Freelancing during the holidays: 8 tips to help you keep work momentum

Working during the holiday season may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but some freelancers actually enjoy this. I, for one, appreciate the gift-giving and food exchanges between me and my relatives. And with so many people in the house, my disappearing into my room to do 2 hours of focused work is not that big of a deal.

However, the holiday season could also mean distraction season. There’s a lot going on, a lot of people coming to visit, and then there are those who you cannot reach as they are OOO and enjoying their vacation. With all these, how can freelancers keep the work momentum going? We have a few basic but pretty solid tips to remind you.

Create a schedule

“What gets scheduled gets done,” says American author and podcaster Michael Hyatt. While this doesn’t work all the time, a schedule will definitely help you keep track of what you need to do and what your priorities are. Creating a strict schedule during the holidays may be next to impossible with things like holiday shopping and family gatherings. However, the holiday rush should not cause your schedule to go completely out of whack. 

Look for your schedule center, those very important things that you absolutely need to get done. As a freelancer, it may be annual meetings with clients or writing proposals. Whatever it is, write it down on your calendar. After you have your schedule center established, build around them. This way, you have a clear picture of what needs your attention and time the most.

Commit and resist

Did you know that it takes an average of 23 minutes to be back in the zone and in the flow once you get distracted? Those 23 minutes may just be the time you need to finish a task and tick it off your to-do list. Or even just 23 minutes to pause and breathe before going to another task.

So, when it’s time to work, shut the door, lock yourself in, and keep distractions as far from you as possible. Commit to your work time as if it’s a regular day and try to resist all the distractions. This won’t be easy but this way, you might just be able to finish your tasks on time, if not earlier.

Plan for next year

This may sound ridiculous but planning for the following year is very helpful for freelancers to keep the work momentum even during the holidays. Knowing what you need to do during the first months of the coming year will help you have a better picture of what and how you should plan things out. You may have a project that you want to get into or goals that you want to achieve. Whatever that is, start planning for them and let yourself get excited. Having things that you look forward to, can help keep you motivated in doing the tasks that you currently have today.

Schedule team huddles during the holidays

Holidays are not just for family gatherings. Consider this a good time to do team huddles or even just catch up and check in with your people, be it clients or your sub-contractors, if any. Perhaps do it bi-weekly so as to stay in touch with them even when the holiday season is starting to get hectic. Sometimes, it is these meetings that keep us grounded and in touch with our business. Personally, quick calls and virtual meetings with clients help remind me I am running a business. Because as a freelancer, admittedly this is something I often forget.

Update your portfolio and resume

Sounds a bit boring but with so much going on, this is a great way to stay productive without actually having that “hustle hard” mood. One of the many advantages of regularly updating your portfolio and resume is that it provides you with a clear picture of how your career has been running. Use this as a gauge to see just how productive you’ve been throughout the year and where your career path is going. You may not notice it but once you’ve written down all the work you’ve accomplished, once you’ve made those necessary changes and updates on your portfolio and CV, it might even give you an added boost of productivity.

Host online meets with fellow freelancers

Aside from catching up with clients and sub-contractors to review your annual performance, it’s also a great idea to catch up with fellow freelancers and creative entrepreneurs. You may not see yourself as an expert in your field but with a year ending, for sure you’ve grown. What better way to end a year than share this growth with fellow freelancers, and celebrate their growth too. Maximize that holiday spirit and get in touch with fellow freelancers and celebrate wins, share frustrations, exchange ideas, explore plans or even collaborative projects for the year ahead.

Learn when to sign off and unplug

For freelancers to keep that work momentum going, it’s not just about sitting in front of a laptop and being productive. Rest is just as important and the holidays are a good time to truly practice that. To make this happen, establish a clear schedule and routine and actually follow through. Don’t stay up late because of work and spend the holidays sleepless, you might end up treating it like any other work day.

Even before Christmas hits, make it a habit to have longer days off. Maybe consider working only 3 days a week. Or perhaps have longer weeks off. Whatever works for you, the goal is to slowly ease your way into Christmas by signing off earlier than usual and allowing yourself to have the time and space to relax and breathe.

Reward yourself

Of course, there’s no such thing as keeping the momentum going without rewarding yourself. And let’s be honest, freelancers tend to struggle with this because we focus too much on building the business. Nothing wrong with that, but consider the holiday season as a perfect time to reward yourself.

Practice positive reinforcement and write down everything the most important things you need to do and the corresponding rewards you’d give to yourself once you’ve done them. Make it more festive by wrapping your rewards. Sounds silly but this way you’d feel like you are not only getting a prize, but a gift as well each time you accomplish a goal or task.

It’s so easy to get distracted. It’s also so easy to lose that work momentum. Just like any entrepreneur, freelancers don’t live in a perfect world—these things will happen as they are inevitable. But that doesn’t mean there’s no way to work around it.

Make it a habit to connect with fellow freelancers and with your team during the holidays. Quick meetings will do! Make it a habit to set boundaries, stick to a schedule and reward yourself. These are just a few of the many things you can try to keep the work momentum going and continue building that business. Every freelancer is different, so find the ones that work for you and don’t let overwhelm take over your holiday season.

Tammy Danan
Tammy Danan

Tammy Danan is a storyteller who reports on environmental and social issues. She also covers productivity, creative pursuits, and the future of work. Her words have appeared in VICE, Audubon.org, ZEKE Magazine, Shutterstock, Toggl, among others. You may find her on Instagram @SlowFreelancing.