There are two types of freelancers in the world when it comes to the holiday season: those who are crazy busy and start planning for the holidays in summer, and those who take advantage of the quiet time to reflect and get ahead for the following year.

No matter which you are, there are ways to get the most out of this holiday season — and whether or not you want to believe it, the holidays are fast approaching. Here’s how you can make the most of holiday crazy time or downtime as a freelancer or business owner.

If your holidays are quiet

The times when you and your clients are on vacation and spending time with family is a great opportunity to get ahead. This shouldn’t be at the expense of your own down time, but if managed effectively, you can take advantage of your saved time and energy to accomplish meaningful tasks. Here’s how.

1) Streamline your schedule

Take advantage of the quiet time to reflect on how you’ve spent your time and energy throughout the year. Look at your calendar to see what meetings you’ve had and take notes on which were beneficial and which wasted your time so you know what to say no to in the following year.

Think back to when you were most productive and happiest in doing your work. This could reflect a location, a time of day, environment or other conditions such as how much you slept the night before or how many people you were surrounded by, etc.

Now create a schedule for your days. If I were to go through this exercise, my calendar would look something like this:

All the times without something slotted are for heads-down focused work time for activities such as writing
All the times without something slotted are for heads-down focused work time for activities, such as writing

The trick is to stick with this new schedule. Try to be flexible, as mandatory meetings and social occasions will pop up, but by having your schedule recorded, you’ll create a routine that encourages productivity.

2) Build out your content calendar

The holidays are the perfect time to begin planning your content for the following year. Start brainstorming topics that you want to publish for your blog posts, videos, ebooks, infographics, podcasts, etc.

To get started, look at your analytics from the past year to determine what type of posts performed best. Check out this guide to conducting a full content strategy audit we put together. We recently went through this exercise, which resulted in an editorial schedule that has really worked for us so far!

After conducting your audit and identifying topics that our bound to bring you traffic, start building out your calendar. Here are some great resources:

3) Conduct competitor analysis

This is also a perfect time to reflect on and conduct research around any experiments you want to try. In our experience, experiments are often driven by a desire to remain competitive.

Do some research around what marketing tactics your (or your clients’) competitors are using. Take a look at the type of content they’re producing and how it has performed. Here are some first steps to get you started.

Since you’ve already nailed down target topics with your audit, a good first step is to research what has already been written and what has performed well. To do this, go to Buzzsumo.com and search for a key term, such as “remote work” – if that’s a topic of interest for you. The results will be the most popular articles in terms of social shares.

buzzsumo-remote-work

With this information, start keeping a list of competitors — whether they’re directly competing with your business (what you sell) or just competing for your audience’s attention (with content). If they’re not a direct competitor, they’re likely a potential partner. We suggest using a spreadsheet to keep track of both.

As you collect company names and specific content they’ve produced, check out the rest of their blog posts, landing pages, social media posts, etc. Make note of follower count and engagement metrics such as comments, likes and retweets. Look at the type of language they’re using and where they’re curating content from. If they don’t use a social count plug-in, check out SharedCount.com to see how many times a post has been shared to determine virality.

Do a search for the company’s name without the handle on social media sites like Twitter to see what people are saying about the company and how high the volume is. Not only will this give you a sense of who the competition is, you’ll spot opportunities to fill the gap where they’re not performing.

The most important step in conducting a competitor analysis is to sign up for their product. Go through their onboarding process, read all of their communications. Make notes on the experience to share with you team. This can be as lightweight as sharing bulletpoints in Slack! Here are some guides to an effective competitor analysis:

4) Make a list of who you want to work with

We mentioned partnerships earlier. Take this time to start a wish list of other companies and people you want to work with in the coming year. Reflect on who has stood out to you in your or your client’s industry. Read up on interesting articles and take note of who was mentioned as a thought leader.

This works for identifying dream clients too!

Start collecting their contact info and building a relationship on social media or their site. David Khim from Sidekick recently shared a step-by-step guide to influencer outreach that can also be applied to reaching out to potential partners!

5) Plan out a big project

Downtime is great for focusing and generating ideas on your own time. It could be when you’re on a run, in the shower or doing something fun with your family or friends. Try to carve out some time to brainstorm a big project you want to accomplish in the next year that relates to your overarching goals. Then sit down and write out a plan of attack – the tactics you’d use to get it going, who needs to be involved and next steps.

