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Virginia Durksen

The Inner Editor: December Is the Cruellest — and Shortest — Month

Copyright: nikkytok / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: nikkytok / 123RF Stock Photo

The little knot forming in your chest isn’t a reaction to the cold weather. It’s the freelance editor’s anxiety kicking in right on schedule, just before the holidays.

When projects disappear in other months, the freelance editor adjusts her schedule and cash flow projections and stoically reminds herself that this month’s famine may well be next month’s feast. She turns to sharpening her pencils and organizing her style guide collection, adjusts various thermostats as needed and picks up the phone to connect with clients.

When paid work disappears suddenly in December, we feel a different sort of pinch. A Grinch sort. Holidays filled with good cheer are overshadowed by non-billable hours and the pressure to spend money we are no longer earning. Any holiday will do, but December offers unique pressures that also drain our inner reserves.

To add to the financial pressure, it’s hard to feel festive when everyone else at the Christmas party seems to have lots of work to talk about.

With these December blues in mind, I offer the following gift basket for those of us who need a break from the daily hustle that freelancing demands of us. Keep these in mind when you’re planning for the same lull next year!

For your own business: Change the focus of your hustle

Offer seasonal services that are paid and delivered before Christmas:

  • team up with a local printer to write, edit and format Christmas letters
  • submit a “How to write a great Christmas letter/Facebook post” piece to a local charity; include a promotional offer for a quick edit of readers’ Christmas letters in exchange for donations to a local charity

Offer gift certificates for services that are prepaid in December but delivered after Christmas:

  • academic editing for grad students
  • resumé and cover letter editing for future job hunters
  • services to produce photo gift books for special events in the year ahead: weddings, graduations, anniversaries
  • interviewing, coaching and editing services to help grandparents write a family heritage book

Give your business a gift. Get busy creating work tools for the year ahead:

  • templates for building proposals, making estimates and summarizing projects
  • new editing tools and shortcuts

For your clients: Adjust your practices

  • Set a strict down payment policy for December projects. Delay if you must, but at least the money is in your pocket.
  • Call to ask your clients how they deal with business cycles, including the work gap we all experience as the year turns. Ask if they have small projects for you to tackle during the quiet hours between Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Offer seasonal services at a reasonable rate: a December guest blog for a client’s website, for example.
  • Ask corporate clients to donate the “cost” of providing your editing services to a local charity for the coming year.

For your colleagues: Exchange gifts

Find out who else is suddenly without work. Have a gift exchange:

  • Write guest blogs and exchange links.
  • Research small business funding opportunities for the coming year.
  • Exchange hours to develop new skills: your marketing ideas for their Acrobat expertise.

Finally, unplanned time off is a gift we can all use. Slow down and open up to the reasons you live and the people you love. Enjoy the December pause!

~~~

Previous post from Virginia Durksen: Introvert, Know Thyself.

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11 Comments on “The Inner Editor: December Is the Cruellest — and Shortest — Month”

  • Margaret F. Sadler

    says:

    Great ideas, Virginia!
    I don’t mind the December lull too much; it’s time to do more professional reading and tidy the desk (eventually). I have a tradition of delivering Christmas cookies to my clients–this year, I met one client face-to-face for the first time; a regular client looks forward to our annual check-in; another client was out of the office, but I’ve left an invitation to talk in the new year. New clients are surprised; long-time clients let me know they’ve been counting on those cookies!

    • Virginia Durksen

      says:

      Yes! That little bit of spare time is also an opportunity to slow down and spread a little cookie cheer, Margaret.

      I hear cookies do well by mail if you pack them properly. Address to follow…

      Merry Christmas!

  • Anita Jenkins

    says:

    One of the phrases I have heard very often from Ms Durksen: «I’ve got an idea!» The idea machine is still in great working order.

    • Virginia Durksen

      says:

      What’s the point of having a free lance if you can’t use it to march off in several directions? The idea machine doesn’t take time off at Christmas.

      Do you remember the year I threw the big office party for the rest of us? Freelance editors can be quite a festive lot if you give them a reason to gather.

      Merry Christmas, Anita.

  • Virginia,

    You’re right that cancelled work in December is especially difficult to deal with—another reason is that it’s much more difficult to find people in the office, and if you do, they aren’t in the mood to focus on new projects; they’re scrambling to finish up, not start up anything new—likely they will say, «I might have some stuff but I can’t focus on it now—can I call you after the new year?»

    So I’ve learned to just make good use of any down time in December (I used to be panicked into taking low-paying work then, but no more!). And be right by my phone on January 2!

    • Virginia Durksen

      says:

      I agree, Elizabeth. In many ways, keeping calm is also a great approach to the entire season.

      Merry Christmas!

  • Anne Brennan

    says:

    Wonderful ideas, Anita! Thank you for writing this. It’s a Christmas gift to all of us!

    • Anne Brennan

      says:

      Rats! I meant wonderful ideas, Virginia! I think I need a holiday. :/

      • Virginia Durksen

        says:

        And who better to be confused with than Ms. Jenkins!

        Merry Christmas, Anne.

  • Naomi Pauls

    says:

    Thanks so much for your helpful tips, Virginia. (I loved your reference to «various thermostats.»)

    Every year I tell myself I will stop work December 15, but inevitably I find myself still logging hours a week later. Now I know why (fear of the lull). I think the only solution is to book a flight somewhere!

    At least this year I did get a little early «spirit» by selling books (and my services) at three holiday fairs. It was a great way to connect with those elusive book readers, see what attracts them to certain titles, and hear their stories.

    Happy holidays to all my editing colleagues across Canada!

  • Virginia Durksen

    says:

    I like the idea of setting yourself up to connect with readers just as season begins. What a great way to start your own holiday break.

    Happy holidays!

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