It only occurred to me earlier today that in one week's time it'll be Bank Holiday Monday, marking the first of two national days off in May.
Now while most people are jumping up and down in excitement and counting down the hours till Friday when they can turn their out-of-office on and skip out of the office, the same can't be said for freelancers.
I used to be one of those people, getting excited about what I'd do with my day off - would I explore some vintage markets, enjoy a lazy lie-in, go out for brunch or see friends? But these days, it's a different story.
The overriding feeling when I found out it was bank holiday next week was 'Oh no! I'll lose money!'. One of the biggest downsides of working for yourself is not getting any holiday pay. People may be surprised at what you can earn if you could fill your entire day with work, but they don't take into account the fact that you can't - or shouldn't - work 365 days of the year. We have to account for the days off that are unpaid so we aren't left penniless every few months.
So freelancers are left with two options when it comes to bank holidays - suck it up, switch off Facebook for a day and ignore all your friends who are either catching up on their favourite boxsets or having a BBQ outside, depending on the weather, and just accept you will have to work. Or, you can take the day off like everyone else and forfeit a day's wages.
Of course, this choice is taken out of your hands somewhat when you have school-age children, because you will obviously now have them to look after. So while you might have once been able to shut yourself away and pretend it's a normal working day, this is not a possibility anymore.
You either have to take unpaid leave (crisis!), work while the chaos erupts around you and your one-year-old bangs on the keyboard while your four-year-old runs around the house naked screaming Moana songs, or you count the hours till you can tuck them in bed and work at night. No drunken afternoons sipping Pimms outside for you - you just have to get your head down and tap away at the computer furiously for a few hours while your friends and relatives are in a blissful bank holiday tipsy fog.
But it isn't all bad. Apparently, nearly five million people registered as self-employed in 2016, and freelancers and business owners account for 16 per cent of the entire UK workforce. So there must be a good reason why.
Well, I can vouch for this. I may have to work bank holidays, or sacrifice eight days (!) of pay a year for the public breaks, But I have the flexibility to work when I want, where I want. It's just I might not want to work this Monday.
Knowing lots of working mothers who really struggle to please their bosses while feeling guilty for not being there at pick-up or rushing to collect a sick child from school while their colleagues tut when they're leaping through the office doors, I know I'm lucky really. I certainly feel the stress when unforeseen circumstances arise and a deadline is looming, but then at least I have the option of working late into the night and still being there for my girls when they're poorly.
Let's face it, working when you've got children is never simple. And it might mean I miss out on family time this weekend or have to cut back on expenses this month, but I wouldn't have it any. other way.
So, everyone who is enjoying a bank holiday break this weekend, I hope you have a fab time off and the sun comes out for you. (No seriously, I do - you deserve it for the times you've been made to feel bad for leaving early or have to rush to a doctor's appointment with your boss breathing down your neck)!
And those of you who are hiding away like me, I feel your pain. But at least we can work in our PJs.
For more information on what work we can do for you this Bank Holiday, take a look at what copywriting services we provide.
Mother's Day is fast approaching and I hope all mum, nanas, grandmas and guardians out there will be thoroughly spoiled this Sunday (March 6th). Even if you're not, and you still have to do the night feeds, or wake up at the crack of dawn, make the dinner and iron the school clothes, I hope the one thing you feel is loved - because all mums deserve to feel a bit special on this happy day.
That's why I've updated my somewhat neglected Diary Of A Mum To Be blog with a post about my hopes for this year's Mother's Day.
"Even if the only handmade card I get are the ones I make myself and our cuddles in bed are met with her jumping up and down singing “five little monkeys bouncing on a bed…”, I will still love every moment."
At the end of the day, all I really want is a smushy kiss from my baby girl, a little cuddle in bed and maybe fewer tantrums than usual. That'd be nice! (Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't say no to a relaxing bath, breakfast in bed or a big box of delicious chocolates though…)
Check out my Mother's Day blog here - and if you like the sound of it and would be interested in having me write for your parenting site, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.
Last week, I wrote about why January is such a slow time for freelancers. From tax return season to customers tightening the reins on their spending, there are many reasons why the beginning of the year is often the hardest time for the self-employed.
So I thought I’d give some advice for fellow freelancers who are twiddling their thumbs and don’t know what to do with the long stretch of day ahead of them. Hopefully, I’ll inspire myself too!
- Take stock of your stock
I always feel guilty about not writing enough content for my blog, not keeping on top of my website or Facebook page and not interacting enough on Twitter when I’m going through busy periods. So it’s a good idea to use this time wisely and update all your online profiles.
As copywriters, we bang on about the importance of social media and websites as marketing tools, but are the first to neglect our own channels when the work piles on. That’s why quiet times are great at stocking up on your web content, making sure it is optimised and relevant, and really getting into online networking. It all goes to helping to get your name out there for the next big project.
- Do your admin
It’s no coincidence that the quietest month of the year is also when tax returns are due. Not only are your clients’ finances tied up by the looming tax bill, but you also need the time to submit your own return.
