out of office on and spend a break reading those business books you bought last year or even treat yourself to tickets to an online webinar. Remember that those who have a permanent job benefit from things like regular training and appraisals. Since we don’t have access to those, we need to be our own advocate and invest in ourselves. Whilst it’s really important to have a proper break, spending an hour or so a day on your self-development will leave you rested and equipped to tackle 2021. What’s more, training courses for ongoing professional development can usually be claimed as a tax expense.

We all know there aren’t many perks to being your own boss but one of them is that you have complete control of your calendar. “It’s up to us to write our own rules and the race to depletion isn’t one that anyone wants to win,” adds Rachel Martin. Since you don’t have a boss to do this for you, let me be the one to tell you to clear your diary, log off and unplug. I promise you that both your body and your business will thank you for it.

We champion the freelancers and every entrepreneur who took a leap of faith with their idea.

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