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 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.
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?
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?
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.