Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

6 Tips for Preparing for The Holidays

6 Tips for Preparing for The Holidays

My Thanksgiving holiday was spent desperately trying to recover from a terrible cold. Not wanting to spread my germs to others, I mostly stayed with my immediate family, opting not to see friends or extended family this time. (Sorry! I’ll be back for Christmas!)

While I coughed and sniffled and complained, I spent some time emailing editors and sources, but most of my work was taken care of before I boarded a bus back to Michigan. Still, I brought my reporter’s notebooks, some legal pads and other provisions that I didn’t want to leave behind just in case I need to handle a small request quickly.

Now that I’m a full-time freelancer, I have the option of staying home a bit longer without needing to rush back to a regular gig in Chicago. I spent a week with my family, getting much-needed rest, laughs, and home-cooked meals.

This time felt a bit different. Not only was I not rushing back to Chicago after the holiday, but I also wasn’t super stressed out about the stories I’m working on. While I still have some loose ends I need to tie up upon my return, I won’t be overwhelmed with calls, emails and to-do lists, which is refreshing.

With Thanksgiving out of the way and winter holidays around the corner, here are some ways you can transition into a stress-free holiday season:

Book your tickets early and inform your clients.

Think about the assignments you have coming up and how long you’ll be visiting with family. Do you have to book plane or bus travel? A quick road trip, perhaps? Book your travel early, so you can save a little money and tell your clients when you’ll be available for work.

Stick to a schedule.

It’s so tempting to slack off during the holiday season. All I want to do is eat great home-cooked food, visit friends and family, play with my dog and sleep. Try to resist that temptation and focus on the stuff that needs to get done. Plan out when you’ll file and edit stories, so you can finish more tasks before hitting the road. The more you get done, the more time you have to spend with people you love.

Write out upcoming pitches.

Got pitches for early 2018? Craft your pitches in advance. That way, you can send them out once you return. It’ll feel like you didn’t skip a beat. Yes, some editors may be out of the office, but others won’t be. You can always follow-up after the holidays are over.

Pack what you need.

You don’t want to spend the whole season working, but have whatever recordings or reporting materials you need on hand just in case. Bring the minimum amount of stuff for the trip and upload whatever you can (studies, recordings, notes, transcripts, etc.) into the cloud.

Map out your goals for next year.

This is especially important for magazine writers. Start gathering editorial calendars to see what stories you can pitch for upcoming print issues. Check in with editors you’ve written for in the past and see what their needs are for early 2018 issues. Even daily or weekly newspapers have special issues planned for the holidays, so start mapping out your pitching and income goals.

Send out invoices as soon as possible.

You should stay on top of your invoices in general, but it’s really important to keep the finances rolling smoothly during the holidays. Nothing sucks more than being cash-strapped during the holiday season. Send out your invoices as soon as the story is published (or perhaps before, depending on your contract) so your bank account doesn’t skip a beat.

How do you prepare for the holidays? Tell me in the comments or email me at (Yes, I’ll get your email!)

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