Christmas Work

What Is It Like Being Freelance at Christmas?

Several members of the Brighton Digital Women community took the leap to freelance life in 2017. I was one of them.

My first six months as a freelance writer and content strategist were intense. I’d imagined having some time to play with over the summer months, but the three amazing clients my contacts referred me kept me fully booked.

Having barely had time to think, I decided to take a couple of weeks for myself over Christmas. But as the holidays approached, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

To shed some light on being a freelancer over the festive period, I decided to get advice from someone who knows the drill. I spoke to Chris Byrne, a well-established freelance SEO consultant in London, to get his take on freelance life at Christmas.

Advantages

Chris loves being freelance and sees many benefits of this way of working, no matter what the season:

“For me, being a freelancer at Christmas to me is much like being a freelancer at any other time of year. Compared to being a salaried employee—in my experience—it is the preferable option all year round.”

So, why does Chris rate freelance life over life as a salaried employee? Chris was able to list a number of reasons:

1) Flexibility

Chris finds the flexibility of being freelance beneficial. It helps him to work around deadlines and manage his time in ways that suit him:

“I work as a freelance SEO consultant and my next deadline is the 3rd of January but I chose to return to work on the 27th so I could return to a project. The flexibility to work when you want rather than 9-5 is a real a bonus! Most offices and many businesses are shut over the festive period. If you want to work in the “crimbo limbo” period (and don’t have any pressing fee-paying deadlines) you can use the time to plan, do admin, or study.”

Freelancers control their own calendars
Freelancers control their own calendars.

2) Autonomy

Another benefit of being freelance is having the autonomy to take time off as a when you choose. Chris really enjoys this freedom:

“I was able to take four days off before Xmas for an early celebration with my sister, without needing to consult anyone. In my last salaried role in a small company, I had leave denied due to short staffing which got in the way of my personal education.”

3) Controlling communication

One of the biggest stressors in employed roles can be the expectation to be responsive to clients around the clock. Being freelance means you have a lot more control over communication, as Chris explains:

“I have an away message on my email so I can choose to respond before my return date. I have an answerphone as my public phone number, so won’t be disturbed by any phone calls. Clients are at liberty to call me direct but won’t as a rule for the period 25/12 to 2/1 as I don’t have ‘emergencies’ in my role.”

As a freelancer, you set the rules as to when you are contactable.

4) Managing stress levels

Different people find different environments stressful. While some feel more relaxed in an employed environment, others find that the autonomy of freelance is less stressful.

Chris finds being freelance less stressful than being employed:

“Apart from finding and retaining clients, the stress is low. Thinking back to my last salaried role (10 years ago nearly) the ‘return to work’ often hung over me (sometime alongside a hangover) in holidays and weekends. As my own boss, I have never experienced this, as I am in relative control of my workload.”

Free yourself from 'return to work' anxiety
Freelance can free you from ‘return to work’ anxiety.

Disadvantages

As you’d expect, being a freelancer isn’t all fun and games. There are some drawbacks, especially over the festive period. For Chris, there are three main disadvantages:

  • Social life: Having to create or find your own Christmas party can be difficult. Chris usually tries to find a (free) networking event with a compelling free booze or grub proposition!
  • Uncertainty: Being freelance means learning to deal with the ongoing uncertainty of continued work.
  • Tax: The only vaguely work-related thing that hangs over the Xmas break for Chris is the need to complete his tax return before the end of January.

I tend to agree with Chris on this last one—tax is no fun. To make my life easier, I hooked myself up with an accountant.

Now, all I have to do is keep track of income and expenditure (which is easy) and put aside twenty percent of everything that gets paid into the company account. I keep this in a tax account for when the time comes to pay up. I probably won’t need everything I put aside—which means a nice bonus.

My accountant will do all my end of year stuff for both my company and for myself as the director. I use Ozkan in Brighton and have found them super supportive.

Avoid freelance tax stress by getting an accountant
Avoid freelance tax stress by getting an accountant.

Takeaway

For Chris, being freelance is—on balance—the life for him. And it seems more and more members of our community are coming to the same conclusion. Get in touch with Chris to discuss his experience or find out more about what he does at seolondonsurrey.co.uk.

With the growth of co-working, the social drawbacks of being freelance are slowly disappearing. I co-work from Platf9rm. It’s a gorgeous space with a growing community, great coffee, and jam-packed schedule of awesome events.

Getting our sing on at the Platf9rm Christmas social.

The uncertainty aspect of freelance life is real and does put some people off. But, for me, freedom, flexibility—and the feeling of self-worth you get from being able to set your own day rate—make that uncertainty worth it.

Plus, I know that if the freelance work dries up, I can just go out and get a job.

If you’re part of a community like Brighton Digital Women, this something you can feel confident about too.

Working in digital, we’re incredibly privileged to have skills that are in high demand. And great jobs frequently come up at the companies our members work at. We know from experience that our members are always happy to recommend good candidates.

Brighton Digital Women meetup
This what a Brighton Digital Women speak panel looked like at one of our meetups. We’re a friendly bunch!

If you’re planning to go freelance in 2018, come speak to me at our next meetup and I’ll be happy to share my experiences. And I’m sure others will too—several of our members took the leap in 2017, and haven’t looked back.

Our next event is Monday January 8th from 7pm at Eagle Labs Brighton. We’ll be exploring wellbeing in life and at work, with speakers sharing their approaches to positive mental health.

Find out more & book my free ticket


Brighton-born freelance writer and content strategist by day. Brighton Digital Women director by night. I mainly write about health, wellbeing, and marketing. When I'm not writing, I indulge my passion for connecting people through our inclusive events.

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