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Tips for the holiday slump season

Text & Photos: Julie Schwietert Collazo

Many of my writer friends agree: the holidays are a writer’s most and least favorite time of year.

Most because they finally get to take a breath and peel their fingers away from the keyboard as work slows down; few editors are reading pitches and queries.

Least because few editors are reading pitches and queries, making that month-long stretch of winter a financially uncertain time.

Typically, I’ve been of the same mind (in fact, I think I even wrote something about this last December), but this year I’m in a good place; I’ve got plenty (too much, probably) of work to keep me chugging through the holidays and into 2013.

If that’s not the case for you, though, and you’re feeling on edge about the slow season of the freelance life, here are a few pro tips for housekeeping that will set you up for a successful new year.

Thank the editors you've worked with in 2012.

Thank the editors you’ve worked with in 2012.

Thank the editors you’ve worked with this year.
Undoubtedly, you’ve had moments where you’ve felt frustrated with your editors, but they’re also your champions– the ones who fight for your words and carry them to a wider readership. In the best situations, they’re the folks who help you grow as a writer. They’re also incredibly undervalued and rarely thanked, so sending a note, whether via snail mail or e-mail, to express your gratitude for their support is one way to busy yourself during the slump season and continue building the relationships that are so crucial to your career.

Similarly, you may want to write a note of thanks to some of your sources, especially those who have offered their knowledge and insights repeatedly.

Organize your receipts.
If you view writing as a business (and there are many reasons why you should), then now is the time to finish organizing your 2012 receipts and set up your organizational system for 2013.

There are systems that are far more sophisticated than mine, which is a simple file-by-expenditure-type system. I make envelopes for about a dozen different categories (including transportation; lodging; postage; books/magazines; conferences and professional membership fees; clothing; tech and services; and utilities) and all year long, I file away my receipts as they accumulate.

One simple system for organizing receipts for tax deductions.

One simple system for organizing receipts for tax deductions.

At the end of the year, I seal them all up in a larger brown envelope and then deposit the whole shebang on the desk of my accountant come tax time.

Set up your tracking systems.
I’m good at keeping track of my receipts, but my records for incoming payments are decidedly less organized, and in 2013, I’m determined to make a better effort at keeping tabs on the money I’ve got coming in. I’d love to hear what your own tools are for tracking income; some friends use Quickbooks, others set up a simple Google docs spreadsheet, and I suspect plenty have a non-system like mine.

Sort your clips.
What, where, and how much did you publish in 2012?

You may have a sense of what you accomplished, but until you see it all in a single place, organized, with links to any clips available online, you may not really know just how much work you did in 2012.

And neither will anyone else, if it’s not organized.

There are plenty of different ways to present and share this information; here’s how I manage mine.

If you already have a section on your blog, website, or other platform (like MediaBistro), then make sure links are all functional.

Draft your 2013 publication goals.
Where do you want to be published in 2013?

What types of pieces do you want to be writing?

How do you want to expand your subject repertoire?

Write them down.

Draft your 2013 financial goals.
As with publication goals for the incoming year, draft your financial goals. How much do you want and need to make? What will it take to achieve that goal?

Get offline.
Take advantage of the slump season to spend time with family and friends, those who are often neglected by us when we’re up to our eyes in work.

And if you just can’t stand not feeling productive, schedule coffee or drinks with colleagues you’ve been meaning to see.

Getting away from the computer for a while is really restorative.

What do you do during the holiday slump season? Share your tips below.


6 responses »

  1. Thanks for this. I’m awful about the clips thing — I haven’t updated the clips on my website in more than a year, possibly two. (Eek.) But I love the idea of taking stock of one’s work, and setting goals for the future. Re: tracking income, I use a Google spreadsheet. I’m not 100 percent happy with it, mainly being how much time it takes to manually enter everything. I recently came across Wave, a free accounting system for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Have you seen it? I signed up for an account but haven’t dug into it yet.

    • Julie Schwietert Collazo

      Oh, Lesley, update your clips now! You have some incredible ones!
      I haven’t heard of Wave, so thanks for mentioning it. I’m off to Google it right now!

  2. When I’m sorting my clips, I also update my website, my relevant online profiles (LinkedIn, TravMedia, etc.), send the clips to relevant PR folks, save all related emails and scan all hard copies of related article materials into one folder, then move it all out of my *working* space and back it up to a hard drive. It’s a time-consuming process, but it finally closes the door on any given article.

  3. This is really helpful. I’ve taken on a lot more work in the last few weeks, so being organized in 2015 is going to be key.

    • Julie Schwietert Collazo

      Hi, Brianna- Sorry that I just saw this comment. I’m glad the post was helpful. Here’s to an organized 2015!

      • Brianna Soloski

        No worries! I have to be much more organized in ’15. I have way more work heading into 2015 than I had heading in 2014.

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