December 10, 2013 by Sian Rowland
Deck the halls with boughs of holly tra la la la *cough cough hack hack* oh bah humbug. I’m not quite in the festive spirit yet as I’m getting over a bout of scarlet fever. Yes, the scarlet fever from which frail Victorian heroines expire when crossed in love. The same scarlet fever that used to necessitate being pushed in a bath chair along Eastbourne prom with a tartan rug tucked around the knees while taking small spoonfuls of calves foot jelly. So to cheer myself up I’ve compiled a list of things to get your freelancer this Christmas. Who knows, some of them might even be on special at your local Lidl.
1) Business tax software. Stingy old HMRC. They let you fill in your self-assessment online for free but when it comes to small businesses you have to invest in specialist software. It’s identical to the form on the HMRC site but you have to buy it from one of their approved suppliers. No one tells you this when you go freelance. You have to trawl through the HMRC website with a microscope to find this out. It’s like a small business conspiracy. Probably not the most exciting thing you’ll find in your stocking this year: “What’s this? a download serial number for some tax software? Oh darling, you shouldn’t have.” But I’m hoping Santa is reading this.
2) Comfy pyjama bottoms. Away with you, onesie, I don’t need you for I have tartan PJ bottoms from Matalan. I pride myself on working from home dressed sensibly and respectfully. I even do my hair and slap on a quick lick of mascara for that businessy feel (and in case the postie calls, which he often does. We have the nicest postie ever and he pops in to say hi every now and then) but my Matalan PJs are just so and warm. This winter I have been mostly channelling the Borgen look- all soft greys and charcoals with crisp white shirts and snow-flushed Nordic cheeks (scarlet fever really helps with this look) coupled with flannelette PJ bottoms. Top half: Borgen. Bottom half: sloben.
3) Anti-procrastination kit. Working for oneself means focus and organisation, not flitting around on social media (unless for work) or…uh…writing blog posts. Some days it’s hard to get started on a project when there are so many lovely things to look at and read on the internet. Oh look a video of a narcoleptic squirrel! On second thoughts this could be as simple as a post it note with ‘do some work!’ on it or a big red button that says ‘internet: off.’
4) While in the realms of magic wish lists I’d like a magic marketing wand please. No matter how many seminars I go to, books, I read and podcasts that tell me how to market my business, the rule book is torn up when it comes to schools. For institutions that run on rules they certainly know how to break every tenet of marketing. I can say this with confidence because I used to be that school-based rule breaker. When I solve this problem I’ll write a book called Secrets of Selling to Schools and make my fortune.
5) Vitamin D tablets. We may not get out much at this time of year so we need a bit of a boost. Either book a sunshine cruise to the Bahamas or- seeing as tax time is coming up- save your money and pop down to Holland and Barratt. I recently asked my endocrinologist if I might be low in vitamin D. ‘Oh I expect so,’ she said breezily, ‘pretty much everyone is. All health professionals take vitamin D supplements as a matter of course.’ What? This is some sort of great health care secret? Why not share this earth shattering news with us lesser mortals? Or perhaps it’s a government conspiracy to keep us plebs in our place to stop us revolting over our gas bills. Either way, a bottle of sunshine yellow tablets along with a satsuma in your stocking is the way to go.
6) When we do get out we might like to scuttle to the comfort of a coffee shop where a) it’s warm so we save on bills, b) food and drink is available, c) you’re allowed to bring your laptop to do some work if you don’t mind random toddlers trying to tip their babyccino over your keyboard while chasing each other around the shop as their exhausted mothers freebase espresso and d) there are real humans. You don’t have to interact with said humans but it’s a novelty after working home alone for stretch. So a coffee shop loyalty or gift card might go down well. I’m written before about my very dull hot drink proclivities- I only drink sugar-less, milk-less tea so a coffee shop visit for me is a bag of Earl Grey dunked in a mug of tepid water. Hard to get excited about. But if your pet freelancer is a mocha-choca-latte-hazelnut-syrup-extra-shot-hold-the-mayo kind of a person, this will get them excited. If you buy me one I’ll only spend it on cake.
7) Lots of lovely work for 2014 please. Obviously not something that even John Lewis sells but here’s hoping that a heady cocktail of hard work, good marketing and talent will see us through the year and bring us lots of exciting projects to work on. Good luck to one and all!