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Surviving the holiday lull December 29, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas.

This is always the toughest few weeks for me, because most of my agency clients are closed between Christmas and New Year’s and checks simply don’t get sent out promptly in January (I think because companies are closing up their books). The only way to survive the holiday lull is to have a financial cushion you can use to pay your bills while your invoices are still outstanding. Most personal finance experts suggest setting aside a cushion of three months’ pay. I have worked my way up to one. I hope to achieve the three months’ cushion some time this year. At this point I have $2,300 in unpaid and overdue invoices.

I woke up early this morning from a dead sleep worrying about paying my bills, but realized that I had forgotten that I had the financial cushion to rely on and rolled over and went back to sleep. It doesn’t help that this is the month the expenses from the ATA conference come due on the credit card. It is so nice to no longer have trouble sleeping because you are worrying about paying your bills and buying groceries. I was in that situation six years ago, when my sister bought me a gift certificate at a grocery store so I could “treat [myself] to some meat.” I hadn’t had any work come in for the entire month of October back in 2002 and money was really tight. Once I realized that clients needed to know I was there in order to send me work, I started an e-mail marketing campaign and have been busy and overworked ever since.

But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t slow around the holidays for me either. I have been relaxing and allowing my tendonitis to heal, but I am now starting to get antsy and can’t wait until the work starts flooding in again. I hope you all had a relaxing holiday. Hopefully some of you newbies took advantage of the fact that most seasoned translators were on holiday and were swamped with potential new clients. I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2009. See you in the New Year!



1. Judy Jenner - December 30, 2008

Yes, the famous holiday lull. It’s been a bit slow for us as well, but thanks to our fabulous holiday special — 20% off until tomorrow — we have had some new clients find us to take advantage of the deal. We have a few things we are working on, and I did pass a project on to a fellow linguist today. and I will send out my last invoice of the year tomorrow.

An e-mail marketing campaign sounds great. I bet our web guru could design us a very cool HTML e-mail. Glad to hear your tendinitis is better, your financial cushion is alive and well, etc.! I (still) have a decent cushion, too, from being both a freelancer and an in-house translator until three months ago.

2. MT - December 31, 2008

Fascinating! I’ve never had a holiday lull… Things always seem busier for me whenever the translators in Country X go on vacation (like xmas). Mysteriously, I’ve somehow never experienced the January payment lull either. I do a fair number of jobs for one of those behemoth translation agencies and said agency always takes about 45+ days to pay EXCEPT right at the end of the year. I swear there must be some tax benefit for them to pay me for stuff in the old year. It’s almost comical. Do a job for $5000 and turn in the invoice on December 27, receive the check in my mailbox on January 3rd. I’m exaggerating slightly, but they seriously pay much faster than usual right at the end of December/beginning of January.

So if you don’t like a lull over the holidays, don’t give up hope. You can find clients who don’t hibernate for as long. And I seriously don’t get why the BIG agency pays me so promptly at the end of the year, but there must be some reason. There must be other companies out there that pay bizarrely fast at the end of the year. Your task is but to find them!

3. Corinne McKay - January 2, 2009

I agree, the holiday lull is nice, but by the first full week in January, I’m ready for some intellectual activity. I find it relaxing to have a semi-forced break from the computer, time to enjoy the family without thinking about work, etc., but this afternoon I thought “enough games of “go fish” and listening to Magic Treehouse CDs, I’m ready to use my brain again!” Here’s to a healthy and lucrative 2009!

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