Freelance finance: Avoid getting stuffed this Christmas

All freelances dread that après-Christmas drought when journalism just about shuts down. Since you know it’s going to happen, you might as well try to do something about it.

First, think ahead financially. Hold back on the Christmas and New Year spending to ensure you can get through January, with that whacking great big tax bill at the end of the month. And in any dead days after Christmas, you could do a bit of financial planning, bring your accounts up to date and send out reminders to clients who owe you money.

Make certain you remind all your regular clients that you are out there and willing to work. You want your name at the forefront of their minds when that emergency (or cock-up) means they actually do need someone at five milliseconds’ notice.

Seek outlets that react less directly than the mainstream print media to the immediate flow of advertising. Have a go at websites, for example, or part-works, or contract publishers, or trade-union journals, or government publications, or anything subscription based.

Look abroad. Can you think of outlets overseas, perhaps in parts of the world that operate on a different commercial rhythm to Christmas-fixated Britain?

Crank up some re-use of material you’ve already got. Can you re-work it? Or can you offer it elsewhere? You could investigate syndication agencies or find out how to set up your own website.

Think long term. You could cover some events now, off your own bat, which may not make for immediate reportage, but could provide you with preview pieces you could place in 11-and-a-half months’ time. Call it forward planning.

Link up with other freelances for a thought-bombing session. It’s always easier to tell other people what to do so there’s every chance they’ll throw up an idea you could run with.

Roam around aimlessly. Until you go looking you don’t know what’s out there. I’m sitting on an interview I carried out one actual Christmas Day, for example. It’s with a travelling physiotherapist I ran across in Hyde Park who claimed to have treated George Bush senior.

Offer to do some journalistic work for the kind of outlets that don’t have any money – websites you like, campaigns you support, whatever. Putting yourself in motion means you’re in there with a chance. Who knows, you might run into a commissioning editor at a press conference you otherwise wouldn’t have gone to.

Finally, get some extra training, whether in journalistic skills or useful aspects of how to go about freelancing.

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