Have yourself a freelance little Christmas

Christmas is a-coming. Apparently!

It’s a funny old time of year for freelancers. I remember my first Christmas as a self-employed person, one of my clients was heading off to the staff “do” after our call and as I put the phone down I felt completely deflated. “Hang on a cotton-picking minute. When’s MY Christmas do? I’ve been robbed here! Where’s my turkey dinner, itchy jumper and excess of cheap house wine?”

That first year, my non-existent Christmas party was on a par with a previous job where our Christmas “do” consisted of my boss getting us Turkey and stuffing sandwiches from Tesco to eat at our desks. I shit you not! He didn’t even get the bloody meal deal.

Some clients do invite you along. Which depending on your point of view may be brilliant or your idea of utter hell. If you go during the day to something, you’re obviously knocking out a large chunk of the all-important billable hours, because you can’t charge to go to lunch, can you? But, if you are based a way away a generous invite to a nice client lunch might actually feel quite expensive to say yes to – missing vital billable hours at your desk (time there and travel time), paying for travel costs. That all quite hurts. I am invited to one Christmas lunch which is just the two of us, I look forward to that as it’s usually the only time I see my client year to year and that is totally worth it for me. But the idea of a huge staff event where I won’t know most people fills me with horror and I do decline those if they ever come up.

So, I now have my own version of a company Christmas lunch. Myself and a fellow freelancer have begun what I hope will become a tradition. The last working Friday before Christmas, we leave our cars at home, book child and dog sitters respectively and have a posh lunch. We then totter quite merrily along a few bars until we feel enough cocktails have been partaken of to get us in the festive mood. If we aren’t sure, we’ll have another one just to be on the safe side. I highly recommend it if you can find a fellow freelancer.

And gifts! More trauma. As a PA, I was given most years a lovely gift by those I was looking after. I was so lucky, I got all sorts of fabulousness over the years (in the form of many designer handbags mostly). But as a VA it is different, the people I look after are my clients and therefore, if anything, I should get them a gift by way of thanks for their business. I tried it one year with very nice bottles of wine but honestly it just felt a bit pants and pointless and a lot of effort. You can’t write on the bottles “this is a really expensive bottle of wine” which is of course what you want to do. But a bottle of wine just looks like a bottle of wine – whether it’s £5.99 or £35. Really to make a gift worthwhile it needs to be impactful and my budget doesn’t stretch to that (especially when you can’t claim it as a business expense!).

On the bright side, we don’t have to pretend to “work from home” like all these employed people do. I know, you know and they (and their boss knows!) that “WFH” between Christmas and New Year looks like doing whatever the hell you want and checking your phone twice in the hugely unlikely event of anyone sending anything work related. Of course, we aren’t being paid to sit about eating chocolate oranges and bickering over box sets. But we don’t need to pretend to work either. And we’re unlikely to miss the office rota system that means one poor schmuck every day has to go into the office just to show willing. It’s probably freezing cold. There’s no one in. Your intention to clear the decks ahead of the New Year and finally catch up on the filing will go totally to pot as you are so depressed that everyone else is having fun that you spend 3 hours on Facebook moaning about having to sit in an empty office and "what is the point?" and the remainder of the time looking up holidays in the sun.

So, as we head into the festive season, what makes being freelance the best? Not having to beg to get time off for the school nativity? Going Christmas shopping on any day you want? Not having to go to the office party with a load of people you normally have to be paid to spend time with? Or picking your own not-very-secret Santa gift?

If you know anyone that would like a lovely Virtually Painless book for Christmas, you can get it here.