The end-of-year rush is officially on: clients are pushing work forward in the hopes of getting it done before Christmas, and deadlines are tightening. That keeps freelancers busy now, but can lead to some pretty thin—or empty—work schedules come January.
Not all of us want or can afford to take weeks off in January as clients close their doors or wind back as staff take leave. For us, that lack of action doesn’t just mean quiet time: if we’re not careful, it can affect our cashflow all the way to March.
What can you do to ensure you’re not left hanging? Here are a few ideas to keep your cashflow rolling until things pick up again in February.
Work out where you stand
Look at what work you’ve got scheduled, and when you’ll invoice for it, and get an idea of how much money you’ll be getting in the door and when.
As part of that process, check with each of your clients to find out if they’re taking leave and, if you’re invoicing them within that time, who will approve your invoice and see that it’s paid. This sounds elementary, but there’s nothing worse than finding out the money you’d counted on won’t hit your account until your client comes back from leave and approves your invoice in February.
Finally, draw up a budget that includes incomings and anticipates outgoings to make sure you don’t overspend during the holiday period. This is especially handy if you know that January’s going to be a slower month as clients take time off.
As the end-of-year pressure mounts, clients take stock of their own potential to reach goals before the holidays. So now’s a good time to reconfirm project deadlines. You may well find they’ve shifted, in which case you might be able to push some of the work into the quiet weeks at the start of January.
Instead of slogging it out pre-Christmas for irrelevant “deadlines”, and suffering cash desolation in the New Year, this can be a good way to help smooth the workload and cashflow.
Set up client reviews
Despite (or because of) the pressures, many clients start to feel a little more festive—more celebratory—at this end of the year. So why not invite them out for a coffee?
Even a half-hour will give you time to ask for feedback on the work you’ve done for them this year, and find out if there’s any project preparation, or even a small project, you could do for them in the first weeks of the new year. Don’t worry about seeming pushy: the smart clients will be thrilled that you’re so eager to help them hit 2012 running.
Attend networking events
It’s not just clients who are in social mode now—us freelancers need a little festive fun, too. Check your social media, email, and even local event listings: there are plenty of industry parties and business-related get-togethers taking place.
Could you use them to meet new people and expand your networks? Taking some time to get know new connections now could help you land more work in the coming weeks.
Offer a new-year discount or special offer
You may or may not be in a position to offer discounts or special packages to your clients across the board. But there are other ways to use discounts and value-adds to boost our cashflow over the festive season.
For instance, a discount—or offer of some kind of extra value to the existing project package—might move a client to start a project sooner. And if you start sooner, you can start invoicing sooner. Just one or two clients can make all the difference to your December ad January cashflow.
Look forward … to February
If you invoice in arrears, February can be a tough month financially if you don’t do much work in January. That can be even harder to manage if your December workload was also cut short thanks to public (and client) holidays.
Take a look now at your schedule for February. Is there anything on the list that you can start on in January? If you can, you’ll be able to invoice for that work earlier, and move that cashflow forward too.
The tactics we use to smooth your cashflow over the New Year period will depend on our local business culture, what we do, and who we work with. So what steps are you taking to smooth your cashflow this festive season? Share them with us in the comments.
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