6) Reflect on accomplishments and lessons for the year

We’re always so focused on the future that it’s easy to forget to celebrate our past accomplishments. Take some time over the holidays to reflect on all of your wins for the past year – big or small. You deserve to celebrate. Plus, reflecting on wins and lessens can renew your motivation for the next year while making it easier to set clear priorities.  

7) Relax and reset

With so many things going on at all times, freelancers and business owners are prone to burnout. Take some time to rest and reset. The result will be a clearer mind and vision for the next year.

If your holidays are go time

If you don’t have the luxury of taking much time off during the holidays because it’s prime-marketing time for your or your client’s business, you can still crush this holiday season like you never have before. Here are a few ideas to bring your holiday campaign to the next level while preparing for the following year (so maybe then you can take more time off). 😉

8) Create a reporting system for next year

As your holiday marketing strategy is being implemented, pay attention to how you’re tracking your KPIs and results. Have you identified holes in your existing strategy? Or maybe new opportunities have popped up, such as a new customer touchpoint you hadn’t planned for. As you spot these, start creating a new, more effective reporting system to apply to your holiday strategy next year.

Keep track of which channels are most effective. Is email driving the most traffic to your campaign? Pause whatever else isn’t performing as well – let’s say social marketing – and put more time and resources to email. Then fold these realizations into your strategy for the following year.

9) Team up with someone on workload

Since the holidays are a slow time for so many freelancers, finding an extra pair of hands or two to help execute your campaign should be pretty easy. Reach out to freelancers looking for extra work to bring your campaign to the next level. They can help with social outreach, influencer outreach, writing – whatever you need.

That way, you’re able to focus on the overarching strategy and responding to incoming sales leads – depending on the campaign. To find help, of course there’s CloudPeeps, but you can also check out Facebook groups such as The Freedom to Freelance Project, Dreamers // Doers Jobs or Albert’s Jobs.

10) Make an impact

Can your company or client afford to donate some of the proceeds of your campaign to charity? Can you help make the holiday season a little bit brighter for a family in need? Rally some members of your team to make a true difference in someone else’s life.

Or maybe you have an incredible story to tell that’s sure to get heard through all the holiday noise that you haven’t thought of. For inspiration, check out how Charity Water shares their story and gets members involved in their marketing campaigns.

It’s still early. Take this time now to think outside of the box. Do something beyond your typical holiday sale or meme. Brainstorm with your team on what you can do for your community this holiday, then build a campaign around that. Freelancers can be incredible helpful here as well, as they provide an outsider’s perspective with fresh ideas.

Do something that’s going to make you stand out among your competitors, but that’s also going to make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished. After all, if you’re working so hard over the holidays, you might as well do something that you can be proud of.

11) Use your holiday campaign to build lasting relationships

Make sure that you’re recording new customers captured through your campaign. Get to know them and keep communications going post-holiday season. You want to recruit customers that are going to be lasting and loyal, not one-stop shoppers. You can do this manually using a spreadsheet, but you’re much better off tracking customer relationships with a program like Intercom.io.

Final thoughts

We seem to be compelled to focus on the stress that holidays bring rather than the joy. Try to relax whether it’s busy season for you or not. Take advantage of the help available to you and have fun with whatever it is you’re working on!

Do you need some help with your holiday campaign? We have Peeps with expertise in content, community, social media and public relations ready to help. Get to know them today.

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CloudPeeps Team
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  • Emily

    It’s the reflection part that’s my favorite. But I’m not quite ready for it to be that time of year!

    • Me neither, but like the winter…it’s coming. Thanks for the comment, Emily!

  • These are fantastic ideas! I am in a low-client-workload season right now and have been trying to brainstorm ways to use my time efficiently and productively.. I am bookmarking this post because it has so many great ideas!! Thank you!

    • Awesome! So happy to hear it’s helpful. Thanks Jordan!

  • These are awesome tips, Shannon! It brings back memories of when I used to freelance. Another great tip that I might suggest during holiday seasons is actually to reach out to all your previous clients and just follow up to see how they’re doing. It’s a great way to follow up and indirectly remind them that you’re available for work. Thanks for taking the time to write this!