Filed under:

Virginia Durksen

Revisiting the Inner Editor: December Is the Cruellest Month

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Last year, we published this post on the freelancer’s holiday blues. This year, we’re following up with our readers. Have you implemented any of these ideas? Do you have other tips for avoiding the holiday lull?

When projects disappear in other months, the freelance editor adjusts her schedule and cash flow projections and stoically reminds herself that this month’s famine may well be next month’s feast. She turns to sharpening her pencils and organizing her style guide collection, adjusts various thermostats as needed and picks up the phone to connect with clients.

When paid work disappears suddenly in December, we feel a different sort of pinch. A Grinch sort. Holidays filled with good cheer are overshadowed by non-billable hours and the pressure to spend money we are no longer earning. Any holiday will do, but December offers unique pressures that also drain our inner reserves.

To add to the financial pressure, it’s hard to feel festive when everyone else at the Christmas party seems to have lots of work to talk about.

With these December blues in mind, I offer the following gift basket for those of us who need a break from the daily hustle that freelancing demands of us. Keep these in mind when you’re planning for the same lull next year!

For your own business: Change the focus of your hustle

Offer seasonal services that are paid and delivered before Christmas:

  • team up with a local printer to write, edit and format Christmas letters
  • submit a “How to write a great Christmas letter/Facebook post” piece to a local charity; include a promotional offer for a quick edit of readers’ Christmas letters in exchange for donations to a local charity

Offer gift certificates for services that are prepaid in December but delivered after Christmas:

  • academic editing for grad students
  • resumé and cover letter editing for future job hunters
  • services to produce photo gift books for special events in the year ahead: weddings, graduations, anniversaries
  • interviewing, coaching and editing services to help grandparents write a family heritage book

Give your business a gift. Get busy creating work tools for the year ahead:

  • templates for building proposals, making estimates and summarizing projects
  • new editing tools and shortcuts

For your clients: Adjust your practices

  • Set a strict down payment policy for December projects. Delay if you must, but at least the money is in your pocket.
  • Call to ask your clients how they deal with business cycles, including the work gap we all experience as the year turns. Ask if they have small projects for you to tackle during the quiet hours between Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Offer seasonal services at a reasonable rate: a December guest blog for a client’s website, for example.
  • Ask corporate clients to donate the “cost” of providing your editing services to a local charity for the coming year.

For your colleagues: Exchange gifts

Find out who else is suddenly without work. Have a gift exchange:

  • Write guest blogs and exchange links.
  • Research small business funding opportunities for the coming year.
  • Exchange hours to develop new skills: your marketing ideas for their Acrobat expertise.

Finally, unplanned time off is a gift we can all use. Slow down and open up to the reasons you live and the people you love. Enjoy the December pause!


Previous post from Virginia Durksen: Tasks Without Edges

Discover more from The Editors' Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

4 Comments on “Revisiting the Inner Editor: December Is the Cruellest Month”

  • Cathy McPhalen


    My usual strategy when work is slower in December (sometimes happens, sometimes not) is two-pronged. First, I enjoy the slower pace and the extra time to get ready for the holidays with family. Second, I use Virginia’s tactic of giving my business a gift. This is when I play with new productivity tools, review my standard business and editing procedures and adjust ones that slow me down, do major upgrades on software (setting up with a new version of Word is a task that I don’t want to tackle in the middle of a big work project!), and catch up on my professional reading. Changing focus temporarily is an excellent mental break, too, shifting from getting work out the door based on client needs to gathering and implementing new tools and ideas that inspire me and make my work life easier.
    happy holidays to all!

  • That’s the beauty of a slightly slower pace, isn’t it? Time to enjoy life, focus on professional development, clean the place up a bit, and so on. Enjoy the holidays in all their busy–slow splendour.

  • Rosemary Shipton


    Depending on your particular clients, “December” can occur at different times of the year. In the trade-book world, December is usually a very busy month, with the copy-editing and proofing of the coming spring books, the structural editing of the fall books, and the constant assessment of new submissions. In government and corporate work, in-house staff rush to get their reports and other materials out for editing before they go on holiday, then expect to find it on their desks when they return in January. And so it goes … As ever for freelance editors, diversity is the way to go, not only to broaden your own expertise and client base but also to maintain a consistent flow of work.

    If your “December” tends to come in April or whenever, Virginia’s suggestions are equally fine. We all need time for professional development – and to straighten out our offices!

    • Virginia


      So true, Rosemary. Feasts and famines have their own cycles in this business. And the financial pressures are there in April, the time of year when we give to the government, not to friends and family.

Comments are closed.

To top