As 2012 draws rapidly to a close, I find myself busier than ever. One of my freelance clients wants me to tweak his contest application before its December submission deadline, while another client is in the midst of a major website overhaul that must be completed before the start of the ensuing fiscal cycle (i.e., January 1, 2013).
A potential client is asking me about copyediting in the new year. When it comes to freelance work, it’s been a blizzard out here! But, at the risk of sounding pompous, I’m not surprised. You see, the many year-end holidays of Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah, etc. actually create rather than shut down business opportunities. Likewise, the fact that we are on the verge of a new year means that many businesses are scrambling for help.
Why would holiday and year-end time result in more and not less business activity? And furthermore, how can you as a freelancer take advantage of this most wonderful (i.e., lucrative) time of the year? Here are some points to keep in mind about this time of year and why they can mean more freelance business for you.
Business fiscal budgets are cyclical
Many companies start and end their fiscal budget cycles at the actual start and end of the year. This means that, on January 1st, individual company departments receive X amount of money to hire employees, buy equipment, start work projects, etc.
By December 31st, if a given department has not spent all of its allotted money, its next year’s budget could actually be reduced. Thus, many departments will go into “Use it or Lose it” spending spree mode right around the holidays. Retailers know about these spending sprees and this is a big reason why stores like Staples, Best Buy, etc. have huge holiday sales on office furniture and equipment.
How can you benefit? You need not be in the business of selling office furniture or computers, of course. Potential clients that are scrambling to spend money may also have last minute projects to finish up. These projects have probably been on the back burner because the business didn’t know if it could afford them. Now, with extra cash on hand plus looming performance reviews in the new year, many corporate officers will be happy to work with freelancers who can come through during the holidays.
Holiday marketing is big business
Consumers significantly increase their discretionary spending on Black Friday and the party doesn’t stop until the last hangover of New Year’s Day. Thus, from affiliate markers to bloggers to other freelancers, everyone wants a piece of the consumer spending pie.
Sales execs, of course, are the most pressed to sell their goods and services in order to make a hefty commission and justify their existence to a company. The problem lies with how to create the necessary advertising and get noticed above all the other advertisers.
How can you benefit? After following a handful of businesses and analyzing their marketing strategies, you can contact them with ideas on how they might add to these strategies with targeted content, videos, banner ads, social media campaigns, etc.
If you are a freelance writer, now’s the time to offer a few content ideas. If you’re a graphic artist, consider creating a few small holiday-themed logos and presenting them to potential clients. With many businesses struggling to generate holiday-themed sales and promotions, your contributions might genuinely be appreciated- and hired.
Time and talent are limited
Holidays raise many an exec’s blood pressure because they limit the time left to adequately create and launch marketing initiatives that were planned months ago. Furthermore, I’ve witnessed more than one disgruntled boss try to keep employees’ thoughts on work rather than Christmas parties and vacations.
It’s just hard to get anything done when you have double or triple holidays in a row, plus snow, plus seasonal flu, plus kids on Christmas break, plus employees who want to be doing anything but work. Another, perhaps unspoken issue is employee turnover; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more employees quit in August than at any other month of the year. This means that, come Christmastime, a business will have filled some job vacancies but those new employees are still in training. Thus, many businesses are very likely to hire contractors who know their stuff and can hit the ground running.
How can you benefit? Keep tabs on which companies seem to be posting an excessive number of job openings; remember, every job opening means that someone is missing from the company. Keep up on industry news too; for example, if a company just released a new product, everyone’s time and attention will be focused on that shiny new bauble at the cost of other products. You might gently inquire about the other products and make suggestions on how they can still be promoted. The fact that you are interested in the company’s less flashy items will tell management that you are thinking behind the scenes.
What you shouldn’t do…
On a more cautionary note, here are some common mistakes that many freelancers make, causing businesses to shy away from them:
Sending unsolicited resumes or “clip” files. Freelancers often debate about sending unsolicited resumes or what’s popularly known in the business as an LOI, which stands for letter of introduction. No one has the time to rifle through your paperwork and decide where to place your services in the business. Rather, it is your freelance job to “tell” people what your main strengths are and where they can best be applied. The easier you make it for the business to just “plug” you in, the more likely you are to be hired.
Criticizing a business. It’s one thing to make soft suggestions on what a client can do to improve his/her bottom line; it’s quite another to pepper your approach with words like “wrong”, “outdated”, “you should have” and “you need to”. Never openly criticize any marketing plan that a business or individual is trying out; for all you know, this could be a brilliant idea that has historically generated lots of money. Instead, offer supplemental ideas that would complement those strategies currently in place. Let management decide what works and what doesn’t.
Over-promising. You can’t be good at and have experience in everything. Should you start over-promising on what you can deliver, your potential clients will suspect dishonesty. Even if you end up being hired, what then? Freelancers are, as I mentioned before, expected to hit the ground running. Start stumbling after your first week or two on the job and your clients will quickly show you the door. Thus, your best bet is to be honest, letting your clients know where you excel and also where your limitations lie.