With the nights drawing in and the weather turning colder, many people are already starting to put firm plans in place for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays. Contractors and other self-employed workers are no exception to this - but the nature of their planning is likely to be a lot more work-related than most.
After all, limited company contractors are reliant on regular new contracts coming in to stay successful, and the festive period is usually quiet in this respect, with the majority of would-be clients taking a break from sending out work as they enjoy a few weeks of relative downtime.
However, even without new contracts coming in, there is plenty that contractors can be doing to keep themselves occupied and advance the development of their limited company during the Christmas and New Year period, meaning they'll be ready to get right back up to full speed as soon as January rolls around.
Start hunting for new opportunities as soon as possible
As mentioned, prospective clients are largely unlikely to be willing to talk business in the middle of the festive season, so for the sake of business continuity it's best to ensure that your post-New Year work plans are essentially set in stone before the Christmas break begins.
That means taking steps to expand your personal network and reaching out to end clients about potential early-year opportunities as soon as possible; even if you're not able to persuade them to put pen to paper on a new contract straight away, it's better to have done the preliminary legwork early, thereby removing barriers that would otherwise stop you from getting back into the swing of things quickly in January.
Improve and update your CV and profile
The New Year is traditionally seen as a time for reflection and self-improvement, and there's no reason not to take that idea to heart when considering your personal CV and professional profile.
A period where your client workload is lower than normal represents a great opportunity to look over your current profiles in the light of your recent achievements, and look for areas where they can be updated to better reflect what you have to offer. This might mean tweaking a CV to prune less relevant information in favour of newer accomplishments, or overhauling your LinkedIn profile to make it more appealing to clients.
As ever, this process will proceed much more easily if you're able to ask peers or friends for help, as a second set of eyes can really help to weed out imperfections and get your profile up to the standard it needs to be at.
Invest in new skills and training
The process of updating your CV will also naturally provide you with an opportunity to review your current skill set, and to identify areas in which you feel you might be lacking abilities that your client base has come to expect.
If you've found a number of these, then the Christmas period could be an ideal time to fill in some of these gaps by investing in some short training courses. Many of these can be done at home via the internet and fitted in around your other commitments, which will be made much easier by the relative lack of client demands you'll be facing at this time.
Even if you don't have any obvious gaps in your knowledge, it's worth remembering that the professional industries are constantly evolving, so there's never a time when there won't be advantages to taking a look at current trends and then educating yourself to stay ahead of the curve.
Take some time for yourself
For contractors and freelancers, it's a good thing to keep busy for much of the time, but it's equally important to remember that, sometimes, a holiday period should be exactly that - a holiday.
After all, work-life balance is a vital consideration for those wishing to avoid burnout and exhaustion, so do make sure you take some time for yourself, whether that comes in the form of indulging a personal hobby or passion, or simply kicking back and relaxing with friends and family.
Making sure you have new skills and contracts ready to go in January is certainly important, but giving yourself the time to feel properly rested and rejuvenated might make the biggest difference of all when it comes to making sure the new year is a success.