A freelancer’s guide to surviving Christmas

With Christmas well and truly upon us, spare a thought for the freelance community. They are the brave few who strove to break away from the PAYE racket, riding out alone to pick up the strain where others before them have fallen. And while there are riches to be found on this gallant frontier, the road is hazardous – never more so than when Yuletide roles in from the distant hills and paying clients take a long winter’s nap.

…Or something like that. The truth is that, while freelancing, contracting and being in some way self-employed is a form of living the dream for many people, there are certain periods in the year where work becomes a little too quiet, and things start to feel less than watertight.

Christmas is one of these periods, and so – in the interests of helping our own freelance community to make the most of their upcoming holidays ­– we thought we’d throw together a quick guide to getting through it all unscathed… and possibly even a little more tax-happy.

Have a slap-up celebration, courtesy of the taxman

Of course, you have to earn the cash in the first place, so this isn’t really courtesy of the taxman, but many limited companies will be delighted to discover that you can take your clients out for a Christmas celebration at £150 per head, providing you keep your receipts and make sure your friendly online accountant is informed. Don’t you just wish it could be Christmas every day?

Prepare to take the strain

If you’re planning for a cosy and stress-free Christmas, make sure your finances can take the coming strain. Are you prepared for a Christmas-shaped hole in your balance sheet come January? If not, it might be a better idea to save your big annual holiday until less frigid months. Sorry, but bah humbug!

Get up to sleigh speed

If you haven’t already, talk to your clients about their plans for the holidays. Are they expecting you to be on call on days other than Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, or are they taking that long winter’s nap we mentioned earlier? Christmas is a time for goodwill towards your fellow man – difficult when your fellow man is angrily berating you for not showing up to work post-Boxing Day. To quote the legendary Bob Hoskins, ‘It’s good to talk’.

Turn off, tune out

If your clients have decided to disappear for a couple of weeks and you’ve got your heart set on that big annual holiday, make sure you do it properly. Throw your phone into a snowdrift. Conveniently let the elves run off with your iPad. Spill mulled wine across your laptop. Whatever it takes to cut you off from the world outside your igloo, it’s worth a go.

‘Hibernating. Do not disturb’

If blogging is a big part of your business, wish your readers a happy hibernation and let them know when they can expect to hear from you again. Meanwhile, get your ‘New Year, New You’ article ready for January 4. Everybody else will be doing one, and you don’t want to miss out on all of that extra traffic*.

That damned self-assessment won’t do itself…

If you simply can’t keep away from the work, use your clients’ downtime to your benefit. Plan for the coming year. Update your business plan. Get your self-assessment done.

Actually, at the risk of sounding like hectoring accountants, that last point is worth repeating. Get your self-assessment done. If you’re leaving it until the end of January, then you’re leaving it until the last minute. Here are a couple of dates for your diary. The self-assessment is due on Jan 31, 2016, and your VAT is due by Jan 7. If you need help, get in touch with us at My Accountant Friend. We’d be happy** to spend some of our Christmas holidays doing it for you.

* Sarcasm alert. That said, ours is already written.
** Make of this what you will…

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