ICBA Blog

The Independent Contractor’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays

 Manage your time, your budget, and your sanity like a pro

The holidays can be a tricky and stressful time for the independent contractor. That stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve can turn into a mad rush to get things done. Clients reach out with last-minute projects. Holiday parties with family and friends fill up the calendar. And the season can wreak havoc on even the best budgeters. These five tips will help you get through it with aplomb and have fun amidst the jingling bells.

Learn to say no and set boundaries with clients.
Likely you’ve already got a hefty to-do list and limited time to complete your tasks as the year winds down. Your clients probably feel the same and will be looking to outsource more work. They may contact you to handle big projects with crunched timelines. Be wary of taking them on, even if you want the cash. If a timeline is unrealistic and you can’t meet it, no one will feel good about the end result. If you do take on the work and miss out on holiday fun, you might feel stressed and resentful. Be honest. Your clients will respect your desire to manage their expectations. Offer them alternative solutions, like a deadline early in the new year, and they may be game—a win-win for everyone.

Be clear with friends and family.
Maybe your mom assumes that because you work remotely you can come home early for the big family gathering. Or maybe your friends assume that because you don’t work 9 to 5, you have more time to plan a New Year’s Eve bash. Again, be honest. Don’t let others take over your schedule. If you need to work while visiting out-of-town family or friends, let them know ahead of time so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Plan a quiet place to get the work done, where you’re not infringing on others, and distractions are limited. Squirrel yourself away in a guest room for a few hours, if possible, or locate a coffee shop or a co-working space nearby that fits the bill. Don’t work through your entire stay. That’s rude to your hosts; plus, you’ll miss out on the good times.

Take time for yourself.
A full work schedule, a packed social calendar, and hosting duties of your own can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Try to take time for yourself during the holiday season too. Get some exercise, schedule a massage, have fun decorating or baking, or just kick up your feet.

Be mindful of spending.
The holiday season can quickly derail your finances if you aren’t careful. Avoid impulse buys, make lists and stick to them, search for bargains online, and shop early if possible. Get creative with gift-giving whenever possible. Small, meaningful gifts won’t wreck your wallet and will be cherished by the recipient.