Freelancing is the Wild West of workplaces. If you work for a corporation, you generally have something of a set schedule, certain goals that you are expected to meet, and repercussions for not meeting those goals -- as well as. At the end of the year, your progress is evaluated in a performance review.
As a freelancer, I set my own schedule, but I also do a structured annual self-review, where I summarize the year's successes and plan out the following year's big and small goals (with month-by-month financial figures and other types of quantifiable measures). I note where there is room for improvement, down to specific housekeeping changes I can make (for instance, doing my invoicing every Friday morning was on last year's list).
Here are 6 other things that are on my To-Do list for next week:
Do spring cleaning -- in December. When work is slow at the end of the year, take the time to neaten up. "Clean your office, organize your desk, empty your inbox, and clean out your closet," said Wendy Kenney, author of How To Build Buzz for Your Biz. You'll start the new year fresh and focused.
Catch your breath. One of the benefits of freelancing is freedom -- at its best, it's a perfect way to achieve work/life balance. But if you don't make yourself take time off, you'll always be working. "The end of the year is the perfect time to schedule some downtime to relax and re-energize. By saving money during the year so that you can afford to take extra time off in December, you can start the new year all charged up and ready to go," said Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli, workplace psychologist at Vocation Village.
Lower your tax load. "I make a point of sitting down with an accountant before the end of the year so that I can take any actions that would limit my tax burden that have to happen before the first," said freelance writer Thursday Bram. Need to buy a new computer? Start a new retirement fund? Do it now and pay less in April.
Take stock of your technology. "I reorder business cards to include my newest social media logos, add QR codes where applicable, revise my company invoice, etc. I also research and purchase new software that will streamline my daily responsibilities and make my work more efficient. This month's new purchase was Hootsuite," said Hunter Valmont, president of Hunter Valmont PR. What technological advances will help your next year be bigger and better?
Get paid what you're owed. It's nice to get paid on time, of course, but you may also actually save yourself some money by doing so. "Freelancers may want to accelerate income for the end-of-the-year to lock in a known tax rate now instead of an uncertain or possibly higher tax rate next year," said Michael Carney, owner of MWC Accounting. So follow up on invoices and ask for up-front payments for projects that will flow into next year, if possible.
Say thanks to those who help you. Even if you work alone, you have a "team." "The end of the year is prime time to pay it forward to those who keep us living the life-style," said entrepreneur Mike Monroe. So write a hand-written note to your most helpful contacts, clients, interns, IT guru and virtual assistants -- they'll thank you back with their continued loyalty and good work.