With the deadline being January 31st for online submissions, it’s wise to spend the month making note of any expenses, sorting out your accounts, and doing your financial admin.
Even the simplest job, like registering for HMRC self-assessment or checking your National Insurance contributions can end up taking hours, so instead of panicking about it, use the spare time wisely and sort this out now.
If invoices are late, chase them up. And update your spreadsheets, invoicing systems, contracts, stock emails or filing systems (including your computer documents) while you’re at it.
Come springtime when you have lots more work, you’ll be pleased you have a much more efficient strategy at organising your invoices, contracts, bills and documents to keep your admin in order.
- Improve your skills
There’s always an opportunity to improve your skillset, so take advantage of the quiet time by signing up to webinars, doing online courses and going to classes. You might want to specialise in a certain area, learn about the latest Google algorithm changes that will affect your SEO strategy, or boost your skills in a different expertise, such as web design or proofreading.
Having up-to-date skills is very appealing for future clients, so it definitely worth investing in, even if you simply read books on your field of expertise to keep your knowledge relevant.
- Network, network, network
There is no better time to network than now, as most freelancers are in the same quiet boat. Whether you attend events, go to conferences, or simply chat with peers online, it will all help towards spreading your name.
I never realised how important who you know is in freelancing, but having contacts is crucial for work, so don’t let your networking slip during this downtime.
- Find new clients
It’s easy to get complacent with the clients you have, and you’ll probably wait it out until they offer you more work again. But it’s always worth finding more.
Unfortunately, as a freelancer you cannot rely on constant work from anyone and the turnover of clients is much higher than you might think. Therefore, pitching and sending out letters of introduction are integral at getting more work in the future.
While it’s difficult to do this when you’re swamped with work, this is the perfect time to make more contacts.
- Take a break
If you’re not tied down by school holidays, enjoy your freelance famine and take a break. There will be other times of the year when work has picked up and you’ll naturally feel guilty for having a week away. But this is not one of them.
To really enjoy a relaxing trip, book your holiday for January and you won’t need to check your emails every few minutes or have to turn down work.
What’s more, a much-needed break will recharge you, giving you motivation and energy to be better at your job once things pick up again in a few weeks.
For help with your content marketing campaign, give Natasha Al-Atassi Copywriting Services a call on 07774002599 or email us. We can help transform your website, blog, social media or promotional literature.
What does January mean to you? Detox diets, booze-free Fridays and penny pinching? Cold nights (and days), grey skies and wishing spring to arrive?
Well, for me and every other freelancer out there, it means all these things and more, because January is famously known as the month of the freelance famine.
What is the freelance famine?
I started Natasha Al-Atassi Copywriting Services properly in January 2015, so I naively thought the quiet month was simply the result of getting the company up and running and trying to a make a name for myself. What I didn’t realise was that the silence I experienced last year would, most likely, repeat itself year-in-year-out.
And I’m not alone – after a quick search online, I found hundreds of freelancers united over their complaints about January, dry for them in so many ways. It seems this month is simply a slow-go for all freelancers, whether you’re a copywriter like me, a musician, a videographer, a beautician or whatever.
If there’s anything more depressing than the end of Christmas, it’s knowing the famine is on its way as well.
Why is January so slow?
It turns out there are many reasons why January is so slow, which is why it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise when the emails stopped rolling in.
- Tax deadline
The first is it’s tax deadline month. The loom of January 31st hangs over bigger businesses just as much as it does freelancers, and companies try to conserve their spending to pay for their large annual tax bill at the end of the month.
That means anything unnecessary is ditched – and this includes us freelancers, at least until after tax day.
- Post-Christmas saving
Everyone overspends in December, whether it’s because of too many nights out and costly presents, or you’re a big business that purged a fortune on expensive Christmas parties and prize-giving ceremonies.
Come January, therefore, everyone is tightening their belts, and this has a knock-on effect for you and me. If your clients’ customers aren’t spending, your client won’t have the money coming in and, subsequently, they can’t afford to pay freelancers.
This is all part of the financial food chain, and how much consumers are spending at any given time directly impacts how much work you will receive. While spending drops, so will your work.
- No-one holidays in January
Do you find yourself getting busier at popular holiday times, such as during the summer or over Christmas? Well, there’s a reason for this. It’s because companies have fewer staff during these periods and that’s why they outsource copywriting freelancers.
However, unless you’re Simon Cowell who needs a month-long break in the Bahamas after The X Factor has finished, you’ll probably find most people stay at home during January, fighting the rubbish weather and post-Christmas diet without a hint of sunshine or a rum cocktail in sight.
And because of this, businesses don’t need to outsource their content as all their staff are in the office.
There’s not much you can do about this except wait it out and hope ski season and the half-term holiday give your famine a much-needed break.
Although, next year I think I’ll go on holiday.
Here's a great infographic I found about freelance writing careers. If you're interested in knowing a little bit more about our lives, read this.
FYI, I tick most of the boxes so it must be true!
Please include attribution to Freelancewritinggigs.com with this graphic.
Read my thoughts and ideas on the latest search engine updates and copywriting trends that could improve your business marketing plans.