7 Ways to Survive the Holiday Slump

Dec 26, 2017 | Stephen Jackson

If you’re a freelancer, you probably have mixed feelings about the holidays — I certainly do. While I love this part of the year, it’s also a bit nerve-wracking since the time I seem to spend the most money is the same month in which nobody is hiring.

I really wish we could just throw in the towel as a society and not work from Thanksgiving until two days after New Year’s. At least then I wouldn’t be driving myself nuts trying to scare up jobs when budgets are shot, people are checked out, and pretty much no one is looking to hire a creative nomad.

But we can’t. So, what to do? The truth is, there’s no easy answer, but here are some ideas to help take you across the finish line this year.

Plan Ahead

While it might be too late this year, it’s at least something to take into account for 2018. I imagine that I bring in about half of my normal haul in December, and it’s a perfect example of what’s called “lumpy income”. To offset this deficit, squirrelling away a few hundred bucks a month starting at the end of summer can mean the difference between making your mom a macaroni portrait for Christmas or getting her a real gift. (Unless macaroni’s her thing, of course.)

Infrastructure Management

Let’s say you didn’t plan ahead and your inbox is staying empty. Perhaps it’s time to go deep on some of those tasks you never have time for otherwise. Perhaps your website needs some love. Maybe it’s time you created that spreadsheet of contacts from that stack of business cards sitting on your desk. In fact, why not redesign your home office? Mine is currently looking insane. There are tons of important tasks that are easy to put off when things are busy. This is actually a great time to dig in and prepare to start the new year fresh.

Be a Pinch Hitter

This will look different depending on what it is you do, but there are certainly some opportunities around the holidays if you know where to look. One year I picked up a day’s work subbing for my buddy who wrote full-time for a news site. It was the day after Christmas, and I ended up writing a piece about… Christmas trees. It was a breeze.

Point being, other people are taking time off during the holidays, and if you are willing to cover for people, it could mean some much-needed cash. Reach out to your professional network and see what’s out there.

Season’s Greetings

If you have an email list, this is a great time to send a message to everyone who’s supported you throughout the year — or at least shown some interest in what you do. Use this as an opportunity to link back to your website for any year-end promotions you have going on, or if you have a blog, highlight some of your best-performing stories.

Take an Actual Break

If you can swing it, do it. The paradox of being your own best and worst boss is very real, and it can be easy to forget to practice some self-care. Taking a week or two to truly recharge can pay off big time in the long run. You might as well do it while everyone else is.

Hit the Books

Much like tinkering with the website and brushing up on your business contacts, it’s often easy to overlook big-picture stuff when you’re freelancing. During the year, if you’re in a groove with a few clients, you might not be focusing on where you’re headed in the grand scheme of things. Take this time to reflect on the past year and to set up some goals for the one ahead. Do some research on what else is out there, work-wise, and perhaps even take a short online class.


Turn this period of time into your “strategy month.” True, the lack of income might be stressful, but the steady routine you may have found while working from home might also need some shaking up. If the money’s not coming in from outside, invest some time in yourself. It might pay off this time next year.